See through

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Spoilers ahead…

This is a hefty read and has held me up for several weeks. It is a gripping tale of adventure set in a re-imagined Europe with the actual location bearing some resemblance to the UK but fictional countries, locations, cities are all part of the set-up. This is bold and, in part, I applaud the author for the level of detail given. We are introduced to a cabal of high profile business leaders and politicians who have a plot to ensnare the unsuspecting public and effect mind control over the known world. A process has been developed to allow mind control to happen from the top of society filtering down to the lower levels over time. The nature of the process is revealed gradually and the full extent does not become evident until the final portion of the book. The time in which it is set appears slightly ambiguous but we can be reasonably certain that there are a lot of nods to Victorian Britain.

The book is well written and the dialogue very honest, but there is an awful lot of it and I sometimes felt that the characters would have saved themselves some trouble by shutting up for a few minutes every now and then. Some passages feel slightly “stilted” as if the story needs to try to break through the simply vast text. It seems as though the author wants to give it a sense of urgency by giving episode after episode of narrow escape. This reminded me of the “Quincunx”, where the repeated escape of the protagnoist became completely unbeleivable by the end of the book and I fear the reading of this book may have slowed for me once I realised that this was to be the case. I understand that we have to carry our characters forward but even J K Rowling manages to do this and keep an air of possibility that it might all go wrong. Not so here; it is never really in doubt that everyone important will make it to the end. If you’re about to point out that Angelique doesn’t make it, then I would simply say that I never had enough chance to enagage her as a character in the first place and therefore didn’t care. It has a steampunk feel and reminded me a great deal of the superlative “Baroque cycle” of novels by Neal Stephenson. There are two further novels and I may yet read them but in fact I do now wish to go back to the Baroque cycle and re-read that.

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