TC Boyle has written one great book – Riven Rock – and a fair few very decent ones (Drop City and The Road To Welville especially). Even his weaker books have been interesting or fun or worth the time, one way or another. Peripatetically jumping between genres and eras and styles, he’s always been my version of an airport thriller writer, well written narrative driven novels with nothing too challenging.
But oh my, When The Killing’s Done is awful. Canal Dreams awful (I clearly remember getting nearer and nearer to the end of that slight but appalling book thinking “but this is an Iain Banks book so any minute now there’ll be a clever twist or something bizarre and wonderful which justifies this sub-Alistair MacLean toss…” Of course, it never happened).
WTKD is about a conflict between environmental policy and animal rights embodied in a government scientist and an activist and fought over some islands off the coast of Santa Barbera. A pretty dry topic but if anyone can pull it off, Boyle can. Except he can’t.
His scientist is a neurotic dullard, his activist a nasty, angry, pretty much racist fucknut. The plot is both stupid and, especially in the latter half, dull as hell. The narrative depends on a series of totally predictable maritime mishaps to move along. Nothing happens, very slowly. Everybody’s a poorly characterised arsehole and I want my time, and my money, back.
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