Today’s team review is from Olga.
Olga blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com
Olga has been reading The Visitors by Owen Knight.
Reading this book was a bit of a strange experience, for me. I hadn’t read anything by the author before, and other than the information I found accompanying the book, I didn’t know anything else about him.
After a chapter written in the first person by Peter who referred to some events that had happened 14 years ago and a team of people he needed to confront a new danger, which functioned as a prologue of sorts, there were three chapters, written in the third person, dedicated to a different young woman, who, although seemingly unconnected between them, all received mysterious invitations. As the story progressed, I felt as if I had jumped into the middle of a plot that had been developing for a while. Not only that, but although some of the ideas and concepts were quite abstract and complicated, the language was, for the most part, quite plain and not excessively technical, and I wondered at times if it was addressed at the young adult market, although all the characters were adults. I investigated a bit more, and found out that the author had written a YA trilogy, The Invisible College, composed of three novels: They Do Things Differently Here (1), Dust and Shadows (2), and A Perilous Journey (3). These three novels took place in the same location where most of the action of this book occurs (although this is a book dominated by ideas and most of the action takes place out of the page), fourteen years earlier, in what is referred to by those who lived it as ‘The Templewood Summer’.
The novel is described as science-fiction and ´first-contact’, and this is true. It is also a novel of ideas, as I’ve mentioned, and would fit into the category of speculative fiction, as it proposes an ‘alternative/future’ universe that has many points of contact with our present, but where certain hidden forces play a big part in events. And, there is a first-contact motif, although this has been kept under wraps and very few people know about it. It also has similarities with novels about secret societies and big conspiracies, so it might attract a variety of tastes.
The description gives enough information to entice possible readers, and I am not about to reveal any details that might spoil any of the main plot points. In case you are worried, although I’ve said that the novel takes place after The Invisible College trilogy, it is not necessary to read it to understand the plot, as there is plenty of background provided in the novel, and any points fundamental to the development of the action are referred to in the book. What I missed the most, though, was getting to know the characters better. Although we meet Peter (fleetingly, but we get a glimpse of him), Rachel, Lisa, and Emily, the rest of the characters we come across at Templewood are not introduced in much detail. Emily, who is Peter’s sister and knows what happened there when she was a teenager, takes on the function of a guide, both to the other two women and to the readers, but she doesn’t know what has happened since she left there, and she is a bit of an in-between character, who is also in the dark about some significant events that had taken place in the recent past. I am sure those who have read the trilogy will enjoy meeting the people of Templewood again, but sometimes I felt I lacked connection with the events and most of the characters, and I couldn’t always tell them apart, although that might have been part of the intended effect.
That aspect was compounded, for me, by the writing style, which relied on telling. Because the new arrivals had to be brought up to speed with what was going on, there were quite a few scenes where somebody explained something (mainly Peter, but not only him, as each one of the women had a singular area of expertise and had to be shown a different part of Templewood, where they would be developing their skills and helping the community). I am not an expert on the genre, but novels of ideas and hard science-fiction tend to spend a fair amount of time building up concepts and an understanding of what is at stake, so I don’t think that is unexpected or out of keeping with the genre. As for me, I do prefer books where characters and their psychological traits play a bigger part, in general. A lot of the information is exposed through dialogue, but, as most of the characters live in close proximity and in a closed society, there was little to differentiate between them, and it felt as if there was a degree of repetition.
There were some moments where the scientific aspects and some spiritual concepts took over the narrative, and there were some beautiful and poetic passages as well, which I relished. I particularly enjoyed some of the conversations of other characters with Sarah, and also her own reflections. That made me wonder what a non-fiction book by this author would be like, as I found it quite inspiring. As usual, future readers can check a sample of the book before deciding if the novel would fit in with their tastes, but they don’t need to be worried about explicit sexual or violent scenes, as there are none.
This novel made me think about big themes, and it is likely to do that to most readers: the future of humanity, the price we have to pay for peace and quiet, what influences global politics, the nature of advancement, evolution, technology… Are any animals, species, or even human beings, disposable, and would it be acceptable to sacrifice them in the name of the greater good? Do we know the real consequences of some of the experiments and research that are being conducted? And are the economic interests of the biggest countries getting in the way of real solutions? Templewood and its society made me think of how what would be a utopia for some people, might be a dystopia and the worst-case scenario for others. A sobering thought.
The ending fits the rest of the novel, with a little surprise at the end, which might open new avenues for future stories.
In summary, this is a speculative novel of ideas, which shares some fascinating thoughts on issues such as education, technology, global politics, climate change, and communication technology, suited for readers of science-fiction and conspiracy novels who prefer discussion and thought rather than lots of action and fancy gadgets. Readers of the author’s previous trilogy, The Invisible College, will have the bonus of connecting with old friends, and the ending opens the door to more stories in the future (perhaps).
The Great Reset has begun.
Fourteen years ago, Peter saved the world. Now, his sister Emily and two strangers receive coded invitations to return to the hidden village of Templewood, where Peter faces a new, terrifying threat.
Templewood is home to the Sect, a secretive organisation intent on global power. They have infiltrated many Governments and are collaborating with the Visitors: alien invaders who have brought gifts of advanced scientific and genetic discoveries. These gifts will potentially provide enormous benefits for humanity and facilitate the Sect’s bid for power.
But at what cost and what is the Visitors’ motive? Why are they taking, then retuning, increasing numbers of the local population? Peter, Emily, and their friends must uncover the truth before their worst fears are confirmed.