Monday, 21 January 2008

"The Messiah Code"...

I'll admit it: I spend so much time (and money) servicing my 100-a-year non-fiction book habit, it's been a while since I've strayed into the world of fiction. I did read Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and "Digital Fortress" (yuk), just in case there was anything I should flag in my book (I mentioned his "O Draconian Devil!" and "Oh, lame saint" anagrams in chapter 6). Actually, the last novel I read was Susanna Clarke's epic "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell".

But with the 2008 Voynichian novel tsunami fast approaching us all, I thought I'd warm up for Michael Cordy's forthcoming VMs book by reading his first book, "The Messiah Code" (1997): this follows the generic blockbuster template, mixing together fat themes (religion, gene therapy, gene paranoia) with thin characters.

Unfortunately... though the writing is pacy and spare throughout, Cordy's plotting inexperience shows through everywhere. The book ends up like an argument between two kids playing cliche Top Trumps - who would win, the genius Nobel laureate geneticist fighting for his child's life, or the ruthless, conflicted, 2000-year old super-rich Templaresque secret society? The perky female black genius Nobel laureate computer scientist from the 'hood, or the shape- and gender-shifting unfeeling uber-killer with a surprising childhood secret? You feel like asking: yeah, and would Mechagodzilla kick the Transformers' hollow butts?

In the end, for all its page-turning readability "The Messiah Code" is a book about ciphers, for that is what all its characters are - nulls, blanks, voids, zeroes. But maybe that's the whole point: perhaps all that blockbuster readers want is a satisfying mental knot to untangle on the beach, and aren't really interested in much beyond that.

At least Michael Cordy did his research properly, so the "science bit" largely holds up: and for that I was grateful (though a "terrabyte" did sneak in somewhere, *sigh*). But I hope he's come a long way in the ten years since...

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