Top critical review
63 people found this helpful
on 26 December 2009
I adored Child 44 and as soon as I'd finished it immediately ordered this follow-up in hardback. It had only been out a matter of weeks but by the time it arrived it was already in its 5th printing. Which just goes to show . . . what exactly?
Because bluntly, in comparison with Child 44 this book is dreadful. The only weak point in Child 44 was a contrived 'action' sequence on a train. Now I can almost imagine the conversation between Smith and his dumbed-down, know-nothing publishers as, flushed with the success of a first novel they exhorted him to write another 400 pages of the same kind of action, certain that this - as opposed to any kind of literary merit - was the winning formula. To see all Smith's undoubted writing potential thrown away like this is as heartbreaking as this book is unreadable. And to think that this is the same writer who was actually nominated for the Booker prize!
In the end this isn't so much of a novel as a comic without the pictures: the narrative is rushed, the characters implausible and the dialogue, far from giving us insight into character, creaks instead with often undigested dollops of history so obviously lifted from the research material.
I couldn't wait to finish this book. Tom Rob Smith is capable of so much more and if I were him I'd be making it my new year's resolution to stop hanging around with the wrong crowd and get in with a new set of literary people who can instead nurture and promote this writer's obvious talent and ability. If he does (and only if he does) will I be the first in line to buy his third novel.