“ Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Author: Scott Hunter / Kindle Edition / Publication Date: 2011 „
(Warning: this review contains a lot of very unkind similes. Do not read if the wanton torture of the English language offends you)
Poor old Scott Hunter. He desperately wants to do two things with The Trespass. One: create a British Indiana Jones (something he obliquely acknowledges via several references in the text) and two: create yet another "lost religious artefact" treasure hunt book. Unfortunately, his two aims hit two snags. One: most of the really good religious stuff (Ark of the Covenant, Holy Grail, Jesus' Cross or tomb) have already been done, leaving latecomers to resort to a bit of barrel scraping in the search for their mystical McGuffin; and two: as Indy-wannabes go, this is more Crystal Skull than Raiders.
English archaeologist Simon Dracup inherits the diary of his long-dead grandfather and finds in it mysterious references to the location of Noah's Ark. More significantly, it hints an even greater secret. Meanwhile, a long-lost cult believes that Dracup's grandfather betrayed them and seeks vengeance on his descendants by kidnapping Dracup's daughter.
I know what you're thinking: that sounds really rubbish, right? Well, I might not quite have the same skill with words as the blurb writers for the backs of books but if anything, I've made it sound better than it actually is. The Trespass is a mess; a hotchpotch of half-baked ideas that probably sounded good in the mind of the author but when set down on paper end up being non-sensical and ludicrous.
It might sound a little odd to accuse The Trespass of having a ludicrous plot. After all, the basis for this whole genre is preposterous, but there are still plenty of examples of books (and films) which have used it to good effect. The key difference is they created a world which at least seem internally logical. When you watch an Indy film, you don't particularly question it because a) it all seems to make sense at the time and b) you get swept up in the action and enjoy the over-the-top fun.
The Trespass has none of that sense of excitement. It bumbles along at an excruciatingly slow pace, relying on stupid plot developments and ridiculously unlikely coincidences. Just to give you an example: at one point Dracup visits an old man suffering from dementia, whose confused mind contains vital information. Just at the very moment Dracup is visiting him, he just happens to have a lucid moment and shouts out a clue at him! As if that wasn't unlikely enough, Dracup then uses this clue to unearth another clue which has lain hidden in someone's back garden for over half a century (we can only assume that the house owners were not keen gardeners). The Americans have an expression ("jump the shark") for a moment when a TV series becomes so ludicrous that it tips over into stupidity. The Trespass doesn't so much jump the shark as enthusiastically leap an entire oceanful of them.
Even this might not be a problem if there was some sense of pace and excitement, but I found The Trespass unforgivably boring. There were many sections where I was trudging through the pages just to get through them, with no real sense of enjoyment and I never engaged with the central character at all. Considering he is supposedly hell-bent on tracking down his kidnapped daughter, he doesn't half take his time; meandering around all over the place, getting side-tracked with endless distractions and diversions that really have little to do with his quest for his daughter.
Author Scott Hunter also seems to think he's being jolly clever and springing lots of surprises on his reader. Sadly, the only person he is misleading is himself. His so called "surprises" are about as startling as a bicycle shaped present wrapped in paper covered with pictures of bicycles. Even the slowest witted of readers is likely to spot them coming a mile off. When plot developments or character betrayals are revealed, they merely confirm what you already strongly suspect, rather than shocking you to the core and providing a reason to keep reading.
Not even the eventual discovery of the mysterious artefact will amaze you. It's fairly obviously telegraphed throughout the book and came as no surprise to me when it was finally "revealed". The trouble is, even when it is, it also has absolutely no impact whatsoever. The idea of anyone discovering what they do is just completely daft and because you have never really engaged with the plot, you can't suspend your sense of disbelief enough to cut it some slack and just enjoy it as a piece of escapist nonsense. Like I said at the top of the review, the "artefact" in question has a smack of desperation about it; of an author casting around for a McGuffin that hasn't yet been used in this increasingly over-crowded genre.
The book's characters are completely unengaging and fall into the category of a) totally unbelievable or b) totally unoriginal; sometimes even managing to meet both criteria. The central character, Simon Dracup, is a case in point. He's basically a cut-price English Dr Jones yet is about as engaging as a broken fruit machine. He's so dull that if you saw him at a party, he'd be in the one standing in the corner next to the drinks machine. And people would STILL be talking to the drinks machine in preference to him.
Just as bad is Potzner, a CIA man after the artefact for his own ends. Again, Potzner is about as believable as Davina McColl hosting Mastermind and as menacing as a small cute mouse with a bow tie and violin. The remaining bad guys are mere ciphers, whilst many of the other characters are poorly sketched stereotypes (the English academic, the plodding but conscientious British police inspector). I would not wish to spend a single minute in the company of any of these individuals if they existing in real life because they suffer from a terminal case of Dull-itis. They are about as convincing as Dick Van Dyke's "cockerney" accent and a lot less interesting.
Bizarrely, this book has scored pretty impressively on Amazon (an overall rating of 4 stars), although opinion does vary and there are plenty of people who rated it as "highly" as myself. For the life of me, I can't work out how anyone could score this as a five star book: the cold central character, unengaging and unrealistic plot and pedestrian pace mean the BEST I could ever give it would be two stars. And I'm just not feeling that generous today.
The Trespass costs a whopping £11.99 to buy new in paperback which is, quite frankly ridiculous (although it can be picked up cheaper). The Kindle edition is more reasonably priced at £1.99, but even that is overpriced. Stick Raiders of the Lost Ark on telly instead. It's a lot more fun and much better value for money.
Myrtle Villa Publishing, 2009
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012