Tuesday, 28 May 2013

James Herbert's Portent - Book Review

            Hiya, I hope you had a great weekend - it was really sunny in London from Saturday to yesterday, and in true English style - it's been tipping it down with rain today. That being said, it's quite relevant to today's review! So, here goes!
       Portent: (noun) A sign or warning that something, esp. something momentous or calamitous, is likely to happen.
Marketed as ‘Fiction/horror-thriller’, James Herbert’s Portent was first released in the UK in 1992. I would add a sub-sub-genre of sci-fi to the already eclectic mix, as the story follows British climatologist James Rivers as he attempts to uncover the reasons behind the freak weather occurrences which are happening all over the world. Herbert introduces characters in his unique way; utilising free-indirect speech (writing as the character speaks/thinks) so that the reader gets a clear idea of the personality of the characters, without really having to be told.
As with so many other novels by James Herbert, (dare I say all of them?) the characters are complex, they are flawed, endearing and likeable; they seem as though they could be real people – someone you just met with for lunch. Rivers’ reluctance to believe the seemingly insane theories set forth by geophysicist Hugo Poggs and his family - despite the evidence being presented to him in abundance – is a clear mirroring of the scepticism possibly felt by the reader that the supernatural is having an effect. Personally, I like this aspect a lot, it makes it seem so much more real because he’s not saying ‘this is happening, deal with it.’ But rather implying ‘this could be happening, here’s something that happened, here’s something else that happened on the other side of the globe – you decide.’ Throughout the novel, and in fact, many of his novels, Herbert is merely planting seeds which he carefully waters and diligently feeds, giving them bamboo shoots to cling to as they grow and strengthen until they are strong enough to stand alone as ideas. As metaphorical as that may be, I am often left irritated by writers who weave an interesting enough idea, but don’t give it a strong enough base or sufficient back grounding, (for the sake of the plant imagery let’s go with nutrients) so that the narrative ultimately falls flat.
In particular, I appreciate the way that Herbert moves all around the globe to tell this story – no freak weather incident is merely reported, he takes to you the barrier reef to watch it explode, he shows you a Chinese village being swallowed by a sandstorm – in short, you are always at the forefront of the action, never once having the details dimmed or embellished by a news reader or any other character. Due to this, the action is always present; there is a steady level of tension which remains with you until (almost) the last page. There are moments in which Hebert’s description is genuinely disgusting, it actually made me cringe at some points and at others, feel slightly sick. You see, in his descriptions, he will never say ‘this thing looks like this’, but rather, he’ll bring in all of the senses so that you can tastes it, smell, hear it, see it, and feel it crawling on your skin.
Aside from the attack on multiple senses, and without giving too much about the novel away, the real horror in Portent lies in the idea that this could really happen in the future, or even could be happening as we speak. (Or type/read, you get the idea) Overall, I think it’s pretty clear that I adore this novel (and James Herbert) and I’ll be happy to read it again and again; that said, I give it the whole five pandas.
The only negative I have with this book is that I over-analyse the weather now, expecting disasters to happen around me.

Yes, I did sit and make this myself for the purposes of reviews.

So, Thursday will be part 7 of The Following, then next Tuesday - by request - will be more of a feature than a review on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I say feature because I can't just talk about the books - after all, it's been a film, a radio series, a 'trilogy of five' etc., and I want to take all of those elements into consideration, otherwise I just don't think I can do it justice! 

Have a great week, I'll see you on Thursday and thanks for reading! Laura

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