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ďI wasnít there when I died. Really. I wasnít. And finding my body dead came as a shock. Hell, I was horrified, lost, couldnít understand what the fuck had happened.Ē James True is one third of the True, Guinane, Presswell enterprise that operates in the hurly burly world of advertising. Having discovered the strange ability to leave his body at the age of 6, out of body (OBEs) experiences have been a regular feature ever since passing out in a Bournemouth boarding house having swallowed a hot piece of potato. Married to Andrea with a young daughter called Prim, James True tells the curious tale of how events unfolded after he was murdered whilst experiencing an OBE. The difficulty is that he is still present and yet he isnít, his physical body having been savagely mutilated in a hotel room whilst on an idea generation weekend with his business partner, Oliver.
The main suspects include a mysterious serial killer who he has encountered whilst out of body and the previously mentioned close partner, Oliver Guinane who happens to be a former lover of his wife, Andrea. To add to the suspicion, Oliver and James had been heard having a loud disagreement about a pending merger with another large advertising firm with Oliver disappearing into the night in a rage. Publicly, the prime candidate seems to be Alex Moker, a hideously deformed porter who works shifts in a hospital morgue but has a penchant for murdering people with a knitting needle. The curious thing is that the victims invariably do something to totally degrade themselves before they die which is totally out of character and simply doesnít make sense. However, there are factors present that suggest a modus operandi that differs from the feared serial killer giving the police food for thought and reason for doubt. As this stage, Iíll leave you to discover who it is that turns out to be the killer of James True; whether True resolves the problem of no longer having a body and the more wide reaching aspects of the plot that surround his mother and father.
I would start by saying that Iíve been reading James Herbert for many years and this is very typical output for those legions that class themselves as fans. For the uninitiated, James Herbert has been writing horror/fantasy novels since The Rats was first published in 1974 and has clocked up 20 works of fiction. He is published in 35 other languages and has been the Premiere British horror writer for the last four decades. Here, all the trademark Herbert nuances are there including: a punchy (chapters are typically10 pages long), flowing style, strong powers of description when outlining pen pictures of his characters, a momentum that gathers as the story develops and a rousing finale that brings the strands of plot together. All literary competencies weíve come to respect and expect ever since The Rats was published all those years ago.
Iím not quite sure as to whether James Herbert has been caught up in all the spiritualism that has exploded in popularity on channels like Living TV but there are plenty of references to ghosts, spirits and out of body experiences in the story. Tangents are explored even to the point of expounding theories of what plains our souls roam once we have departed this mortal coil. Quite clearly the driving force for this story, the author does do the subject matter credit with the subtle infusion of the various strands of theory even if itís difficult for cynics to take too seriously (this is fiction, remember)
At 502 pages, Nobody True is a reasonably long read although I did find the time went quickly as I got caught up in the story. It was interesting to note the way Herbert wrought significance from the title towards the end with a thoughtful reflection of those people who had apparently let the main character down. By widening the main events to draw in the bizarre circumstances surrounding his fatherís marriage and the reasons for his motherís cold, hostile demeanour, the reader comes to realise the significance of the title even if it may be a little late in the day as far as the story goes.
Some aspects of this particular book donít quite work out. The obligatory twist(s) in the tale isnít/arenít really that mind blowing and the addendum at the foot of some pages proved to be something of an irritant. The narrative is also intended as something of a cautionary tale but Iím not sure that the characters ever reach the point where empathy gets the reader to care enough. Then again, there is no opportunity for them to do so. As it transpires, just about everybody appears to have an ulterior motive of some description and the little sub-plots that spring up merely serve to isolate the main character even more as the story goes on. Whilst I did like the first person style and the approach of telling the tale as though it was to just one person in a small room, none of the other characters create anything like the same rapport with the reader.
Moreover, some of the gore and degradation may even be seen as gratuitous in some quarters and probably unnecessary to build the suspense and horror in the latter stages of the plot. I was a little nervous that the author used the Turkish nationality in one particularly horrific exchange, which may also attract criticism.
Still, this will sell well if only based on Herbertís phenomenal past pedigree and huge fan base. All the ingredients are there for the customary best-seller: sinister killer, mystical aspects, ghosts and vulnerable victims in peril.
In something like 25 years, Iíve only missed one book of his and Iím sure Iíll be back for more. I just hope the next one is stronger than this.
Thanks for reading
ISBN: 0-330-41167-5 Published by Pan Books RRP: £6.99 although on sale at Tesco for £3.73 now
This review is as indepth as it comes a thorough evaluation of the story and history of the auther.well written and evaluated. I also agree with the points on the foot notes and the somewhat predictable twist. I also believe that in recent times Herbert is leaning on his own experiences of his disability and including too much fact and not enough fiction / horror.
J4M1721 06.08.2004 18:59
Not for me really, but I might give it a go if I see it at the library! x x x Jo x x x
jennybosson 04.08.2004 10:40
I have been a Herbert fan since the Rats was released and although he was the master, he seemed to lose it. The Others seemed shocking and unnecessary in parts and had a week ending and this sounds possibly the same. Has he lost it? can he come about? I am not sure, I still buy his work but he needs to pull out the stops to be able to keep me and I am sure a lot of his devoted fans. A fab op, I haven't this book yet, I think I have to get it now. Thanks for sharing Jen :o)