Limit. Book Review

limitLimit by Frank Schatzing
Jo Fletcher Books, h/b, 1152pp, £17.67
Reviewed by Martin Willoughby

At 1149 pages, it’s a book so heavy it’s classed as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations, but what a good read it is. Admittedly the first 200 pages obsess over the lives, and sexual proclivities, of the rich and famous tourists going to the moon and takes some stamina to get through, but after that, it doesn’t feel like a long book. If only War And Peace was this interesting.

There are two main threads in this book, both of which lead to the main story and the main baddie, an organisation named Hydra. This is an organisation ruthless enough to hire assassins to take out anyone that gets in its way, and one assassin in particular. The story then weaves its way through China, London, Berlin and the Moon, telling a story about control of the global energy market through several varied individuals.

What’s it about? A company owned by Englishman, Julian Orley, has built a space elevator and wants to take some of the wealthiest people in the world into space so he can get them to invest in his next ventures. He’s currently mining the moon and using the Helium-3 to power the fusion reactors owned by another of his compnies, but needs more investment in order to build more reactors and a second elevator.

Meanwhile, his daughter, who is in charge of the hotel on the moon, is a borderline psychopath and most of the rich tourists are people you could happily push out of the airlock.

Back on Earth, things hot up in China, when a young woman goes missing and a cyberdetective, Owen Jericho, is asked to track her down by a friend of the missing girl’s father. It’s at this point, nearly 300 pages in, that the story gets interesting and a real page turner.

Owen and the girl, Yoyo, are chased around the world by Kenny Xin, a man so obsessed by tidiness he tears up a bunch of flowers because the ratio of petals to leaves is wrong. As stupid as that sounds, by the time you get to that point in the story, having seen his behaviour, it’s very believable. Xin is a cold, calculating killer who does nothing without a reason…nor does he kill unless there’s a reason and will walk away from someone, as he does on a few occasions, rather than kill them.

The book’s background is that Helium-3 has replaced oil and gas as the main underpinning of the world’s economy and the oil companies don’t like it. They are shedding staff all over the place, watching the price of oil plummet and some of the heads are rolling…literally. One man is dead, another shot and wounded, and while some of them are trying to change the companies to take advantage of Helium-3 technology in fusion reactors or solar panels, most are living in the past. And we all know what happens to companies that get stuck in a rut, unwilling to change.

Back on the moon, where the rich are still leading their semi-exotic sex lives, it all kicks off. People are killed, a building melts with other people inside, the American/Chinese antagonisms come to the fore again and it seems as if someone is trying to start WW3. Yep, Xin and his associates in Hydra are trying hard to destroy it all. On Earth, our Chinese and British friends are uncovering a web of deceit, terror and pure unEnglishness that has Julian Orley gagging on his tea in sheer exasperation.

In short, this a rollicking good read that I found difficult to put down, despite its size. That said, my forearm muscles have grown markedly as a result of holding this book.

What makes this positive review even more surprising is that it has been released by Jo Fletcher Books, a publisher who’s editorial mishaps I have lambasted before. It’s very well edited with no wastage in it anywhere. It’s also a book that has been translated from German, and translated very well. German is a language with, on average, 15% more words than English and the German edition, also titled Limit, has 1328 pages, so just from that statistical point of view they’ve got it about right. But what is most impressive is that it doesn’t feel like a translation, it feels as if it was written in English.

Limit is a book I would highly recommend to anyone interested in SF or thrillers.