Damning with no praise

Posted on June 8, 2012


Virtue is stronger united – Andorran motto

I promised myself when I started on this journey that I would try to find something positive in everything I’d read even when I didn’t like something.  After all, it takes a huge effort to write, complete and edit a novel. The hopes, imagination, and creative energy of an author are exposed for all to see. They are owed a certain amount of respect, and cynicism and criticism for the sake of being witty would be too easy. But God, it’s going to be hard to resist the urge, especially as I’m secretly hoping (not a secret anymore, damn) that on my gravestone someone has the guts to put ‘She’d do anything for a cheap laugh’.

So, what can I say about Segles de Memoria?   To begin with, I should declare that I’m not a fan of sci-fi or fantasy novels.  To be fair, I haven’t read many, other than the classics that were fed to us at school. So, I had the usual diet of  Vernes, Wells, Wyndham and Orwell (if he can be counted). And I was recently given an excellent appetizer by Silverberg Dying Inside. Why this is classified as sci-fi by publishers and not just as bloody good literature I don’t know.  On the fantasy front, I read and enjoyed, The Hobbit, aged 10 and Lord of the Rings, aged 14.  I haven’t read them since. I’m sure they’re still good, that people still love them, but, as the saying goes, I’m just not that into them, any more than I still crave Pez or Bazooka Joes (I still love licorice boot laces and polos of course).   All this is to say that the reason that I didn’t like Segles de Memoria may be no more than a genre thing.

But three time slips in 100 pages! Yes! Three! With an introduction and a conclusion, a nuclear war and a love story thrown in, that’s a few centuries every 17 pages.   The time portal is a family portrait with a metal frame that gets first struck by a nuclear blast, then by the love of the protagonist and his secretary and by the third time I’d lost the energy to work out what major energy was involved. Who has a metal frame on an old portrait anyway?  On the plus side, it was a hundred pages and you learn about the history of Andorra, but in no more substantial a way, in fact, I would dare to say, in a less substantial way than in Cynthia Harnett’s  Wool Pack (set in my native Warwickshire) or Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Eagle of the Ninth.  Both these books acted as the sum total of my historic knowledge for a long time as a child.

As I said, maybe it’s just a genre thing.