segunda-feira, março 27, 2017

An Old-Fashioned Thriller, but What a Thriller: "Kolymsky Heights" by Lionel Davidson



I’m not much of a classic thriller reader myself but I loved that icy photo on the cover. That was what drew me in! "Kolymsky Heights" really is a cracker. Page turning narrative, and the writing of place is superb; Davidson takes me to the Siberian wilderness every bit as much as any travel writer ever has. This is my first novel from him. I came across this first novel, from a friend of mine. Davidson has two deep traits: how sentences and how characters work. Both are deployed superbly in the Story: the syntax drew me into the very thought processes, what it is to be the fascinating characters he depicts. It’s old-fashioned in a good way, it’s full of drama and adventure, exotic locations, goodies and baddies, as every spy Book worth its salt should be. For most of the books I read, I always write lots of notes to allow me, later on, to breeze through the review. That’s close reading for you! This time round, I didn’t write a single line. And that is actually not a bad thing. This is a no-nonsense story. Davidson did not try “Literature”. As I said, Davidson wrote an old-fashioned thriller, but what a thriller. Basically, he is telling me a story by the fire. With a beginning, a middle and an end. And it's relentless. There is no time, no space or no will to force the narrative. Everything just flows. The style is as dry as they come, with the exceptions of a few cold jokes. Every word, every chapter, every paragraph’s sole purpose is to advance the plot, with a supreme kind of efficiency, ruthless like the main character. Once I started, it was impossible to put it down, in case I’d miss something. And the details are everything. Johnny Porter is nothing if not a very meticulous man (step aside James Bond). His journey starts with a preparation where, during months; on top of that, he has to refresh is Russian and Korean, learn the way a merchant boat is set in order to prepare his "legend", memorize every tiny scrap of information found and prepared for him in order to successfully infiltrate the mysterious Soviet laboratory which might explain the unexpected failures of Chinese rockets...  But of course, after any preparation, comes the moment when the man has to improvise. The plot is just plain crazy, bursting at the seams, but it works like a charm. Who would have thought I’d ever give 4 stars for a spy Fiction book of the thriller variety? Every aspiring writer should read it in order to see how to master storytelling and the subtle art of details which make any story believable. A brilliant work. 

6 comentários:

Book Stooge disse...

It is a fine line between exciting details and boring details. Glad this one was the first for you. I also like books that are "relentless", as long as I don't have too many of them in a row. Then I literally get tired :-)

ps,
I clicked the email thingy FIRST this time before ever writing a single word...

Manuel Antão disse...

I started going to bed very late because of it, which I hadn't done in a long time. Because of that I was somewhat literally tired the next morning.

NB: Sometimes I also forget it when I answer comments...

Book Stooge disse...

I haven't stayed up late for reading in quite some time either. Of course, I tend to suffer a bit more in the mornings if I stay up late now. Not being 20 anymore sucks :-(

Luís Filipe Franco disse...

Lol :) loved the literary tired! I myself have been relentless in finishing the grace of kings of ken liu! Some of the adjectives you used to describe this thriller, I could use to describe the grace of kings. It has kept me 'literally tired' for some mornings this week... but so overwhelmed by the plot! Maybe I'll do a review as you suggested, manuel :). This one thriller goes to me reading list:).

Manuel Antão disse...

Luis. You should definitely write about it. It helps putting things on "paper". That's why I write reviews, otherwise I wouldn't bother. The novel "The Grace of Kings" made such a strong impression on me that I'm just not ready to write about it yet. I eagerly await your review.

Manuel Antão disse...

BookStooge. You're quite right. Unfortunately only at night can I get my reading in shape.