Reviewed by Stewart Horn
Nicholas Robinson is a loser: an erratic employment history, a rented flat in a dodgy bit of London, and his dreams of greatness are becoming less realistic as middle age approaches. When old school friend Darren Amos reappears and offers him a job, things seem to be looking up – he’s suddenly being overpaid to drive an Aston Martin up and down the M1 and he’s met the woman of his dreams. Then everything goes crazy and we remember we’re reading a fantasy novel.
This is readable and generally pacey book with an engaging and well-drawn central character, but it’s very much in two sections. Smith is at his best in the first half of the book, describing Nick’s early years and teenage shenanigans. The characters were convincingly amoral, the dialogue realistic, the situations nice and tacky, and I was drawn into his life, genuinely wanting to know what happened next.
When the fantasy section kicks in Smith is on shakier ground. He’s created a new version of the siren myth, spent a lot of time thinking about how modern day sirens might go about attracting victims to their island, and he’s come up with a convincing scenario. But he’s perhaps too proud of it, and there are some overlong descriptive passages, many of which could be cut altogether without damaging the book. And the whole book could do with a serious edit.
Nevertheless, he tells an intriguing story, with shades of Lovecraft’s sea-themed stories.
A flawed but enjoyable novel.