Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Skin Map

Title: The Skin Map

Series: Bright Empires #1

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

Genre: Adult Sci-fi/Alternate History

Excerpt from Chapter 1, “In Which Old Ghosts Meet”:

Had he but known that before the day was over he would discover the hidden dimensions of the universe, Kit might have been better prepared. At least, he would have brought an umbrella.

Like most Londoners, Kit was a martyr to the daily travails of navigating a city whose complexities were legendary. He knew well the dangers even the most inconsequential foray could involve. Venturing out into the world beyond his doorstep was the urban equivalent of trial by combat and he armed himself as best he could. He had long ago learned his small patch of the great metropolitan sprawl; he knew where the things most needful for survival were to be found and how to get to them. He kept in his head a ready-reference library of street maps, bus routes, and time schedules. He had memorized the pertinent sections of the London Underground tube schematic; he knew the quickest ways to work, and from work to his favourite pubs, the grocers, the cinema, the park where he jogged.

Sadly, it was rarely enough.

A modern Londoner seeks a missing friend and a strange map lost among alternate historical universes.

Craft: What a premise! The Skin Map shamelessly mixes science-fiction and history in this multiple dimension story, allowing a reader the ability to see what was as well as the what if. And in typical Lawhead fashion, it is pulled off with vivid historical detail blended with a varied cast and effortless prose.

Yet, somewhat to my disappointment, The Skin Map seems to be missing that extra spark that has accompanied the other Lawhead novels I’ve read. While the plot is intriguing, it lacked (at least for me) the tension to drive the story nor the stakes high enough to induce worry. This then all ties into a less-than-satisfying climax that felt both a fraction rushed and contrived.

Nonetheless, this story has much going for it and is still a solid read.

Content: Much like the craft, the content of The Skin Map does not sparkle. This is partially personal taste, I know, but I like stories with a little meat to its content, themes I can sink my teeth into, and/or gems of insight and wisdom. But The Skin Map had little by way of spiritual thread or thematic material.

On the positive side, The Skin Map is not nearly as gruesome as it sounds. With no magical elements, and only a couple scenes of high violence, the content is clean and accessible to both teens and adults.

Summary: For me, The Skin Map was a little disappointing, lacking that final spark in content and craft. Nonetheless, it’s still a good read, recommended for both teens and adults.

Ratings: Craft—4, Content—3, Overall—4.1 out of 5 stars

No comments: