Thursday, 24 July 2014
The Farm by Tom Rob Smith
This opens with the phone call cliche, and with that opening phrase: Until that phone call[,]...there is a comma that's gone AWOL. Kids, look away!
Anyway, I suppose there is some foreshadowing in this line, but it's so obvious, like saying: This story will have a problem! Next line:
Laden with groceries, I was walking home through Bermondsey, a neighborhood of London, just south of the river.
Another cliche, the walking cliche, with a standard GPS info dump, which in a most uncreative way, introduces the setting. This could have been revealed as a subheading like: South London, Bermondsey - except there are no headings in this book and the fact that this bit of information isn't at all important or interesting, unless we infer that Bermondsey is the Farm. I couldn't care less where this pronoun is at this point. He could be walking down the little yellow brick road for all I care. I just don't need to know. What do I need to know in order to care? Answer: Conflict, pain, suffering directed towards this pronoun. So, in theory, that should come before explaining where Mr. Pronoun is.
As well, I'd move that last comma up to the first line if there is a shortage of commas at Grand Central Publishing. Next line:
It was a stifling August evening and when the phone rang I considered ignoring it, keen to hurry home and shower.
The third line of this novel rounds out the three-hit-cliche wonder. Absolutely nothing in these three lines is interesting and worthy of being published. A writer only gets one opening, one opening line, and this one wastes it on boring cliches of some pronoun getting a phone call while carrying groceries. Who wants to read about that? It happens everyday to millions and millions and millions of people.
Then we get a smidgen of back story after we learn that the person calling is this pronoun's father.
First thing said:
As was just mentioned, Dad is calling, and he's crying, something this pronoun has never heard before. So, while still on the first page, conflict is introduced in the form of a sick Mom, who is apparently imagining things. This is the hook, and I think it will hook most people. I mean, who isn't interested in hallucinating mothers? If this hook were on page 4 or page 10, this book would have been highly recommended as a cure to insomnia and would've given some of Henry James's work a run for its money.
Overall, the first paragraph is a waste of space and a fail, but the opening recovers quickly with dialogue and conflict. The first section ends on page 3 with the pronoun, now with a name, Daniel, promising to get on a plane and fly to Sweden and to...the...farm, because suddenly Daniel realizes that that is where the story of this novel is, and Daniel is not where the story is and has to get his butt there, hopefully before chapter 2. However, first the reader must endure a back story dump that is not very thrilling.
My advice: Wait for this book to hit the remainder bins and pick it up for two bucks, because Grand Central Publishing almost certainly overprinted this one. That's what I did with the other books by this author, books which I still have not read. They do serve as excellent dust catchers though.
Verdict: Pass (Barely)