Review - Lie of the Land by Michael F. Russell

Lie of the Land - Michael F. Russell

This was a tough one to get through. It's grim, bleak and depressing but in a story about the collapse of the world that's to be expected. It was actually the storytelling that I struggled with more than the story. It's a near-future, dystopian-ish, apocalyptic tale about journalist Carl Shewan, a journalist who finds himself stranded in a little Highland village while the rest of the country suffers annihilation. I'm Scottish so the setting was actually one of the plus points for me as I don't often get to read about my favourite genre set in my own country.


Sounds brilliant, in theory, and exactly the sort of story go for but I'm quite disappointed by it. For starters I didn't like Carl. Unlikable to the point where I was wishing he'd just walk out into the red zone and be done with it. We're hearing the story from Carl's viewpoint and he's stingy with the facts which at times feels like a conscious decision on his part. It's like he wants me (the reader) to not have all the details. He's quite happy to talk about the stains on the carpet or how it feels to be hungover but when it comes to the really important stuff he just lets the reader stew. There's a section early on where he's trying to strike up a conversation with Simone, the hotel owner's daughter, and she's having none of it. It's like a fade to black moment because one minute she's clamming up and giving him a hard time and then the next paragraph starts with him acknowledging that she has told him she's a single mother and a former music student. Why wasn't I party to that 'getting to know you' conversation? I had to re-read that section a few times to make sure I hadn't missed any of it. Simone is a main character but the info I need to get to know her is drip fed to me in tiny amounts, well after the fact. It's the same all the way through, Carl will mention something that has happened or is going to happen but it's not until pages (sometimes chapters) later that we find out what he's talking about. It's not just the big plot reveals or tension building sections either, he does it with everything.


I'm not feeling it.


I don't know what his problem is. He's found himself (luckily) in one of the few places where the catastrophe hasn't struck and instead of just getting on with it and being glad he was in the right place at the right time he just bleats on about how boring it all is and how trapped he feels and about wanting to just run away. He didn't like the constant scrutiny in the big city he came from and now he doesn't like that he's left to do as he pleases in the remote Highlands. Alright, it's the end of the world so it's going to be bleak but for goodness sake man, suck it up. It's all me, me, me with Carl.


Am I supposed to not like him? I don't know if that's the intention but it was certainly the reality.


I'm wondering if there's going to be a follow on book to this? If so, I'd be likely to read it as the future that was hinted at in the last chapter sounds much more interesting than the story in this one.


I was sent this complementary book by the publisher for review.