Most helpful critical review
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Tightly plotted, but not well written
on 27 October 2005
The comparisons with the Matrix and Dan Brown are well-founded. The former as this shares the oft-used idea of a hidden subculture working against the 'illusion' of modern life; the latter because the prose is very much in the style of Brown's mechanical thrillers. Chapters are very short and alternate between three or four key locations, and depth of characterisation is sacrificed for a plot that has 'movie option' written all over it.
I thought the Harlequins/Travellers/Tabula subculture around which the plot revolves was an interesting setup - and one with potentially more legs than The Matrix, which floundered badly after the initial set-up of the first film. I'm intrigued to know where the story is going to go in the promised 2nd and 3rd parts of the trilogy, so in that sense the story is a success.
However this was painful to read at times. The prose is very clunky in places, and I agree with some other reviewers who have criticised the rather inept manner in which action was transposed in a very unexciting way (unless that was an attempt to indicate the unemotional attitude of the Harlequins...).
One stylistic device that did interest me was the use of multiple perspectives. The authorial voice shifted between chapters, so that for example in one chapter the reader shares Maya's thoughts as she struggles with the idea of being a Harlequin, and in the next she is seen from Gabriel or Vicky's point of view, referred to only as 'The Harlequin' and appearing cold and detached. This is something that could have added a great deal to the characterisation, but unfortunately seemed to fade out as the plot kicked in so didn't really add anything by the end of the book.
If you can get past the stylistic problems the story is genuinely thought-provoking, albeit somewhat derivative. But it remains to be seen if these ideas can be developed through the rest of the trilogy into something a little less generic and with a little more depth.
Like a Dan Brown book, you can take this for what it is and enjoy a kind of guilty pleasure in what is the literary equivalent of a popcorn movie. However, you may ultimately be left with a need to feed your literary sensibilities and pick up something else to read that is worthier, but a possibly a little duller too.