Since I can’t write as anvilicious a review as Diane Graham, I had to come up with a new branding scheme. So pour yourself a cuppa and join me for a look at C. Kevin Thompson’s new book, The Serpent’s Grasp.
With its cinematic details, international cast of characters, and a giant sea-monster antagonist, this book is like reading a SyFy Channel movie. I could well imagine this being adapted for screen. But it’s not entirely accurate to call the sea monster the antagonist. The true villains of the piece are quite human.
Thompson shows that it is in fact possible to write a modern novel using the omniscient POV. His cinematic, wide-angle views narrow into the minds of his characters, giving both the big picture and close detail.
Omniscient POV provides the freedom to cut quickly among lots of locations, an advantage in an international story like this one. The downside is that it’s sometimes difficult to stay anchored in the story when the locale shifts.
The protagonists, Evelyn and Michah, are engaging characters. Another drawback of the omni view is that we don’t get to know them as well as we might like. It’s cute to watch them flirt, and heartening to see them sort out personal issues in the midst of an international incident. But every time the action shifts away from them to the villain’s dens or the halls of power one can get a little impatient. At times I wanted to send the author an e-mail: “Hullo, remember the protags? Could we spend some more time with them, please?”
The Serpent’s Grasp takes major hot-button issues like climate change and evolution head-on and unapologetically. Thompson risks losing the casual reader by bringing in scientific theories on genetics, atmospherics and planetary electromagnetism, but science geeks will be all over it. This is the only novel I’ve seen with a bibliography.
The thrills build as he piles the complications one upon another—conspiracies, international diplomacy, a nefarious undercover agent—in a tower of cards that eventually comes crashing down in a wild sea battle as all chaos breaks loose.
The ending is intellectually and emotionally satisfying, and the book closes with one of those cinematic moments that can give you a chill.
Like many of our members and alumni, Thompson was a Marcher Lord Select entrant. MLS followers may remember this story from the premise contest. I looked over my notes from the synopsis phase of the contest. Back then, I wrote “Interesting concept. Lots of intrigue.” Still true.
There’s a publishing lesson to be learned here: The MLS contest was two years ago. Now a raft of entrants, including our own Diane Graham and Robynn Tolbert, are seeing publication. Publishing is a slow-and-steady business, as the Turtle will tell you.
Have you read The Serpent’s Grasp? What did you think?
Disclosure: The publisher provided a complimentary advance copy for purposes of this review.