Primeval: Shadow of the Jaguar by Steven Savile

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Primeval: Shadow of the Jaguar by Steven Savile

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Strange things are afoot with novel killer creatures prowling the Peruvian jungle. Our intrepid heroes have to survive a tangled web even to start to investigate, but those familiar with them would still think this book worthy a recommendation.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Titan Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1845766924

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One of the benefits, or otherwise, of being a committed Bookbag reviewer is that one misses all the TV that other people seem to enjoy. As a result, I am turning to this book, apparently the first novel to tie-in with ITV's Primeval series, having not seen hide nor hair of the thing, nor having any idea what it is about, save for dinosaurs roaming the modern-day world, and such things needing being put to rights.

Deep in the Peruvian jungle, two politician's sons are toasting a discovery of a lost Incan ruin, when something slaughters one, and leaves the other with a nightmare struggle back to civilisation. Nearby, scientists at a nature reserve are forcibly made aware of odd animal behaviour, new spoors and tracks, and unidentified attack wounds among the indigenous creatures they are there to study and protect.

All this is indicative of just what the Primeval gang, those that work in the shady department known as the ARC, are primed for, with dread – an anomaly, complete with sparkly atmospherics and prehistoric beasties invading new territories in time, but outside the UK. And one of the flaws of this book is concerned so much with just that – by the time everyone involved has worked out this means anomalies are a global phenomenon, it's a fact that has been drummed into us with far too much strength.

This smacks to me then of a book branching the TV version away from the UK, purely as here the budget for global exploration is so much more easily met. We can still however guarantee the book doesn't have the power to bump any lead characters off, or otherwise upset the televisual apple cart enough.

I suppose I can be generous and say the book allowed me a gentle introduction to the world of Primeval, as repetition was used often. As a stand-alone novel from a successful franchise I can only compare it with the X-Files books, and as flawed as those might have been I can easily recall several differences.

There we were told what Mulder, Scully, and all the other many characters looked like, whether it was necessary to us or not. Here there is no attempt whatsoever in clueing the newcomer into who's who – one of the female characters has a pixie face, so I assume she's the blonde on the back cover, but when characterisation is as slight as mentioning a Scottish accent, we aren't allowed to know anything relevant about the people involved, without buying the DVDs first.

Before you cry foul and say it is unfair for a novice to review such a book, I can point out the problems inherent with it that are obvious to all – starting with the fact that every mention of llamas drops one of the l's, and people end up buying Tibetan monk steaks for dinner. There are far too many instances of people being told what we already know, as they get clued in. Like this we are way past the first ad break before we have got down to the nitty-gritty, involving the investigative hunt.

I'm not sure the book is particularly fair to Peru, or indeed the other nationality that crops up at the end, and I would hope the dialogue is unfair to the series' creators – it might be an attempt at having our leads appear learned to give them so many proverbs, quotes and aphorisms to spout, but this soon descends into cliché, and when witty asides about Lost and quotes from other similar genre entertainments come along you can only cringe.

Certainly the book is more suited to the fan of the franchise. The gliding suit adopted and trialled by one of the team I suppose has relevance elsewhere, and the chap missing the woman who has been usurped by her double in some time-twisting dilemma will make a lot more sense to those in the know than he did me.

On the whole I cannot say the book has compelled me to turn on the TV of the relevant evening and watch the series. I would hope from its noted success it is a better entertainment than this book, which, for me, was too linear yet too tricksy in trying to delay the inevitable; offered little in the way of surprise when it wasn't making mistakes (surely the end result of it all would be patently obvious, as in that famous short story that inspired the whole thing, about the trodden-on insect of prehistory scuppering the life of the English language and American politics?); and seemed too much like a TV episode stretched to six hours' reading with little other than padding and exotic jungle setting to distinguish it.

As a result it gets a Bookbag rating of three and a half stars, as a moderate success at providing sci-fantasy with some thrillerish, chase against baddies elements. But without denigrating fans of Primeval I am well aware they would likely be much more appreciative of the whole thing, and for them only this book is recommended – they would easily add a star to my consideration.

I would like to thank Titan Books for sending us a review copy.

Buy Primeval: Shadow of the Jaguar by Steven Savile at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Primeval: Shadow of the Jaguar by Steven Savile at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Primeval: Shadow of the Jaguar by Steven Savile at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Primeval: Shadow of the Jaguar by Steven Savile at Amazon.com.

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