2 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
When I first read the synopsis for Atlantic Dragon, I was intrigued but hesitant. The back cover made it sound ambitious and fascinating, but I knew there was a chance it could flop like a land-stranded fish. Thankfully, there’s no flopping, but it’s not all graceful swimming either.
The book centers on a secret Chinese conspiracy to attack the United Kingdom that’s uncovered by various everyday people. The novel mainly follows Marcus Sommers, a professor of Chinese studies at Oxford who, because of his language skills, gets caught up in a para-governmental agency’s investigations of suspicious happenings across the British Isles. As the story progresses, more characters stumble on the grand secret, and over the course of some five years, we see our heroes trying to survive and spread the truth.
My biggest worry, at first, was that the plot would feel contrived or unbelievable. In our current world, the idea of China attacking one of its major trading powers in the west is ludicrous, and I’m not going to say the motivation given in the book is a bulletproof one either. But suspending your disbelief on this point makes the rest of the book a thriller. The question, “How are they going to get out of this one?” ran constantly through my head at the end of each chapter. Quinn clearly spent a lot of time plotting his book, and that hard work shows.
Outside of the plot, though, I found myself less engrossed than I’d like. The pacing feels off, especially in the beginning where the story drags. The clipped, minimalist style creates a dramatic tone that injects action scenes with a sense of urgency. Yet that same style creates dry prose in more relaxed moments. I’m still conflicted about the ending as well; if it were my story, I don’t think I would have given away the conspiracy from the get-go. It’s hard to depend on only dramatic irony, after all, especially in a novel of this length. In addition to all of that, my edition was filled to the brim with typos.
The characters, too, are a mixed bag. Most of the large cast are interesting, fleshed-out people reacting to a crazy situation just like anyone else would. However, I found our principal character, Marcus, unsympathetic. I want to avoid spoilers here, so suffice to say that he comes off as rather petty and cowardly when it’s time for him to make important decisions, particularly those regarding his family.
What does that leave us with? In my opinion, a 2 out of 4 star book with a lot of potential. What this really felt like was a second or third draft, not a fully-polished novel. It has all the elements of a great story, specifically the impressively-constructed plot. But the other elements aren’t quite there yet, in my opinion. If you like political capers or espionage tales, you’ll enjoy the thought and detail put into the story. For the rest of us, though, I don’t know if action alone can forgive the typos and slow pace. Here’s hoping for an improved second edition.
View: on Bookshelves
Like DustinPBrown's review? Post a comment saying so!