Sunday, 10 March 2013

Familiar recollection

It's interesting that it happens so often across narrative forms of art, but I'm not sure why so many works start so vivaciously but fizzle out so disappointingly by the end. Presumably it's simply easier to come up with a hook than it is to turn it into a convincing story? Or perhaps publishers and their ilk just don't care how something finishes up once they've got you intrigued enough to dip into your wallet? Either way, it seems to occur pretty regularly across books, films and even videogames.

And so it is with Gareth Powell's 2011 novel, The Recollection. It's very far from a total bust - in fact, it's absolutely fine until the closing chapters - but it's always a bit of a let-down when something enjoyable is wrapped up by the author in a manner that's suggestive of a publishing deadline. Still, the good: a neat set-up that has mysterious "portals" appearing across the world in the present-day, and an engrossing journey as they're plumbed by a man somewhat guiltily seeking out his missing journalist brother. The not-quite-so-good: a parallel far-future story that's never quite as well-realised - most of the time you're simply waiting for the reveal that unveils the connection with the present-day story. The bad: a truly lame ending that inflates - and then super-quickly deflates - a by-the-numbers "ancient evil".

I'd say it largely comes down to the pacing here - the set-up's done at the right speed, the third act's done in an unseemly rush. To be fair, the book's sufficiently short that - although it ends unsatisfyingly - it doesn't undo all of the good work by the time it's done. I've read plenty of longer books that take so long coming off the rails that one really begrudges them by the end. This isn't one of them, and there's still just about enough in there to make things interesting, but I just wish authors (and film-makers and game creators ...) would just take the time to ensure that they don't undo all of their good work as they race for the finish line.

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