Saturday, 7 May 2011

Book #31 The Obelisk by Howard Gordon

The Obelisk

Howard Gordon, debut novelist of this book was previously the executive producer of the hit US TV series 24. His UK publisher Simon and Schuster have exploited this fact to the max by presenting its title in the orange digital clock style synonymous with the series, illustrating it with images in the split-screen style pioneered by 24 and emblazoning it not only with Gordon's credentials but with a quote from Kiefer Sutherland.  

Before I get into the business of saying what I thought about this book, I want to say that I was an ardent, die-hard fan of 24, and watched the series through every mole in CTU, every failed love interest, every dead colleague, every disaster to ever befall Kim Bauer and every international crisis averted at the last second by one man wonder Jack Bauer. If this book is aimed at 24 fans and it apparently is then I'm who this book is aimed at.

Or, if you want to be more cynical in your thought process, and really, you should be, Simon and Schuster are exploiting the 24 angle in the shameless way that they are to lure the 24 box set buyers into also buying this. If it were just The Obelisk by some guy named Howard Gordon with no reference to his Hollywood career or association with one of the biggest TV series of the last decade, then this book would probably attract very little attention.

It is the story of Gideon, a UN peacemaker with the ear of the President, who is sent to bring in a rogue agent, who <shock> happens to be his own brother Tillman. Most of the action takes place on an oil rig The Obelisk. So far, so 24. 24 : Day 6 to be precise.

Here's where the similarity ends. With each episode of 24 you found yourself more compelled to see the next, the twists, the revelations, the tension. The silent clocks. Beloved characters suddenly getting bumped off in first episodes. 24, particularly in its early years was a master of : "You didn't see that coming!"

With The Obelisk it isn't that the story is necessarily bad, or even too much of a copycat, it's the fact that Gordon simply sucks as a prose writer. He may have contributed script to 24 episodes over the years but the man is no novelist. It is so cliched at times that it is cringeworthy. From writing cliches such as "that sinking feeling" and "punched in the stomach" to dialogue cliches "if she dies it'll be over my dead body" to plot cliches like the moment our hero has nearly been killed but his first instinct on meeting the heroine is to notice just how beautiful she is. The writing of the ending is so hideously terrible that you can only imagine that Gordon rushed it for a deadline. I've half a mind to spoil it seeing as I don't recommend for a moment you should rush out and read this book, but lets just say references are made to 'a double bed' and 'riding out the storm'. It is CHEESETASTIC.

Also, the villain's motives are decidedly implausible given his history with his targets, nonsensically so. I think that's the best word for the book: Nonsense.   As a spy thriller, I'd say it belongs to the world of Lee Child and John Grisham type books but fans of those authors may be insulted. It may be an entertaining airport read for some for good or for so bad its good reasons. My loathing for Dan Brown novels is fairly well known and I'd say that saying this book belongs to The Dan Brown School Of Writing is the most damning verdict I can give it.

With regards to 24, this book can only ever be seen in a much lesser light, a critical light by comparison and so the publishers have somewhat shot themselves in the foot and set it up for failure. But even if there was no link to a hit Hollywood series, this would still be a bloody terrible book


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