Clout of Gen

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The Clout of Gen

Last Free Dates: 19th Mar 18 to 21st Mar 18
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...This may appeal to a speculative fiction crowd, but may struggle to find an audience. As time travel books go it is fairly standard, with a few nice twists....

What would you do if your life was on the slide, and then you found a box that could tell you the future? John, failing journalist with a failing marriage, is about to find out it doesn’t make you a player. It makes you a pawn…

The Clout of Gen is written in third person, usually in close third from John’s point of view, although it does head-hop a bit, e.g. the meeting between Yaturo and John has a paragraph from each’s point-of-view. The writing is fluid enough, and I never got confused about the events. John himself, deliberately or not, is an unreliable narrator.

I was put off this book early because John talks about his wife’s appearance exclusively, appears to have married her purely for that, and then blames her for not wanting what he wants. He lists pages of how everyone is suffering and telling him about it, including his brother, and then gets upset his wife does the same thing. A hypocritical protagonist is certainly flawed, particularly when it comes through in his own words, but I’m not sure he is going to be interesting enough to carry an entire book: he’s working shorter hours than his wife, spending evenings in the bar leaving her with the baby and housework, and then boasting he’s adapted fine to fatherhood and it is only his wife who is having problems. It is not a shock then, when he follows it up by stealing and gambling away their life savings. He’s borderline abusive, and when she has an affair it is hard not to sympathise. Saying that he’s only staying for the child doesn’t cut it when he then throws his baby son out with his wife. (When he gets back from a trip and finds his wife has been by to collect her things, he is upset that she didn’t also clean his house and mow the lawn…)

This is one of the problems with the book: all I really wanted was to see the protagonist take a hard fall. Unfortunately it becomes pretty obvious from the way the author is writing him that we are supposed to sympathise with him.

The assumption that contact lenses get irritated from rubbing is incorrect, as one of our members wearing a corneal bandage for three months has confirmed: you can rub your eyes without irritating them and the trick is easily learned. The Japanese sections are interesting as we never learn if John speaks Japanese, yet there are no linguistic issues. There’s also an assumption that Japanese culture is the same as US culture when it comes to marriages, affairs, etc. It was then end where my suspension of disbelief broke. A man who attempted to kill a child in front of witnesses is allowed back into the US?

The problem is that there’s a much more interesting story going on around John. Yaturo and Alexei are fascinating characters, but we only see them through the eyes of a weak and flawed protagonist who has at best half the pieces. The background plot is nicely laid out with every detail covered. It is complex and yet makes sense that an opponent who is all-knowing can account for everything. It seems entirely possible John was picked entirely for his credulity and self-centredness, as someone who would never be a threat.

This may appeal to a speculative fiction crowd, but I am not honestly sure who the audience would be. It is likely to struggle to find an audience or a specific genre, even though the central plot wraps up very well. As time travel goes it is fairly standard, although there are some nice twists along the way.

Rating: 2
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