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TonyTalbot

TonyTalbot

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Nicholas Nickleby
Charles Dickens, Mark Ford

2/5: Extinct, Ike Hamill

Extinct - Ike Hamill

A strange snowstorm on an island in Maine and a sentient vine in another part of the state that won’t stop growing are just the beginning of the odd things happening to the world.

Hamill starts this book off at a roaring pace, with odd disappearances, eccentric government agents and events that defy any explanation. He splits the narrative nicely between the two protagonists, Robby and Brad.

Their two stories don’t meet up until the second half of the story…and that’s when it all starts to lose shape. Continuity errors pop up and subplots are introduced and then dropped again a chapter or a few pages later.

And it was all going so well…

As a for instance of subplots forgotten, Robby comes across some cabalistic markings on a basement wall. He memorises them (Rather than take a photo with his phone, for instance). Only once more in the story does the author do anything with the markings. Then they’re forgotten.

There’s no explanation for some of the things Brad comes across behind his home - an odd sound that hypnotises him, for example. We never discover who the government people who turn up at his door really are. A character is kidnapped and then breaks free again a chapter later, the subplot quickly dropped. There’s also the mystery of a sexually mutilated body which is never resolved either.

Mystery in a story is fine, but I don't feel as if any of these plot points were resolved before Hamill found something else he wanted to throw into the mix.

Characters at times also start acting out of character. Robby starts joking with corpses, even though he’s plainly terrified of them a few pages earlier. He doesn’t remember visiting a place at the end of the story, despite his perfect memory.

There are conversations reported after the fact that never took place. In one, Brad discusses a theory of Robby’s that we've never heard. Brad suddenly states that a child they harbour may be a girl rather than a boy, but there’s no text or subtext to support his sudden claim, and no more is said or done about it.

Hamill also needs to be more confident in his use of pronouns instead of personal names. When there’s only Brad in a scene and it goes like this:

Brad tried all the trucks in the lot. Brad found one which wasn’t locked, and Brad climbed inside to look for the keys. Brad found the keys under the visor and started the truck. A sudden noise made Brad turn around in his seat.

…it gets a little wearing.

There’s some repetition early in the book that could have been skipped. Brad writes to his dead wife weekly, and then we read in the narration that Brad wrote to his dead wife, and the summary of the letter we just read.

Hamill has clearly watched a lot of disaster and sci-fi movies, and seems determined to put every one in there he can. So we have tornadoes, intense snowstorms and people pulled into the air. I was waiting for the zombies as I read, and sure enough, they were there right at the end.

Despite the flaws in the story, there are some stand-out moments: The fight with the bear is particularly memorable, as is Robby’s desperate boat trip south and Brad’s lonely journey through the snow and the wonderfully eccentric (and very efficient) government agents.