I came across Lavie Tidhar ages ago, can’t remember how but I imagine I was on the prowl for new & innovative scifi. His ‘Osama’ has been on my wishlist for a long time but kept getting passed over. Again, on a more recent prowl for new, innovative scifi I decided to try one of his other books instead. The Violent Century has fairly enthusiastic reviews & the blurb mentions superheroes. Well, OK then.
I’ve recently discovered, to my immense delight, the wonder that is Amazon Whispersync. One of the slightly creepy but cool things about it is I was wishing for it about a year ago. And now it’s here. Whispersync allows you to sync your Kindle book with your Audible audiobook. So you can read, put it down, pick up the crochet and start listening where you left off reading. Neat, huh?
Seriously. This is great because otherwise I end up with two books on the go, 1 on t’Kindle & 1 audio book and I am not really a two-books kinda girl. That’s probably pathetic but there it is, I can only have 1 book going on at a time. So whispersync (tm?) is B R I L L I A N T. Not cheap, you have to pay for the Kindle book & the audio book, although you get discounts. And sadly but entirely understandably, not available on all books. I don’t know how long it takes to record an audio book but I’m going to guess at least twice as long as it takes a person to just read the book + goodness knows what technical wizardry has to be performed to get the syncing to work.
Anyhoo, I’ve found that being able to listen to books as well as read them has made it easier to get into books I might otherwise have given up on. I’m such a fickle reader these days. ‘Twasn’t always thus. I definitely would have abandoned The Quality of Mercy by Barry Unsworth if the narrator hadn’t brought the characters to life for me. But that’s another post …
[spoiler alert – go no further if you want to read the book yourself]
The Violent Century is about a bunch of people with, ahem, superpowers. The main characters are Henry Fogg, codename Fog because he can control fog. Yeah. Oblivion, who can make stuff disappear, as in not exist any more disappear. There are a bunch of other cool characters but the reader only ever really gets inside Fogg & Oblivion’s heads.
The story? Well, it jumps about frenetically from the present to before & during & just after the Second World War, with bits in the Vietnam war. & when I say frenetically, I mean it. But it’s helpfully signposted all the time and I like a bit of jumping about in a timeline! Think Time Traveller’s Wife. Without the time travel, obvs. It should be pointed out here that Lavie Tidhar is Israeli so the WW2 stuff about the Nazis, etc, was particularly poignant. There’s a love story, between Fogg & a character called Somertag, who is rather 2 dimensional. That bit didn’t ring very true for me. I also picked up some stuff between Oblivion & Fogg, then wondered if I’d imagined it, then was sure, then wondered if I’d imagined it again. That was very real. The action is action-y though not edge-of-your-seat. The plot, well, meanders a bit. There’s obviously some point to the Somertag character/story, something to do with how the characters got their superpowers in the first place. There’s some sort of climactic denouement at the end which either doesn’t clear up any of the latter or it does & I missed it. This is mildly disappointing although not very as I’m happy for the book to stand for itself. Also, the narrative has these bits of self-referential stuff “we watch him”, “we’ve seen this before”. I was looking forward to finding out what that was all about and, again, either didn’t or missed it.
Overall, I loved The Violent Century. It has lots of elements I enjoy in a story – superheroes, jumpy timelines, a potentially unreliable narrator. I could have been more invested in the characters and in the love story.