Thursday, 16 April 2015
Review: Lionel Davidson, Kolymsky Heights
This is a 2015 re-issue of a 1994 novel with an Introduction by Philip Pullman.
It's a Quest, Grail and Chase thriller. The hero, Johnny Porter has to get from A to a very inaccessible B; then he has to Meet the person who will give him what he has come for - in this case, Information; then he has to get back from B to A. Over 478 pages, it's an extended anxiety dream from which you cannot escape. In other words, it's a thriller.
I suspect the author got caught out a bit by the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is notionally set in post-1991 Russia; but really it's set in the Soviet Union, even though the Siberian weather - which plays quite a large part in the narrative - didn't change with the regime.
I found the main character, Johnny Porter, actually a bit of a cipher. For all his multiple talents, he's not very interesting. All the interest is in the narrative which supports him.
This narrative makes rich use of detail - rather like Martin Cruz Smith's 1981 Gorky Park. So much so, that the author felt we needed a couple of maps to help us. Unfortunately, at least one and probably several editors at Faber and Faber, the book's upmarket London publishers, failed to notice that the maps on pages 158 and 417 have been transposed so that the first one, when encountered, is merely baffling and the second one too, until you realise that this is not part of the plot but a publisher's mistake.