The Human Race – O. C. Heaton – 2/10 (DNF)

In this thriller by O. C. Heaton, Uma Jakobsdottir has developed some world-altering technology, and British entrepreneur Ethan Rae is helping her to expand it. But when Uma’s office is broken into and two journalists are killed driving through a storm in Iceland, it seems that someone with rather sinister intentions has found out about their little project…

If that seems a rather scant synopsis, it’s for two reasons:  I had serious difficulties with this book (to be enumerated below) and that is as far as the turbo-charged plot had got, 25% of the way in; and it’s a serious thriller in that every page reveals critical plot points which can’t be revealed in the synopsis for spoiler reasons!

OK, the reasons I didn’t get on with this book:

1. It was not what it was marketed as: the synopsis from Amazon is

 “Ever had a secret so big that the very knowledge of it consumed you? Uma Jakobsdóttir has one. A huge one. And if it falls into the wrong hands it could obliterate mankind. Unfortunately two men have discovered it. Ethan Rae, Britain’s richest man, is counting on Uma’s secret to finally seal his position as the greatest deal maker of all time.

Across the Atlantic, Samuel Reynolds III, playboy CEO of Reynolds Air, is battling to keep the airline his granddaddy built alive. Once the largest company in America, it’s now facing bankruptcy as the fallout of 911 cripples the airline industry. He desperately needs Uma’s secret to ensure its survival.

From the leafy suburbs of London to the frozen wastelands of Iceland, in the shadow of Ground Zero and under the barren dryness of the Mojave Desert, both men will stop at nothing to get what they want. There can only be one winner and the fate of the human race hangs in the balance as they battle it out. The race is on…”

which doesn’t indicate the hefty dollop of science fiction that this book contains. I think readers deserve an honest description; I’ve written about misleading marketing before.

2. Very short chapters coupled with an inordinately long expository introduction (first 25% of the book and counting). Short chapters (as I’ve written about before) drive me crazy and often here the chapter break was simply so that we could have a new date and time at the start of the chapter; there’s got to be a more elegant way to indicate a small change in time.

3. Serious editorial oversights: a couple of errors which ought to have been caught by a copy-editor (it can’t be 1815 in New York and 1015 in Reykjavik – the truth would be vice versa) and large sections which should have had a red pen taken to them energetically (“Next, he called his assistant, Scott Adams, with the news that his plans for the next three days had changed, and to rearrange all of his appointments. Scott quickly ran through the changes to Ethan’s schedule and rang off, having confirmed that he would call a limo to pick Ethan up…” DO YOU SEE WHY THIS MAKES ME STABBY???). Throw in some stilted dialogue (“I still cannot fully believe what we saw today…” from one young, cool journalist to another) and there is not enough tea in my kitchen to make me happy about this book.

4. I was taught at school that dying characters can’t bequeath thoughts: “The last sound he remembered, as the four-by-four toppled to meet the patiently waiting lava fields below, was his passenger’s piercing scream, followed by a blinding flash”. Also, surely he would hear the sound, not remember it, as she pre-deceased him by only a few seconds. Grump.

This book would appeal to:

– people who were not in my Year 8 English class with Mrs Highfield.

– end-of-the-world thriller devotees who don’t mind some scifi with their plot

Cover image comparison

This book actually came to my attention via Judith’s Ugly Covers Competition, which featured the original cover:

The book is now into its second edition and onto the Kindle with a much better cover:

which, for me, is much less repulsive and conveys the idea of the the world falling apart… Not quite sure which of our characters is supposed to be holding the world in his hands (which reminds me of this most excellent West Wing episode), but there we go. Much better cover.

Additional info:
This Kindle copy was kindly provided by the publisher via Leeswammes Blog.
Publisher: Rookwood Publishing
Order The Human Race from Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards giveaways.
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3 thoughts on “The Human Race – O. C. Heaton – 2/10 (DNF)

  1. Leeswammes 29 December 2011 at 12:11 pm Reply

    Such a pity you didn’t like the book! But… it happens. I enjoyed it, but then I’m a sucker for anything to do with Iceland, so that helped. 🙂

    I also think that there was too much science-ish explanation in the book. I enjoy a bit but this was too much, even for me.

  2. Maxine 29 December 2011 at 1:31 pm Reply

    Sounds dreadful! Well done for reviewing it with such verve.

  3. OC Heaton 3 January 2012 at 2:48 pm Reply

    Hi Yvann – I just thought I would drop you a line to thank you for at least trying to read The Human Race and providing a very honest review. Since the book was published in 2009 and gained a wider audience over the intervening time, the reviews have on the whole been very good (sometimes better than I could have dreamed of) but now and again there are a few stinkers! It hurts (I would be lying to claim it didn’t) but its also part and parcel of going public with your writing. If you can’t cope with good critique don’t publish a book has always been my motto. I’ve tried to absorb the bits I think will improve my storytelling. As a writer that’s all I can do.

    Some of your comments do share common ground with other feedback I have received. A few I can’t do anything about. The set up is long – certainly too long for some – but its a trilogy so hopefully in that context it will balance out. Others I can and have hopefully resolved in the sequel, the first draft of which has been recently sent to my publisher. Hurray:)

    Insofar as copy editing is concerned it continues to amaze me how many mistakes seem to slip through the process. I think The Human Race went through at least seven and readers are still picking up errors. All we can do is hold our hands up, correct them and make sure we improve the editing process for the future. I know my editor at Rookwood would love to understand where the time mistake occurs since this is important to the entire set up. She will make sure it is corrected in the on-line version and also for the second reprint. Could you send them to my e-mail address?

    Thanks one again for the feedback and happy reading for 2012 and beyond.
    Regards
    OC Heaton.

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