Fiction Reviews

Jaws of Darkness

(2003) Harry Turtledove, Pocket Books, 6.99, pbk, 576 pp, ISBN 0-7434-6852-X

I have to admit that upon starting Jaws of Darkness I felt some trepidation. Having already endured the fragmentary nature of Turtledove's style in The Centre Cannot Hold, I was in no real mood to suffer again. I suppose, however, that everyone deserves at least two chances, so I finally trudged my way through this epic.

And trudge it was. Once again, we have short sketches of numerous and largely uninteresting characters pre-formed in the cliche factory. And once again, these poor souls are immersed in an alternative world war, this time in a world where various magical powers replace the conventional arms of bombs and tanks and where the Holocaust is replaced by the magical sacrifice of a single race. Actually I suppose it makes sense for an author who relies on quantity rather than quality to recycle plots from history; it definitely saves on the time needed to dream up a new one. I wonder if the global edit/replace in word processors is used to, if not good then at least efficient, effect?

With Jaws of Darkness, Turtledove has left me cold again. If he must produce more of the same, could someone please tell him to keep it shorter? With a bewildering beginning, unsatisfying end and an awful lot of nothing in between, the only favourable point to this tome is that at least the Dramatis Personae and inevitable map allowed me to keep track of where I was geographically.

As you may have guessed, I didn't enjoy this. I should mention, though, that this volume wasn't anywhere near as appalling as The Centre Cannot Hold, mainly because the fragments for each character were slightly longer. Despite this, I just can't recommend it.

Graham Connor

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