Reviewed by Stewart Horn
Nicholas Robinson is a loser: an erratic employment history, a rented flat in a dodgy bit of London, and his dreams of greatness are becoming less realistic as middle age approaches.Â When old school friend Darren Amos reappears and offers him a job, things seem to be looking up â€“ heâ€™s suddenly being overpaid to drive an Aston Martin up and down the M1 and heâ€™s met the woman of his dreams.Â Then everything goes crazy and we remember weâ€™re reading a fantasy novel.
This is readable and generally pacey book with an engaging and well-drawn central character, but itâ€™s very much in two sections.Â Smith is at his best in the first half of the book, describing Nickâ€™s early years and teenage shenanigans.Â The characters were convincingly amoral, the dialogue realistic, the situations nice and tacky, and I was drawn into his life, genuinely wanting to know what happened next.
When the fantasy section kicks in Smith is on shakier ground.Â Heâ€™s created a new version of the siren myth, spent a lot of time thinking about how modern day sirens might go about attracting victims to their island, and heâ€™s come up with a convincing scenario.Â But heâ€™s perhaps too proud of it, and there are some overlong descriptive passages, many of which could be cut altogether without damaging the book.Â And the whole book could do with a serious edit.
Nevertheless, he tells an intriguing story, with shades of Lovecraftâ€™s sea-themed stories.
A flawed but enjoyable novel.