Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Patron Saint of Plagues, by Barth Anderson

You know those books where nothing much seems to happen, but you keep reading because the characters become real and the writing is just so darn good?

This is not one of those books. This is one of those books where nothing much seems to happen, but you keep reading because you promised to review it on your blog.

That's not to say it wasn't well written - there are flashes of brilliance, especially in the couple of chapters that describe the progress of a cells as they travel through the human body, and some of the insults from 'cuss-poet' Isabel Khushub are, well, cuss-poetry.

Anyway, the story. It's about 2050, the US has collapsed in on itself and Mexico is rising under a sort of Catholic/fascist dictatorship. Into all this enters a bio-engineered plague, targeting native Mexicans, and all-American hero Henry Stark, who, assisted by his former flame the aforementioned cuss-poet Khushub, obviously sets out to save the day.

There are a few good sf ideas thrown in too; as well as the obligatory flying motorbikes, the pilone network and associated 'wetware' - a sort of internet browser hard-wired into the brain - plays an integral part in the story. Whether the tell-tale scar left behind by its installation is in fact the mark of the beast, has nothing to do with the story at all and is just an interesting thought that occurred to me.

I think I may have missed the point with this book. All the Spanish words and catholic stuff may just have switched my brain off, but it failed to grip me. The characters failed to engage me, and ultimately I don't think there was enough going on to fill 370 pages.

Barth Anderson, by all accounts, is a short fiction author of some renown; unfortunately I think this, his debut novel, falls short of its potential. Must try harder!

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