Thursday, September 17

J G Sandom: The God Machine

Blurb from the back of the book:
The coded journal of Benjamin Franklin. A hidden map. A legendary gospel. These are the first pieces to an ancient puzzle so powerful, it could destroy the very foundation of Christianity… in a world of secret societies, ancient conspiracies, and Masonic puzzles, locating the prize is one thing-staying alive, another.
And so it goes on. I can only assume that the hero solves the puzzles, saves the world and gets the girl but I will never know for sure because I gave up on this one at page 86 (of 468).
I’m quite fond of the conspiracy theory/thriller/mystery combination so when I discovered this on the recommended reading rack at my library I was delighted. I thought the plot sounded great, if a little Dan Brown-esque. At the point I stopped reading most of the usual suspects had been introduced or strongly foreshadowed: the wounded hero, the morally ambiguous Mason, the sinister Catholic sect, the hypocritical evangelist and the sexy intellectual woman were all there. The plot was only just being set up but it promised to be action packed. So why did I put it down with no intention to ever pick it up again?
Sadly, I quickly discovered that this writer’s voice wasn’t for me. They’d done their research, quite thoroughly too, and they were intent on sharing everything they knew. Not in a discrete seamlessly blended manner that enriches the story but more in a style reminiscent of the recorded lectures you can listen to on self guided tours of historic places.

For example:
It was the home of the Militare Ordine Ospedaliero di San Giovanni di Gerusalemme di Rodi e di Malta, commonly known as the Knight Hopitaller. The Knights of Malta.
Founded in Jerusalem in 1080 by the Blessed Gerard, the order was originally launched to provide care and relief for the poor pilgrims
..etc, etc.

It goes on in this vein for another three pages. At which point I stopped reading. I could have overlooked it if it had been a one off. It wasn’t.
I love history but this kind of pace dragging info dump has no place in an action thriller. Particularly in one that is already disjointed by jumping about in time.
Dan Brown’s literary efforts may have all the intellectual merit of my grocery list but at least they’re page turners. Disappointingly, The God Machine doesn’t even offer that.-Lynn


Tom Wolfe said...

You should have stuck with it. In fact, a lot of the reason these books are so popular is because readers want to learn something when they invest their time in a novel ... and not just be entertained without substance. You want popcorn instead of a meal, read James Patterson. I guess it's just a matter of taste. The book takes off and becomes a real page-turner. I loved this more than anything Dan Brown has written.

Alex and Lynn Ward said...

All I know of Sandom's work is Lynn's review and the rather purple couple of pages of "The God Machine" I just read at Amazon.
A couple of things I do know:
1. page turners have to engage the reader's interest a little earlier than page 86
2. There's a difference between learning while being entertaining and being slammed on the head with wodges of exposition
3. Life's too short to keep reading a book you're not enjoying (unless you have to read it for school or work)
4. One of the wonderful things about the world is our differences.
I'm glad you enjoyed the novel and on Lynn's behalf I'm sorry she missed whatever you foudn valuable in it. Thanks for dropping by :) - Alex