Remember how, on the original Star Trek,
the away team would land somewhere and you just knew that with a few minutes a certain member of the team was going to die? It wasn’t because of the cheesy music, the yellow uniform, or the fact that the dude in the lizard costume needed a little more air time to meet his union contract deal. The away team member almost always died because of sheer arrogance. The person didn’t listen, disobeyed protocols, soon died.
The same character flaw gets you killed here. So does greed, stupidity, and the fact that everything on the island eats everything else. The place isn’t survivable. Fittingly ironic when you think about it, since the parasitic reality television plays such a huge role in the story.
A cable TV show titled “Sea Life” is underway and through the use of the state of the art ship “Trident” scientists and others are on a year long trip around the world visting the most remote places on the planet. Unfortunately, the show is losing viewers in droves thanks to a fickle audience that isn’t getting what it wants. The on the scene producer, Cynthia Leeds, has made decisions that have backfired such as selecting which cast members will get together romantically. Desperate to save the show and her career, Cynthia has changed plans. By her orders, instead of going to the one island that Botanist Nell Duckworth has always wanted to go to, the ship is heading west to Pitcairn Island, made famous as the refuge of the Bounty mutineers and descendents.
Why this is going to help the show with ratings is never really explained. One would think since the place has been covered extensively in book, film and other media such a landing wouldn’t help ratings. Already, as a reader, you have to suspend disbelief and go with the idea. Believe me, this is the start of your jettisoning any logic or rational thinking analysis of the plot because this is pretty much escapist reading.
The landing at Pitcairn Island is a desperate attempt in raising the ratings for a show that is drama first and science second. The show is still operating off of that format when the signal from an electronic distress beacon is received from Hellers Island. That signal, which just lasts a few seconds and just long enough for the crew to get a fix on it, provides the drama angle and motivation for Cynthia to allow “Trident” and crew to set sail for the island. There might be survivors of whatever happened and it gives Cynthia a mystery to solve with potential danger and human interest. Nell Duckworth doesn’t care about any of that. Finally, Nell Duckworth gets to realize her life long dream of landing there and exploring the island while hopefully putting to rest a nightmare that has haunted her since she was a child.
She will be lucky to escape with her life.
What follows is an adventure novel heavily grounded in science. It is fitting that the author acknowledges Michal Crichton and his novel “Jurassic Park.” Clive Cussler and a couple of others I can think of off the top of my head should have been mentioned as well. He definitely should have also acknowledged the numerous stereotypes that created characters that you know are destined to die. The original Star Trek
and the away teams come to mind, but there are numerous other examples that fit the point.
Despite, or maybe in spite of, the stereotyped characters dying one by one, as well as the noblest among them always surviving every encounter with the dangerous life forms on the island, the novel works. The science is well done, despite the fact it causes the book to lag in spots, and is very relevant to what is actually happening in the world regarding invasive species. There is plenty of action, conflict within and outside the crew, and a sense of extreme urgency due to several different agendas driving the work. It does keep you turning the pages.
Even though there are two absolutely laughable plot twists at the end, by that time, you won’t be taking the book seriously anymore despite the background subject matter. This is a book that will quickly get you to suspend disbelief and just go with it. On that score, if you do, you will enjoy it as it is a pretty good book.
One gets the feeling "Fragment: A Novel" is setup nicely for a movie. If it is, the killings will be gruesome, the violence and gore at incredible levels and, no doubt, box office sales will be incredible.
Fragment: A Novel
Delacorte Press (Bantam Dell/Random House)http://www.bantamdell.com/
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2010