Thursday 11 June 2009

Book Review: Penumbra

Keri Arthur
Piatkus Books

Penumbra is the latest book in Keri Arthur's Spook Squad trilogy and, debatably, the final installment.

The universe of the Spook Squad series is a rather interesting one - a blend of horror (vampires, lycanthropes and other monsters are very real) and cyberpunk (everyone looks like they've just fallen out of a William Gibson novel). It’s an interesting backdrop, and whilst at first impression it sounds an awful lot like the World of Darkness/Underworld universe, there’s actually an awful lot that separate the two. In the World of Darkness universe, all of the monsters are covert forces, fighting their wars in the shadows – in the Spook Squad series they are public knowledge, and involved all in massive laser gun fight. So far, so awesome, yeah?

Unfortunately, this backdrop is entirely wasted by a tired bunch of clich├ęd characters that it’s awfully hard to give a toss about. The book starts off with two cops bitching to their superintendent about how they want “off the case”, “on the case”, “a different partner”, yadda-yadda-yadda. I had to work really hard in my head not to cast the police chief as a yelling black guy. The whole thing reads like some god-awful straight-to-television eighties cop movie, completely ruining any potential the setting may have had.

A lot of prior knowledge of the series is assumed before you read this one. I can’t deny that I struggled a lot of the way, and I’m sure I didn’t fully comprehend all of it as a result. My curiosity and interest was raised at some points, but not sufficiently that I shall bother to track down the rest of the series.

Fortunately, by the time it gets to the second half, things are picking up a lot. There’s actually some interesting combat sequences, and rather tentative and well paced romance between two major characters. Unfortunately, I’d be surprised if the rather uninspiring start hasn't turned a lot of readers off by then.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Some fist fights and laser gun battles. Some fairly gory description of crime scenes – 6/10

Swearing: A couple of "fucks", nothing excessive. - 4/10

Sex/Nudity: Some mild content. Nothing explicit. - 3/10

Other points in favour:

Very interesting setting.


Overall: It’s a great idea, but unfortunately the end result is rather uninspiring. It’s not badly written, so I’d definitely give Keri Arthur another try, but this book is one for Spook Squad completists only. – 4/10

1 comment:

  1. 'A couple of "fucks", nothing excessive' you say, but I've lost count of the times I've got neck-deep in trouble asking for just that little! Some women seem to have a very different definition of the word 'excessive'...