Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This author needs a strong editor, 17 April 2009
This review is from: The Last Town on Earth (Paperback)
Although Mullen based his plot on real tales of isolated towns that `quarantined' themselves from the 1918 flu epidemic, I found Commonwealth ridiculous to begin with. As a rag-bag community of idealists and drifters taking refuge from the draft and from strike-breakers, they sound strangely naïve. Their dumb innocence seems to be shared by the intruders, who conveniently walk up the blockaded road to town instead of approaching through the surrounding forest.

Well-researched background helps us understand the mood of the times, and highlights issues that would make useful book club fodder: What would you have done? Is it ever right to kill? Is draft dodging a crime? Can social idealism work? Is isolation ever a good idea?

Mullen's research, however, is the strongest feature of this gloomy book. There's little sense of involvement: despite detailed physical descriptions of the characters and their lengthy back-stories, they didn't feel `real' to me.

I felt that Mullen was trying to shoehorn chapters from other works into this book. The main character, Philip, has a complicated and unnecessary history that leads to annoying narrative slips (he limps with a wooden boot, but manages to creep silently across an empty room). A trapped soldier delivers a 14-page soliloquy in mannered prose that sounds nothing like natural speech.

There's some beautiful writing: "skin the colour of stones at the bottom of a river" and good, fast action. With diligent editing, this book would make a better screenplay than a novel: it is observed rather than felt; its people have motives instead of personality.

Its bleak, uncertain ending hints at a sequel: with luck, Mullen will have a sharper editor next time.
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Location: England, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,402