For a novel that begins with a whimper, A Jar Of Wasps goes out with a bit of a bang. It’s described on the cover blurb by Andy Remic as “the best geo-thriller he’s ever read”. You have to wonder how many geo-thrillers the Anarchy Books publisher has actually read, as first-time author Luis Villazon is no Michael Crichton.
It gets off to an inauspicious start, opening with feckless geologist Graham Trevennan being framed for the murder of a fellow scientist who turns up on his doorstep with a mysterious piece of extraterrestrial tech. He’s followed swiftly by a pair of cardboard cut-out Secret Service spooks. The initially jocular tone (with the American agents making antiquated references to limeys) sits awkwardly with the more contemplative atmosphere of the latter sections.
The story kicks up a gear when Graham and sassy freebooter Seraphina Carmichael cross the pond to California’s Yellowstone National Park, as the full extent of the apocalyptic threat becomes apparent. Evoking The War Of The Worlds , there’s a suitably alien quality about the comet-esque devices that rain down from the heavens and proceed to burrow down to the Earth’s core.
The title’s elusive meaning only becomes clear towards the end, as Villazon makes some intriguing connections between vulcanology and the outer space invaders. But the devastating ending arrives too abruptly, leaving numerous plot threads dangling. A promising first effort that could have amounted to so much more.
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