Sunday 23 March 2008

A Wee Review - Orpheus Rising by Colin Bateman

(Colin) Bateman’s latest offering sees a big change in direction from the likes of his Dan Starkey series. Orpheus Rising still has that cool dry wit that the Bangor man employs with casual ease, but it’s less frequent and more understated in this novel. And for this particular story, it seems to be the perfect amount of humour. I think that Bateman had a story to tell and although it was very different than anything he’s tried before, he’s listened to his instincts and told it the way he thought best. I have to say, it worked a bloody treat.

I coasted through this book with utter ease and loved every sentence. It seems as if he’s really upped his game since I Predict a Riot. The writing is much denser than his usual minimalistic style, but I didn’t feel bogged down by description or superfluous detail. Each word counted. And so the result is a huge story that still manages to weigh in at a smidge under 400 hardback pages.

Orpheus Rising is the poignant tale of Michael Ryan, an Irish writer who found the love of his life under dramatic circumstances (involving a shark and grisly amputation) and lost her soon after to a violent death (even more violent than the shark thing). Without spoiling the plot for potential readers, I’ll tell you that we accompany Michael on his return to the Florida town of Brevard, ten years after he found happiness and had it ripped from him, to face up to the ghosts of his past.

I was very surprised by the supernatural content in Orpheus Rising. Again, I’m wary of spoilers and there’s not a lot you can talk about without robbing the book of some of its impact, so I’ll not go into how or why he uses it. Just trust me when I say, he does it with the aptitude of the likes of Stephen King or John Connolly, and I hope it’s an area he revisits in future work. He sets up a powerful world and sticks rigidly to his own rules, and the transition into suspension of disbelief is an easy one for the reader as a result.

His next book will see a return to form, with Mystery Man, a detective story set in the real No Alibis bookshop in Belfast, but featuring a fictional owner. Not David Torrans. But maybe in the book after next he’ll bend the boundaries of his chosen genre? I hope so. He does it very well.

Orpheus Rising is a rare example of a perfect book.


Michael Stone said...

Now I come to think of it, nearly all my favourite authors are those who sometimes go off to explore different territories. I love the unpredictability of writers of Graham Joyce, Garry Kilworth and Iain Banks.

After this review, I might have to shuffle Orpheus Rising ahead of Murphy's Revenge on my to-read list.

Gerard Brennan said...

I kind of envy the fact that you're still working your way through his novels. I'm left waiting for the next one for my Bateman fix.

Actually, come to think of it, I've still to read the YA books he's done. They'll be something quite different too.