©2007 M. John Harrison; (P)2008 Recorded Books,LLC
"The miracle ... Harrison performs is to expand the possibilities of perception." (Guardian (UK))
Narrator did not make significant vocal distinction among the characters. Storyline was too drawn out and jumped around so much that, combined with the problems with the narration, I lost interest after an hour or so.
Being a fan of China Mieville (Perdido Street Station) I read an interview where Mr. Mieville touted the talents of Harrison's other novel "The Course of the Heart." As I could not find that book on audible, I decided to give this one a try. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.
The book follows the exploits of a criminal "travel agent" known as Vick Serotonin who for a fee will take "tourists" into the "event site," an alien region where time and space behave erratically. Harrison's strengths are his attention to characterization. There is a large assortment of interesting and fascinating people that are lifted with great skill from the detective-noir stories of the 1950s (think of the film Double Indemnity) and their speech and mannerisms are conveyed well. You really get a sense for how these people speak and act.
The characterization unfortunately uses up the authors talents and leaves no room for a decent plot. The story meanders back and forth through the assortment of characters, and the novel fails for a long long time to offer any truly convincing motives for its characters. For example, there is truly no reason given as to why tourists eschew the law and want to visit the event site, other than some oblique references to a desire "to find that which they seek." There is also the requisite old-time detective who is chasing Vick throughout the novel. His backstory is the weakest and his motives border on cliche. Why he wants to catch Vick with such fervor ultimately comes down to the fact that Vick is a criminal and he is a cop, which to me is a very weak motive.
I don't believe that all novels must be plot driven, but here I found myself fascinated by the characters, but immensely bored with awkwardly paced plot that many times seemed to take a back seat to the creation of characters. Jim Frangione's narration is well executed and nuanced, but the novel itself doesn't give him much to work with. Skip this one.
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