Friday, 28 August 2009

‘Fragment’ – Warren Fahy (Harper)


My name is Graeme and I love dinosaurs. Ever since an abortive trip to the Natural History Museum in London as a child (I was very sick all over one of the exhibits) and all the way through to the third Jurassic Park movie, via ‘1,000,000 Years BC’, I can’t get enough of them. With this in mind, if I see a book with the tagline ‘A Jurassic Park for the Lost generation’ then I’m sure to pick it up for a read, even if I’ve never seen a single episode of ‘Lost’ (I haven’t, I am ashamed...)
Maybe next time I won’t act so impulsively...

When the cast and crew of reality show ‘Sea Life’ make a diversion to unexplored Henders Island it’s simply to investigate a distress beacon that has gone off. No-one ever suspected that eleven people would die in the first few minutes of landing on the island... Henders Island has developed its own ferocious eco-system over millennia of isolation and is teeming with wildlife that can kill faster than you can blink. The US president has a tough decision to make over the future of an eco-system that could wipe out all life on the planet if it was ever allowed to escape from Henders Island. Just when the outcome is clear a discovery is made that changes everything...

I loved the concept that underpins ‘Fragment’ and what this is able to bring to the story as a whole. An island that you can’t get off because the wildlife is just so nasty, animals and plants that can kill in the blink of an eye. Throw a bunch of totally unprepared people into the mix and you’ve got a plot that shoots along at the speed of a Henders Rat and drags you along with it in a flurry of talons and blood.

Well, this is what would happen if elements of the book didn’t conspire to make the pace sporadic and clogged up with the unnecessary...

A gripping prologue is spoilt by opening chapters where all the leading characters are introduced in a lot more depth than perhaps was needed. Forget the story itself; we get to find out the life history of all the main players before anything else... While it’s always good for characters to have some background I was already impatient to get to the point of the book and these opening scenes really dragged for me. Perhaps these introductions could have been spread out over the book; this would have allowed things to really get moving.
A similar situation arises in Geoffrey Binswanger’s lectures that introduce his character into the proceedings. Perhaps these are really interesting to those of a more scientific nature but I couldn’t really work out what they had to do with the plot itself. As far as I was concerned, they were just another obstacle that I had to get past before I could get to the main event. What I was left with was more of the book that dragged.

When I finally got to the main piece things did start to pick up with our heroes trying to escape from monstrous flora and fauna in a series of adrenalin fuelled spectacles. That’s how it started off anyway. Partway through I realised that not only was Fahy keeping his main characters safe (to drive the story forwards) but a particularly vile character was slowly being signposted more and more as the person who die a horrible death right at the end. Once I saw this I was able to work out who was going to live and die and that was the point where any semblance of tension was lost for me. This approach works on the big screen, where everything is thrown in your face and you have to stay with it, but in a book (where you have time to think about things) it doesn’t do so well...

I wasn’t too keen on the twist in the tale either. I don’t want to give too much away (in case you decide to give this book a go) but crucial decisions made really didn’t make sense based on all the events that led up to them. Again, this would have worked much better on the big screen...

‘Fragment’ is a great concept that is smothered underneath unnecessary padding and diverted by decisions that are clearly nothing more than ‘crowd pleasers’. I would go and see it at the cinema though...

Five out of Ten

3 comments:

TK42ONE said...

If you're into dinosaurs (good ones or bad ones), check out Taylor Anderson's alt-history series and Kurt R. A. Giambastiani's alt-history series. Both are unique in their approach to dinosaurs, but both were entertaining.

The Fantasizer said...

You should really watch Lost you're missing out big time!
As for the Jurassic park kind of idea i really hate plots having some insane beasts out to get you kind a thing unless you've some sort of bad-ass ninja/swordsman type character slashing them to bits with descriptions of the action dark and gritty kind of like joe abercrombie's way of writing that'd be something i'd try!

ediFanoB said...

Before reading your good review I was indecisive whether to read this book or not. I put it on a temporary list. In stead I bought The Loch by Steve Alten. I know it is not a real dinosaur story but I couldn't withstand to get his version of the Loch Ness mystery.
And finally I deleted 'Fragment' from my list.