Firstly, I'd like to thank RC for two things. One is introducing me to a new author that I'll now have to add to my "Pick up anything" list. It's rare to like someone straight off. Also, that without a lend of the book, I'd not have read it. Thanks RC, it's reasons like this that make being part of the forum a real bonus.
So, here's my view of "Disturbia"
Now, to start with, I'm a huge fan of anything that makes the location its based in, an actual character in the story. Ask those that were with me in New York how many times I talked about this place in that movie or story. And of those that use this style, I thought that no-one could do it better than Woody Allen. I was wrong.
There's also the fact that it's slightly 'left of centre' of the normal things that we expect to read as part of the group. I loved this, as sometimes you want a break from crime. Disturbia isn't a crime novel, as such, but lives in that realm that sometimes can't be pulled off quite well, the action adventure. Okay, there are crime elements, but they come out as a shadow laying over the story, just to give you the idea that there are darker forces at work, that threats will be carried out and maybe all is not what it seems, but I am sure that you guys, enjoyed a change of pace as much as I did.
Disturbia's main character is the city itself. From the moment you start, you gain a feel that London isn't just the set of the book, but something that has grown outside of the narrative and that the writer is just giving us glimpses of its past, almost like you'd expect a prequel to appear with more character building. What I also loved was the small facts that I didn't know and I'm sure I'll be using the next time I pop down to the big city.
As for the story, it's an almost roller-coaster of genre's. From the first opening pages that feel like you've walked into a redux of "Clockwork Orange" to later moments that feel like a "Die Hard" rush. But each melds perfectly into the other. The characters fill their roles perfectly and each holds a key to the moment, no character is an extra filling in space. And what a space!
From the moment the challenges start, you are taken in by how they move you around the city. That each one must have been paced and planned by Fowler before the pen went to paper. As the challenges get bigger and harder, you are rushed headlong into the darkness that all cities have, sometimes open, more likely hidden. Each also had some gothic meaning to them, like a cross between "University Challenge" and "321", and I can imagine that some readers have taken the walks between the challenges in real life to get the feeling of tense anguish that holds well in the book.
Of course, I couldn't go any further without mentioning the technology aspect of the story. It shows how much today's life is effected by technology. As the story moves on, you can giggle at the descriptions of dialups and that mobile phones are a rare occurrence in the lives of the characters. That internet searching was so difficult and yet, there was enough information out there. One thing that did strike me was the use of the CCTV cameras, a concept that was very well put together and far-fetched in the 90's. Although, the way that the system was explained was rushed through and seemed almost as botched as the way they tried to explain how technology worked in the original "Italian Job".
And then, there's the comedy. I loved the way humour was moulded in the story. I don't think I've seen Norman Wisdom's name mentioned twice in a novel, ever! The moment I laughed out loud had to be in the zoo, the last time I saw a penguin used as a weapon was in "Batman Returns". What is also funny is that Fowler seemed to have hit on the "history code" stream years before Brown had. If the book had been published recently, there would have been a Disturbia compendium, tour guides and UKTV programmes about it by the ton. There are moments when the challenges are solved just by that chance meeting in the last few minutes, almost like luck was more a requirement than knowledge.
And what of the knowledge. The challenges are placed as way to define the knowledge of one man against another, but with a background to it. This was stylishly achieved in many ways. The manner that CCTV was used and that the planning was almost perfectly done. In a world that was pre 9/11, it still showed that terrorism, be it home or foreign based, was still at the forefront of writers minds. If anything misdirected the ideals of the class struggle, it was the ending. The idea that the leader of the group could be attacked in such a manner and for it all to disappear, along with the changes in the society, just seemed a little too much like a rushed ending.
I'd love to see a sequel to the story, with the league being challenged again. It would be interesting to see how changes in the last few years would mould the story into something new. With the old characters returning in some way as technology, zone planning and current political issues change the face of London itself.
One small gripe, and it isn't about the author themselves, or the story, but the editing. There are a few errors. One I've already mentioned in on page 76, where the characters name gets swapped, right at the end. Another is in a later conversation, the line "10 tasks, 10 hours" gets used. However, 2 of the tasks are given 2 hours to complete, thus making it 12 hours. The suggesting is that the challenge has only been going for 10 hours and look at what's changed, but in fact, the challenge started before 7pm and the meeting where this conversation was taking place was just before 8am! As I said, it's not the issue with the writer, but the editor, where these simple problems should have been caught.
On the whole, a great story and one that's added a new author to my sights. I found out that I've got one of his in the second library and now that I've got my thoughts down here, I'll start having a read of that one and see if he holds my attention for a second time. Great choice! If this change in the way the book club continues, then it'll add a welcome, refreshing change to the 'to be read' list of everyone who gets involved. Roll on the next choice!