In a word: stupid. The book. And myself. Let me tell you how insipid I am. I got sucked in by the cool book cover. As did a ton of other people, apparently. As Eh?Eh! said in their Goodreads review of 2/14/11, “knives!, duel!, blood!, hell!, legalised (because we’re in Britain) knife fights!, blood!, black!, endless winter!, two people!, save!, this is their story!” Yep, that’s pretty good. Someone named “Megan” wrote in her Goodreads review of 10/16/11, “I’m not going to lie, I bought this book for the cover. I didn’t read the blurb, I didn’t read the first page, all of the little steps that bridge the gap between a book and my bookshelves flew out the window in the face of that cover. Knife fights! Blood! Duels! Sounds most excellent to me. When the book arrived I dared to think I had been rewarded for my rash purchase. The back blurb promised a dystopic future Britain where knife fighting had been legalised and where a giant wall had been erected around the city. Sounds very awesome, yes? At the very least it sounds finishable, and yet I barely made it half way through.”
And yet, to continue quoting Megan, “Let’s start with the book’s main conceit: Knife fighting: it’s legal! Why? Pfft, we don’t need to know a silly little thing like that, do we? And honestly, I would have been happy with minimal explanation of why knife fighting (to the death, mind you) was legal, if we actually got to see some, you know, knife fighting. As I said, I made it to the midway point, and not once had anyone actually had a fight involving knives. There was a lot of posturing and ‘why sir, you have offended me! I demand satisfaction!’ going on, but actual knife fighting? Not so much. I’m not saying that nothing happened, but it did feel like Blackthorne (I vaguely recall that this is a well known author’s alias, but can’t for the life of me remember who…) completely wasted the potential of his world. Here’s this big brotherish dystopic future London, but not one of the events of the first half of the book couldn’t have taken place in a book set in current day London. What’s the point of cool futuristic setting if you don’t make the most of it? Or at least something of it?”
So, this book is supposed to be a sci fi book, I guess of a dystopian near-future Britain where knife fighting/dueling to the death has been legalized, although I have no idea why. Apparently, there is a giant wall surrounding either the entire island of Britain or London, it’s hard to tell. There’s really no mention of it in the book either than on the back cover. And one of the key characters is some type of therapist we meet early on, Suzanne, I believe. She has a unique ability to hypnotize anyone within seconds and cure them of practically anything and even improve them through this process. The author does this thing where she talks to her patients and somehow her words simply fix whatever is wrong with them, or make them think in a whole new way, seemingly like magic. She’ll say something like “you are no longer shy, etc.” and suddenly, no more shyness for that character. It’s completely unbelievable. Since Blackthorne has taken great pains to set this book in the “real” world, given the dystopian unreality of things, this strikes me as odd and hard to believe. Superhuman traits. Doesn’t make sense.
But then there’s the superhuman ex-soldier, Josh Cumberland, who is hired by a rich dolt to track down his missing son, Richard. Richard is “hoplophobic,” meaning he’s afraid of knives, which isn’t very helpful if you’re living in a society where people can challenge you to a knife duel at any moment. He goes missing after his first therapy session with Suzanne, who was hired by Richard’s father to rid him of his phobia. Suzanne and Josh team up to find Richard and things progress from there just like any romance/action movie.
A lot of people complain that Josh is simply a Jason Bourne clone. I don’t know. I don’t know because I gave up before I got far enough in the book to find out. I just thought the book was too stupid to continue. There weren’t any knife fights. Suzanne’s powers were too Justice League. Josh was an action figure. Britain was 1984. What was the point? I didn’t derive any satisfaction out of reading any of this. I thought the author was somewhat clumsy at writing this, as though his scenes were written hastily, going for shock value in lieu of something more solid. It’s hard to describe, but it felt a little amateurish to me. The cover looked so cool and the blurbs on the front and back made it sound so cool and I got sucked in by them and I feel like an idiot, because that’s not usually what happens to me. Oh well. Live and learn. I won’t be buying anything by this author again. Stupid premise, stupid book. Not recommended.