Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Ian Hocking: Deja Vu

Ian Hocking is an industrious young (well, youngish) writer who runs a blog, a web page, and writes novels. He is also a bit of a dab hand at getting himself publicity -- which, in this day and age is not so much a virtue as a necessity.

Deja Vu is science fiction. And it is science fiction about time travel, so you need to keep your wits about you. In fact, just about my only criticism of Deja Vu is that you have to concentrate like a bastard or you will miss something. I have this bad habit of reading books in bed, last thing at night; and when I wake up the next morning I very often can't remember the last chapter that I read before nodding off. With some books this doesn't matter -- indeed it can be a merciful blessing -- but with Deja Vu it is no help at all, because the reader needs to be fully alert.

Since Ian is English it is no surprise to find that the book is set in England, but we are in the future. Sometimes 2012 and sometimes 2023; and, I dare say, at some other points in time also.

Before long the book develops into a chase. Saskia Brandt, a detective with a European law-enforcement agency, is pursuing David Proctor, a scientist. She wants to question him about a bomb that exploded in 2002.

The plot is fiendish complicated. Few characters are precisely who or what they seem to be; and some of them are not even who they think they are. Or once were. Or hope to be in the future. I told you -- wits needed about you. Reading the book is a bit like watching The Matrix -- consistently interesting, but you do sometimes wonder what the hell is going on.

The writing I thought was excellent. Crisp and professional, with the action being structured in scenes.

All in all, this book bodes well for the future. It is, after all, a first novel -- or at any rate a first published novel -- so it would be unreasonable to expect miracles. Even Kurt Vonnegut's first novel (Piano Player) wasn't all that hot; The Sirens of Titan was his second. And in fact Ian's blog reveals that he has recently completed his second book.

The publisher of this opus is UK Authors, a small and slightly odd outfit (at least to my jaundiced eye). Let's hope that Ian can move a little more into the mainstream with his second book. He deserves to.


Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,

I've just read your excellent and much appreciated Grumpy Old Bookman review of Ian Hocking's Deja Vu.

As the fortunate soul (or unfortunate, depending on your point of view) who runs the 'small and slightly odd outfit', I feel I must point out an error, however. You have linked through to UKAuthors ( www.ukauthors.com), a site which might, indeed, be a trifle odd, but which is a writing community site, with more than 2000 members, so not actually that small, either.

What it is also not, is the publisher of Deja Vu. That honour can be attributed to The UKA Press ( www.ukapress.com), which is somewhat less odd, and has published some very fine books, including How It Happened Here by acclaimed film historian Kevin Brownlow.

True, I run this outfit as well, but it is nice to get one's facts straight, I feel.

With very best regards,

Andrea Lowne, UKAuthors, The UKA Press, Young UKAuthors.

Anonymous said...

It's Player Piano. As for Hocking, I couldn't get past "leaves of blood and gold."

Adrian Weston said...

Shall most certainly dig out Deja Vu (see if I can get past leaves of blood and gold)- curious about people making a goer of SciFi nowadays... moves me to draw attention to a book published by Wakefield Press in Oz but available here via Amazon. It's called All This Is So and the author's name is John Roe. It's a massive, absorbing book with some parallel's to Doris Lessing's Mara and Dann - well worth discovering. So far his only novel, but quite some debut. Id wonder though about your comment about the need to move on to somewhere more mainstream - wouldn't it be nice if we as readers could make the small, the odd and the obscure publishers be just that bit bigger and shinier by buying their books and supporting their authors?

Anonymous said...

I'll second you on Hocking's book. Just read and reviewed it and I appreciated his clever writing.

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