The Babylon Gene by Alex Churton
|The Babylon Gene by Alex Churton|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Written by an author who knows his stuff, this could have been an excellent thriller. But, for me, it suffers from too many threads and perspectives that won't stay still long enough to be absorbed; a real shame.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 496||Date: September 2012|
|Publisher: Head of Zeus|
|External links: Author's website|
Author of popular scientific philosophy, Dr Toby Ashe, is also a covert member of 'Oddballs', a multi-skilled section of British Intelligence. Their purpose is to profile and identify the rise of terrorists and their organisations before too much damage is done.
Whilst attending a hastily called meeting, his mobile phone rings so Ashe goes outside to take the call and wakes up in hospital after the secret meeting venue is blown up. Meanwhile, in Turkey, a predominantly Jewish membership Freemason's lodge is also destroyed leaving investigating officer, Colonel Mahmut Aslan with the task of searching through previous conspiracy theories for a shred of truth. Could it have been Al Qaeda or an anti-Semitic plot? Their investigations will bring them together to discover a weapon of mass destruction that even Tony Blair couldn't have suspected.
Alex Churton may be a debut novelist but he has a large body of non-fiction behind him written as Tobias Alex Churton, ranging from alchemy to the Rosicrucians and Judas. He is also a past editor of Freemasonry Today, showing that he knows of what he writes. In fact The Babylon Gene is a fictitious extrapolation of real facts relating to politics, history and science, proving the author to be a thorough researcher, but not all is rosy.
The story jumps around a lot, introducing us to many diverse people in differing places and situations. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For instance, books like The Eyes of Lira Kazan transport its readers to disparate points, gradually sewing the plot lines together into the fabric of a completed story, with penny-dropped moments scattered throughout. In contrast, Alex Churton doesn't seem to be in any hurry to draw things together, just adding more and more threads. We travel between Turkey, England, Iraq, Germany, California etc etc as though being herded along by an invisible tour guide with less time than itinerary. Ashe travels extensively going around the world, seeing friends, colleagues and various characters to whom we're introduced, only for them to be cast aside. The resulting loose ends are eventually tied hurriedly at the end of the book when it was too late for me to want to know and, when I had, unfortunately, stopped caring about the characters.
Is it all bad? No, definitely not. When he inserts paragraphs of background information, the author shines and his power to fascinate and enthral emerges from behind the bushel. It's also interesting and refreshing to learn more about Freemasonry from a proponent rather than a scathing critic, allowing us to hear the other side. However, mixed with the story's narrative, the longer of the explanations (which are indeed fascinating stand-alone pieces) are a little distracting.
The author shows glimpses of talent and ability in fiction that, with some judicious rehashing, would have made this an exceptional debut. The plot idea is a good one and some of the short individual episodes (that of the Kurdish family unwittingly targeted for tragedy for instance) combine cultural insight, excitement and the suspense that emanates from impending doom. But these moments are spoilt by the tour guide times.
Looking at the wildly differing reviews on book websites, the odds are that some of you who will disagree with me strongly. One thing that we will agree on, though, is that Alex Churton has the ability to write an excellent thriller. It's just that, for me, this isn’t it.
Thank you Head of Zeus for sending us a copy of this book for review.
If you're looking for another political thriller that draws from current affairs, we recommend The Eyes of Lira Kazan by Eva Joly and Judith Perrignon.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Babylon Gene by Alex Churton at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Babylon Gene by Alex Churton at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.