Book Review: Midway by Nathan Robinson

Midway cover

Sam Berlitz is a team member in an international swimming race across the Atlantic. He feels as though he’s been swimming for longer than his one-hour allocation and realises the boat with his teammates on it is gone.

Alone, afloat in the unforgiving ocean a thousand miles from land his mind starts to create monsters. Or maybe they’re not all in his mind.

Midway is part mystery thriller and part survival horror with a good dose of Lovecraftian weird thrown in. I won’t tell you how it all pans out but the stuff that actually happens is secondary to Sam’s emotional journey. It’s the loneliness, the lack of stimulus, his fear of the dark, sleep deprivation and the tricks his mind plays on him that make this a riveting read. The tension doesn’t let up from about three pages in till the very end. I was furious when I had to stop reading and go back to work.

As well as the anxiety over his almost certain impending death, he starts to dwell on his life and his relationships. He has a fiancée but is having sex with a teammate on the boat. He compares them with each other, with his parents and friends, and with his dog, trying to decide whom he’ll miss, and what he’ll do if he miraculously survives. It’s a touching moment when he realises that dying means he’ll never walk the dog again.

I had some quibbles with Robinson’s prose at the very beginning: there is some extraneous description that could be cut. But I honestly don’t know if it got better or if I was just too engrossed in the story to notice. The prose became invisible and only served the story – a sure sign of quality writing.

Get past the slightly over-written beginning and you’re in for a rare treat. highly recommended.

Book review: SOMETHING MORE THAN BLOOD

Book Review:  SOMETHING MORE THAN BLOOD, by Barb Lien Cooper and Barb Lien Cooper.

 

Image

An old Hollywood B-movie director, already dying of cancer, is suddenly and brutally murdered in his hospital room.  The word revenge is written in his own blood on the wall above his bed, in an exact copy of a scene from one of his early films.

Suspicion falls on the film’s star, Lykan Fuller, who has big teeth and doesn’t seem to have aged in the intervening decades, and while held at gunpoint by the dead man’s granddaughter, he tells her everything.

The format is lifted almost directly from Interview with the Vampire, but it’s an entirely different book.  Set mainly in America in the first half of the 20th century, the backdrop to the story is burlesque theatre and early cinema.  The authors have clearly done their research, but more than that they demonstrate an affection and enthusiasm for the subjects making me want to like them.  This was the aspect of the book I enjoyed most.

The story also straddles two world wars, and Lykan is German and Jewish, so Nazism is dealt with, and there is some subtext about prejudice and intolerance in general, though it’s not a preachy or self-righteous book.  It’s mainly about the story, which is fun and for the most part pretty pacy.

The prose lets it down a little – it’s somewhat plodding and lacks the style and subtlety that could have drawn us more deeply into Lykan’s assorted plights.  We see his peril and are told his adventures, but I was never tense or afraid for him.  Ironically for a vampire, he never really came to life.  I also had a problem with the voice, which was contemporary American and never quite fitted with the 100-year-old German character.  But then I’m really difficult to please.

Having said that, I’m glad I read it to the end – the ambiguity of the ending is perhaps the cleverest and more satisfying part of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed reading SOMETHING MORE THAN BLOOD.  The setup and the vampire protagonist are both good, and the little details about early cinema are fun.

A decent story, competently told, but lacking any real depth.