Author: Mark Charan Newton
Publisher: Pendragon Press • 312 pages • £9.99
Anthropology or lesbian sex? Take your time choosing, we’ll wait. If you’re up for the former, The Reef could well be the book for you. Its main plot (its A-story, if you will) focuses on little else, with a team of scientists on a very laid-back holiday/field trip to find out why the natives of a small island are dying off. The latter? That’s the B-story, in which a terrorist leader crosses the ocean to exact revenge on the city that once wronged her. And bonks her gal-pal. A lot.
If those two stories don’t exactly seem to click together, you’ve planted your finger firmly on The Reef’s biggest problem. It’s an extremely schizophrenic book, from its occasional switches to the first person, to the whiplash-inducing finale that desperately struggles to tie the two plots together.
The result is that while The Reef works just fine when it’s lavishing loving detail on its island setting, there’s almost no drama and action to help make it the fantasy epic it seems to think it is. It’s almost a shame that it tries so hard, because while the plot really isn’t very exciting, the exploration of the island of Arya is
well-written and enjoyable.
The female cast is absolutely woeful, though, and while the guys fare better, none of them really generate much in the way of what you’d call excitement. There’s an almost audible hiss every time the tension leaks out of a potentially dangerous situation, to the point that it may as well be the official soundtrack.
But does this matter? As a tour guide to a place you’ll never be able to visit, The Reef is decent enough escapism. As a straight story… not so much. Unfortunately, life’s a beach like that.