Matador (self-published), 269pp large format paperback, £8.99
Reviewed by R A Bardy (@mangozoid)
This book infuriated me. What starts out as a promising adventure tale about a young woman following a trail of clues left by her now deceased treasure-seeking Dad, and takes you across international borders through various countries on a Tintin-esque adventure, encompassing Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle among other places, ultimately descends into what I personally would consider a bible-thumping mess, and a genuine travesty.
Paradox Lost has two story strands, the more interesting of which –as mentioned above– follows Caittie (Katie) as she chases clues and eludes her pursuers in a race against time to seek answers and follow in the footsteps of her explorer-adventurer Dad . This aspect of the story held the most promise for me, and despite grammatical errors, missing words, and genuinely poor writing in places, I still wanted to forge ahead and find out what would happen next. In this context there is the core of a decent adventure yarn here, and it felt like a story wanting to be told, and for all the right reasons the author’s voice won me over and I was keen for him to succeed. As such, this book could well serve as a fine example of why anyone looking to self-publish a novel should seek out a strong editor: it’s a hazardous business, and the errors here really aren’t difficult to spot, and frequent enough to be stumbled upon with casual abandon.
The other story strand is conversation-orientated, and tells of a character called Andrew in a lengthy battle of wills and war of words with Pierre, later Peter, later– well that would be a spoiler! This psychological word-sparring shows a lot of promise, and as a reader we are keen to find out what’s going on, why he’s being seemingly imprisoned in a single room, held against his will, and moreover, what his connection with Caittie is. And that, I’m afraid, is where everything goes pear-shaped.
The link between Andrew and Caittie never appears, and the one interaction they have is contrived to say the least, and in the context of the rest of the story, baloney. This, ultimately, destroyed things for me – I wanted to know what happened to Caittie, and truth be told was seeking a decent, satisfying end, but this never arrives. Why?
“Why?” you ask… Because of Chapter 31, the dreaded Chapter 31… probably the most annoyingly clumsy, pretentious, inept, and soul-destroying disappointment I think I’ve ever encountered in anything I’ve read, ever: 30 pages of quasi-religious, secular claptrap, whacked out theories, and God’s ultimate mission gets shoehorned in there too.
Grrrr… I got so angry when I came upon this, and felt both cheated and abused – until then I’d been happily whizzing through chapters, investing time following Caittie’s thrill-ride and eager to find out what would happen next, and even Andrew’s verbal exchanges with Peter held a crescendo of promise throughout, and then…*Wham!* cop-out central arrives: it’s not clever, it’s not smart, it just sucks.
As you may have guessed, this book left me bitter and enraged, and I would urge the author to go back and finish what he started: discard the last two Chapters and either drop Andrew’s strand completely, or forge a satisfying link that will bring the story to a proper close. If not, this is foul, reprehensible chicanery given a platform, and as such, totally unforgivable.
* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society website here