Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Laurie R King: Touchstone

Well, this has taken a long time, hasn’t it? I just haven’t found the time, and also I’ve naturally been suffering from my standard achievement anxiety – you know, the anxiety that has been not insignificantly instrumental in hindering my writing of my law thesis. Essay. Whatever, the paper that would provide me with a paper saying “yay, she graduated”. I sort of felt like the utter specialness of not only the novel per se but even more the fact that I won it and it is signed by Laurie King to ME warranted something extra special blog-wise, something so clever and well-thought out that I really should have laughed at myself then and there and just written something already, Jesus. I now brought my laptop to work so I could write on the train (on the train was the plan. Sadly, Minimus decided that if I was getting up at six, so was he, and he didn’t want me to leave, so yada yada yada, I missed the train, and I’m on the bus instead and I’m not comfortable. And the noise, dear God the noise. How do bus drivers stick it, I really don’t know. I love trains. Commuting by train is a pleasure by comparison, a veritable treat.).

So, enough of the Livejournal-esque rants – Touchstone. *rubs hands with glee* This is a stand-alone novel, and I previously very much enjoyed Laurie’s stand-alones, I think especially Folly. Also, it’s very good for me, as a reader, to be forced to break free of the tyranny of a series and the characters therein. One does become a little too obsessed and stale I think. What can become true of the writer certainly can become true of the reader.

The story centres on Harry Stuyvesant, an American FBI agent – except not FBI, the other agency that preceded the FBI, the name of which escapes me at the moment, and I’m writing on the train (yes, the train now, because I had to keep going next trip) without the book at hand and no interwebz – who arrives in England to hunt for a bomber, a terrorist. His agenda is personal, so while he claims to be in England on official business, in reality it’s only semi-official. Harry’s search introduces him to an unpleasant man who operates in the background of British Intelligence, and he in turn directs Harry to a survivor of WW1, a shelling victim whose near-death experience has left him hyperaware of his surroundings, so aware it seems he can read minds. Our unpleasant Intelligence operative, Carstairs, covets this Bennet and his ability, to the point where he is almost blinded to everything else.

The idea of a person whose war experiences have left him supersensitive did, at first, strike me as more than a little naff, to be honest, and I blame that horrible tv series about the Vietnam veteran. You know, he’s developed superhearing and supersight in the jungle, and now he fights crime in that other jungle, the big city. And whenever he hears something four blocks away the camera sort of does this zoom-pan out-zoom-pan out thing that is really silly. As naff as Bionic Woman (or Man), the original. However, Laurie is a good enough writer to carry it off. Bennet is not naff. Actually. Nevertheless, I am not 100% happy with that theme, because I never really get into it as a main theme. The whole book is named after Bennet after all (the Touchstone), but somehow he never seems to really be the centre of things. Hm. But I am very tired and sleep-deprived, so I may be talking out of my arse.

The research is thorough, the writing is fluid, and I’m kept guessing about the culprit until the end (well done!). Nevertheless I found myself not completely riveted, and I’ve tried to think about why that might be. Possibly I expected something different, pure and simple, and was distracted from enjoying the book by those expectations.

Also, the book strikes me as a comment on current affairs in a sense (I think it sort of is, if I remember Laurie’s blog entries correctly, but again, I may well be mistaken), as it focuses on terrorism, bombings, what makes a terrorist and so on. Here, the terrorist is fuelled by the ideas of Anarchism. And since it is (a current-affairs-comment), I sometimes feel it slips into being just a tad too contemporary. There was a turn of phrase here or there that niggled at me.

However, I haven’t yet read a Laurie King I hated, and this certainly is no exception. Plus it’s SIGNED, which would make it a fave no matter what... I should take a photo. Maybe when I become a responsible adult.

No comments: