Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Lighthouse Land

I think of Adrian McKinty as a crime fiction author, but The Lighthouse Land is an exception, being both a YA novel and science fiction to boot.  So, how does it stack up against his crime fiction, which I've liked in the past?

So, how did it stack up against his adult fiction?  Not so well, I'm afraid.  It's not exactly that it was a bad book, but it didn't have much of the flair that characterizes his other novels.  I mentioned Michael Forsyth's flights of fancy in one of my earlier posts, so I'm not going to rehash it, but I think one of McKinty's strongest points is a very individual voice, and that was a bit lacking here.

My other problem lies in the science fiction aspect.  This book has a heavy emphasis on the science behind the magic, so to speak.  Jamie's arm comes and goes because the salmon scans his DNA, and the missing arm isn't missing in the rebuilt Jamey; humans and Altairians can't have kids because of different biology; and so on.  And once you're going to go that route (instead of a more Star-Wars-y hand waving route), the science has to be pretty solid.  Viruses shouldn't be able to jump to aliens who may not even have DNA; the idea of the salmon rebuilding your body from your DNA is really problematic (how does it know how fat to make you? How does it know how tall you are? etc), and so on.

It's probably churlish to pick on a YA science fiction novel for weak science, but it nagged at me enough that I didn't enjoy the novel.  Paradoxically, these things bother me less in novels where the author doesn't even try to explain -- I find that no explanation is worse for me than a bad one.


adrian mckinty said...


Dont mind the criticisms of the technique but I think you're missing the point a little with the critique of the science. You're mixing up the authors voice with those of his characters. These aren't authorial explanations, these are what Ramsay offers as potential explanations to inexplicable problems. We dont find out whats really going on until book 3.



Gavin said...

That's a fair point, but I guess I'd have liked some sort of explanation for how Altairians can get chicken pox. But maybe I just need to read the other two...

FWIW, my older son enjoyed the first two novels (didn't get around to the third for some reason), and my middle son wants to give them a shot.