A teen novel that wants to be a lot of things, but isn't...
The precept of Eldridge’s latest teen novel is that of a tawdry civil servant – a no-one – suddenly finding himself caught up in a world of intrigue, espionage and ruthless organisations that will stop at nothing to uncover the lost library of a legendary group: The Order of Malichea. It all sounded terribly thrilling but for one teeny tiny misjudgement with the plot: none of it makes much sense.
You see, you have the zero, Jake Wells. A nobody. A resident of loser-ville: despite his exciting career within government as a PR dogsbody and being recently ditched by love-of-his-life, Lynette. Go figure. When he gets collared into covering some minor protest at a building site, he’s not concerned for his wellbeing; the banality of it bores him, but still, he goes. He didn’t count on witnessing an impossible event - a man being consumed by green fungus – to make matters more surreal, back at work the PR machine is in full swing with reports of gas leaks causing hallucinations. Only Jake’s not buying it. And like a dog with a bone, he worries at the possibility of a cover-up; kindly dragging his ex along with her new beau along for the ride.
The Invisible Assassin could be described as a hybrid of James Bond and The Da Vinci Code. It certainly has implausible feats of skill by the bucket-load; although Jake is hardly a trained spy, there is no gadgetry, only a vague idea of ‘baddies’ and the guy doesn’t really end up with the girl, exactly… It also has a mysterious order as its epicentre, although, they were a bunch of academic scientists rather than religious nuts. There is no codex per se, although there is, apparently, a list. An incomplete list of the lost library’s contents which hold radical scientific information that could change the world forever, fair enough. But once you know that, the mystic becomes dulled, the secret – knowledge. And the rest of the series, more akin to Indiana Jones. In fact, the incongruity of Indiana Jones sits perfectly with the theme of Jake’s incredible abilities (like managing to survive a gun fight without a gun, or break into a state-of-the-art government facility without being captured) not matching the mundane paper-pushing job persona.
It’s probably obvious that I’m not completely wowed by The Invisible Assassin. I think that Eldridge has oversimplified to the extent that the narrative is facile, where the concept is sophisticated. This should have been so much better, literarily speaking. Let’s hope that the final edit improves this, otherwise The Invisible Assassin is rendered to average and it deserves more than that.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012