Seoul Survivors. Book Review

Seoul-Survivors-–-Naomi-FoyleSEOUL SURVIVORS by Naomi Foyle

Jo Fletcher Books, p/b, £16.99

Reviewed by Martin Willoughby

Whenever I write a review I always look for something positive to say, for whatever I may think about a writer, director or anyone, they have put a lot of effort into their work. So here it is: the cover’s nice and conveys the general idea of the book, which is a Science Fiction story set in the present, using genetics as the background. Between the covers, however, it leaves a lot to be desired. It’s chock full of two-dimensional characters in one-dimensional scenes to the point where you know what’s going to happen and nothing is a surprise. As for the sex scenes…what a waste of ink and paper.

There are five main characters, Johnny Sandman, Da Mi, Damien, Sydney Travers and Mee Hee. Let’s start with Sydney, a girl so gullible (yes, also she’s blonde, slim and attractive) she believes everyone and ‘looks for the good in everything’. Naturally, she’s taken advantage of by everyone throughout the book, so much so that her final stand is unrealistic.

Johnny Sandman is a one-dimensional bastard. His proclivity towards domination and rage is obvious from the first and it doesn’t change from there, not that you’d expect it too. What does come as a surprise, and totally out of left field, is that he used to be a hitman. We learn even more about him in an information dump at the end which is right out of a bad B movie. Da Mi is a typical evil scientist who only wants the best for the world, as long as she’s in charge, while Mee Hee is North Korean peasant who wants nothing more than a peaceful life while worshipping Da Mi. That leaves Damien, the only character in the book with any soul. Not perfect by any means, but at least he is a well rounded character and worth reading about.

Then there’s the sex which, at a rough estimate, takes up about 150 pages of 450, all of which is a serious contender for the bad sex award. The first 100 pages are almost wholly about the sex lives of Sydney and Johnny with a dash of Damien thrown in. Mee Hee and Da Mi are thankfully allowed to live without being tortured by the un-erotic prose. Sex with a gun, sex with a corpse, some of which is recorded for later viewing by minor characters and Da Mi, and more detail about a woman’s vagina than a medical dictionary. If a lot of this sex was removed there would have been more room to improve the characters, the story and the book. Throughout, I got the distinct feeling that the writer, publisher and editor were trying to cash in on the 50 shades of grey phenomenon. All of which is a crying shame as there is a good story underneath it.

In any book there will be things you want to know more about but the writer leaves blank, which is made up for by the things they fill out. The only thing filled out in this book is Sydney’s vagina. Where did the nuclear bombing of Wembley come from? Why do we suddenly find out about Johnny Sandman’s life at the end in one big info dump? You could leave out Mee Hee’s story and the book would still be complete.

In short, this book is a mess that needs a serious rewrite and a red pen taken to vast tracts of the text. It has the germ of a good story about love, control, abuse and genetics, a pleasant cover and, in Damien, a good character. What it lacks is everything else.