Thursday, 24 February 2011

‘Primeval: Extinction Event’ – Dan Abnett (Titan Books)

I watched the first few episodes of ‘Primeval’, when it first aired on TV a few years ago, but ended up losing the ongoing ‘battle of the remote control’ that frequently played out in the years before Hope arrived; she just prefers to grab it first and then try to eat it... I never really got back into ‘Primeval’ after that, ‘Doctor Who’ was on the other side, but I always had a soft spot for the concept behind it all. Who wouldn’t? We’re talking about a show where dinosaurs appear in present day Earth via wormholes in time, how cool is that? Very cool from what I can remember with dinosaurs causing havoc and a team of scientists trying to keep a lid on it all.

I actually thought the series had been cancelled but it turns out that it was entirely the opposite case with the show not only being in its fourth season but a whole load of books out there adding to the whole experience. One of these was ‘Extinction Event’ and I wanted to read it, for much the same reasons that I wanted to read James Swallow’s ‘Deus Ex’. I’m a big fan of Dan Abnett’s Black Library output and have read enough of his stuff outside that setting to know that the quality in his writing survives the transition. As a result, I’ll pretty much pick up anything with Abnett’s name on it and was interested to see how his writing fared in the ‘Primeval’ setting. ‘Extinction Event’ is a good example of Dan Abnett doing what he does best but I wasn’t entirely convinced this time round...

Most dinosaur incursions are easily dealt with and covered up by the team working at the Anomaly Research Centre (ARC) but a pair of Entelodons rampaging down Oxford Street presents a challenge that the team may not be up to. This isn’t the biggest challenge headed their way though. Their Russian counterparts in Siberia are experiencing similar difficulties and have no qualms about kidnapping three of the ARC team to help them. What Nick Cutter discovers in Siberia though runs far deeper and far more dangerous than a mere infestation of dinosaurs. The anomalies themselves are changing and the ramifications of this could ultimately have grave consequences for the planet...

‘Extinction Event’ is another book that I picked and devoured almost in one sitting; sometimes life gets in the way and demands that you do other stuff instead. It wasn’t a particularly satisfying read though. If it hadn’t been for the way in which it all kicked off then I’m not sure that I would have continued reading. Maybe fans of the series itself would get more out of this book?

You can imagine Dan Abnett sitting down in front of the TV with a couple of ‘Primeval’ DVD box sets (research of course) before getting stuck into writing the actual book. Nice work if you can get it! Whatever form the research took the end result is pretty special as the book kicks off in spectacular style with giant dinosaur pigs causing mayhem on the streets of London. Talk about the best way to get your readers hooked right from the start! Abnett draws the tension out superbly with the team following a trail of destruction and not seeing their quarry until it’s almost too late. A long drawn out dose of tension swiftly followed by a manic rush of ‘dinosaur pig violence’ was more than enough to get my attention.

Abnett swiftly follows this with a kidnapping and the gradual revealing of a far greater menace than mere dinosaurs. That’s not to say that the dinosaur sightings dry up though; Abnett takes a whole load of dinosaurs from a specific period (not saying which one as that could well be a spoiler...) and then hides them throughout the trackless wastes of Siberia, springing them all on the reader whenever it’s least expected. This works really well in terms of showing just how widespread the dinosaur problem is in Siberia and also emphasises the deadliness of a ‘super predator’ that is able to pick off various Russian soldiers at will. There are some moments here, in particular, that made me jump. You will not believe how quietly this dinosaur can move... until it’s right behind you.

I’m not really sure what to say about the characters themselves at this point as my only real exposure to them was in a couple of episodes of ‘Primeval’ that I watched several years ago. I’ve got no basis for comparison here so if you want to know if the characters here match what’s on the screen then I’m not the person to ask. I guess what I can say though is that Abnett works hard to make his characters distinctive with their own motives for surviving through what is unfolding. You get to know them as people in their own right and there’s enough character in each of them to make following their progress rewarding.

Unfortunately though, it’s more or less at the moment when the ‘big threat’ is revealed that things began to get sticky for me. This imminent threat is accompanied by a raft of technical stuff; either people trying to do something technical or people holding forth with lots of technical jargon. This stuff tends to fly way over my head anyway and the resulting feeling of having missed something here interrupted things when I could have been really into the plot instead. You can’t really blame the book for a problem that I have with books in general (not just this one) but another unfortunate effect of this approach was that an otherwise smooth flowing plot was interrupted and never really picked up that smooth pace afterwards. Abnett attempts to set things right with a monster show down right at the end but, while it’s definitely fun to read, it felt like too little too late. It may not seem like a big thing written down here but it really made a difference to how I read the book...

‘Extinction Event’ is a lot of fun but, for me, it was also a book that was a lot of fun but with an unfortunate hiccup just when things really needed to step up a gear. If you’re a fan then you’ll most likely forgive the book and carry on reading regardless, it wasn’t that simple for me though...

Eight out of Ten

2 comments:

John Dax said...

The cover alone is made of sheer win.

Sally Sapphire said...

As much as I love dinosaurs and BBC dramas (hello Dr. Who & Torchwood!), I've never sat down to watch Primeval either. I'll definitely have to check this out . . . maybe it'll push me into picking up some DVD sets.