This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

07 April, 2014

REVIEW: THE FORBIDDEN TERRITORY



THE FORBIDDEN TERRITORY
DUKE DE RICHLEAU BOOK 1
BY
DENNIS WHEATLEY

ISBN: 978-1-44821-255-2
Pages: 271
Publisher: Bloomsbury Reader
First published: January 1933
This edition published: 10 October 2013

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)


The Duke receives a coded message from his missing friend, Van Ryn who, while hunting for treasure lost during the Soviet takeover of Russia, is now in prison somewhere in that vast country.

Along with the Duke, good friends Simon Aron and Richard Eaton set off on a secret mission to secure his escape. Without official papers they lead a thrilling caper, hunted by the Secret Police, through Siberia and across the plains of Soviet Russia.


   If you thought the conventions of Adventure novels was somewhat new, this is a book that will disabuse you of that notion. Everything you would associate with Action Adventure is present here: Highly unlikely coincidences, "forgotten" treasure, characters that are as stupid/smart as the plot demands, and "truly evil" bad guys. It just shows that most things under the sun are not new. And that lack of realism in Adventure novels is a long tradition.
   Not that there is anything inherently wrong with these conventions. It just helps as a reader if you are aware that they are there, and that you are ready to accept that that is the way plots like this work.

   The pacing is a bit different to what the modern Action Adventure reader will be used to. This is a bit more sedate, a bit more measured in its approach. The writing style of more than 80 years ago does take a little bit to get used to, it's a bit different from a modern novel. I didn't have any problems once I was past the initial period of adjustment. At least not with how the novel was written. It is obviously a bit old fashioned, but anyone interested in this sort of story will easily overlook that.
   There are some things in the novel that will seem strange, or perhaps even offensive, to modern readers. This book cannot escape the period it was written in. And in a novel that is mainly set in Soviet Russia that means we get a virulently Anti-Communist thread running through the novel. Being British it is also incredibly pro the deposed Romanov dynasty. Having read a bit of the history of the inter-war period I was ready for that, but someone who happens upon it may be surprised. 
   
   Well, enough with the history of the 1930s, on to the novel itself.
   It starts fairly slowly, well, it continues on rather slowly after we get the initial "quest" revelation in the first chapter. It takes a whole lot of time before we see any action. And the first instance of action is brief, and how it goes down is very out of the blue. Something that happens a few other times in the novel, we aren't forewarned about what people are capable of here. We hardly know them at all. The narrative is not very intimate when it comes to the characters, but more about that later.
   When we do get some sustained action later on, it becomes clear that Wheatley is good at writing it, and it is surprisingly brutal too. The author is also accomplished at creating suspense. Granted, some of it comes from the reader being left mostly in the dark, but there are some really suspenseful passages here. 

   Going back to the characters. I mentioned above that we don't really get to know them. There is a distance from the narrative to the inner workings of the characters. They all seem pretty stereotypical to me. But that is something that must be taken with the caveat that I don't really know how stereotypical they would have seemed at the time this novel was originally published.
   What is certain tough is that the characters are described mostly by what they do, we get few deeper insights. This means that sometimes things can happen in the plot that will have been impossible if we had known the characters better. This doesn't so much contradict the stereotype I mentioned above, it complements and expands it. Our distance from the characters makes for a plot that can go places that are pretty unbelievable, and all the reader can do is feel a bit cheated that the author gave you no forewarning that the character was in any way inclined to do what just happened.

   I found this to be a very interesting novel to read. It is actually very enjoyable, although the plot is a bit thin. I like the entertainment of Adventure novels though, and that means that I can overlook a plot that is a bit on the thin side. This is entertaining, but more than that it is fascinating to read an Action Adventure novel that is as early as this and seeing how the time it was written in affected it.
   If you like Action Adventure that has few pretensions of realistic plotting, and where coincidences crop up pretty often (, i.e. if you are a fan of Hollywood plotting), or at least can overlook that for an entertaining journey, then you could do much worse than checking this novel out. And, if like me, you are a fan of Clive Cussler, or other modern Adventure writers, then I urge you to get hold of this book so you can see where those kind of novels came from.

NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher/NetGalley.

LINKS: Dennis Wheatley (Fansite)  Bloomsbury Reader

The Duke receives a coded message from his missing friend, Van Ryn who, while hunting for treasure lost during the Soviet takeover of Russia, is now in prison somewhere in that vast country.

Along with the Duke, good friends Simon Aron and Richard Eaton set off on a secret mission to secure his escape. Without official papers they lead a thrilling caper, hunted by the Secret Police, through Siberia and across the plains of Soviet Russia. - See more at: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-forbidden-territory-9781448212552/#sthash.W0lF6yXW.dpuf
9781448212552
9781448212552
9781448212552

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