Truth and Fear. Book Review

truthTRUTH AND FEAR by Peter Higgins
Gollancz, 362 pp, p/b, £8.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

Sometimes it is a mistake to jump into a series with the second novel. Yet a good writer will be aware that the reader may need some help, either with catching up with the characters in a book that might have been read twelve months before or who they are meeting them for the first time. There are different techniques that authors can employ to ensure a smooth transition. Done well, it doesn’t matter at which point the reader is joining the adventure. It is a shame that Peter Higgins has chosen to ignore the reader. It doesn’t matter how original a concept is, we readers sometimes need guidance.

This isn’t the only issue I have with this book. I can see that there are interesting ideas within the context of the plot but the information given is inadequate and leaves me confused. A long time ago, apparently, some creatures known as angels fell from the skies, and died. The stuff they are made from is highly prized and has a number of uses, none of which I am quite clear about. The landscape is reminiscent of Russia in that there are wide steppe-like areas, the places and people have Russianesque names. The country is very insular in that there is no indication of what lies outside the borders other that to the west is an empire known as the Archipelago which is intent of conquering the country. Exactly why, isn’t clear.

When the government decamps to another part of the country, it goes to the far eastern edge of the country, to the edge of a vast forest. This cannot be Earth, even with a changed history as the landscape has been reformed so much that China has disappeared. The alternatives are that this is a fantasy world, in which case, why the Russian veneer, or a planet where the origins of colonisation have vanished into the mists of time. Either scenario deserves clues.

The level of technology is approximately 1950s with cars and trains and the occasional aeroplane. As fantasy, this makes a refreshing change as most writers pitch the level as at some low-tech pseudo mediaeval period.

I don’t find this book particularly well written and could have done with a strong editor to even out the prose. Too many of the characters are unsympathetic and almost impossible to identify with. This may partly be because of the awkwardness of the names or because we are not given the information to know where they are coming from and the part they have played so far in the action. They tend to be very sketchy. Even after reading the book I am not sure what it is about and what the participants are trying to achieve. There is little memorable about it.

It may well be that my issues with this book are simply that I nave not read volume one. I can only recommend that new readers should not go anywhere near this book unless they are prepared to read volume one first.