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Customer Review

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Promises much but fails to engage, 13 Jun. 2009
This review is from: Turbulence (Hardcover)
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Having heard Giles Foden give a couple of publicity interviews on Radio 4 and watched recent coverage of the D-Day commemorations, I was really looking forward to reading this book. It turned out to be a sore disappointment.

The premise seemed to promise so much - Henry Meadows is a young meteorologist entrusted with developing a method of weatcher forecasting that will allow military commanders to choose the optimal timing for the D-Day landings. Under cover of establishing an observation station, he is sent to Scotland to try and extract information from 'The Prophet' Wallace Ryman, the reclusive author of a mathematical formula for calculating turblence, who has now dedicated himself to peace studies.

I was expecting the excitement of a wartime adventure with the intellectual stimulation of an explanation of the nascent science of forecasting. But I found neither excitement nor stimulation. Little happens for large chunks of the narrative. The climax of the plot hinges round a grotesque and rather preposterous accident. While there were some beautifully written passages about turbulence, I learnt less than expected about weather forecasting and the explanations of the "revelations" made possible by the Ryman number failed to inspire me, perhaps because Foden was forced to over-simplify complex mathematical ideas to such an extent they often sounded banal.

The book fails to engage on the emotional level too, as it is peopled by a distinctly unsympathetic bunch of characters. Meadows' bungling quickly grows tedious. By the end I was finding it hard to distinguish one weather-forecasting boffin from another. Gill, Ryman's wife, is rounded out with a little more human interest, but in the end she is reduced to a convenient plot device to bring Meadows some answers.

Meadows' later narrative as he undertakes a madcap voyage in the 1980s on an ice ship to take water to the Middle East frames the novel, but it is not clear what this device is supposed to add. A note from the author at the end explains that the character of Ryman is based on a real-life distant relative of his, but doesn't make clear how much of the rest of the story is fact and how much fiction, which I found frustrating.

Giles Foden can undoubtedly write well, but this book, which I had so eagerly anticipated, failed to engage me on any level. Perhaps it was my own fault for coming to it with a pre-conceived notion of what it would be like, but that was only based on interviews I had heard with Foden himself. I had been planning to give this book as a gift to someone interested in both weather and history, but I enjoyed it so little I don't think I'll be inflicting it on anyone else.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Nov 2010 21:42:11 GMT
M. D. Ripley says:
Agree entirely. I was really looking forward to this novel but spent most of the time shouting at it, demanding something happen!
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