4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Portent (Paperback)
Following two of the best novels he’d ever written in Haunted and Creed, Portent is an unfortunate misfire from James Herbert. On one hand Herbert’s attempt to depict a world-wide apocalypse is ambitious, but stylistically Portent is a step back to the sort of ‘un-natural disaster’ form he’d used in the likes of the Rats trilogy, The Fog and The Dark, where the lead characters story is intercut with numerous short scenes of disaster-movie-style mayhem featuring new characters who are introduced only to die spectacularly. Where previously this format had led to some tense drama however, here Portent falls oddly flat, with the sheer scale of the destruction sweeping across the Earth so enormous that it’s difficult to actually care about anyone caught up in it – this is death on a widescreen cinematic scale, and while that might make for exciting viewing in a special effects heavy Hollywood disaster movie, it doesn’t quite work in prose form.
Also the story of ‘hero’ James Rivers is very thin – he spends most of the novel being slowly convinced of the reasons behind the disasters sweeping the Earth, before flying off to Scotland to have the plot explained to him by some wise old hermit on a hill. Throughout there is no chance of anyone actually being able to avert the disasters, so the characters just sort of passively drift through the novel (at one point Herbert has Rivers frantically attempting to tell the authorities of the explanations he’s discovered for what’s happening, but as they cant actually do anything about it it seems a rather pointless exercise). The closest the novel gets to some actual drama is when Rivers has to protect some psychic twins – the first of a new post-apocalyptic generation - from an opposing force, but it’s too little, too late.
James Herbert obviously had his heart in the right place when writing Portent, as with it’s story of a vengeful ‘Mother Earth’ this is Herbert’s big environmental message book, but unfortunately it fails to engage the reader as a piece of dramatic storytelling. Probably his least enjoyable novel, Portent is for Herbert completists only.