“Collin Boyd stepped off the Metro bus on his way to work, and across the street he saw himself strolling down the sidewalk.” With that intriguing first line, Robin Parrish launches us into Relentless, his debut novel and a tale that is combination science fiction, fantasy, suspense thriller, and super hero comic book – though to my way of thinking is most like a video game in book format.
Collin, having morphed into the body of a stranger (Grant Borrows) with abilities and a reputation he didn’t know he had, is plunged into a lethal game of cat-and-mouse. The trouble is, he (and we) are never sure who the next cat will be or why he’s the mouse. As the story progresses and we fit characters and incidents together, we begin to comprehend the extent of what’s going on. Grant’s shape-shift and whether or not he fulfills his prophesied destiny will impact not only him and the other changelings he meets, but the whole world.
As a plot-maker, Parrish does a masterful job of weaving his universe of characters (and there are many) into the non-stop action. Practically every chapter has its scene of high drama with car chases, sword fights, shadowy villains, and amazing escapes. His deftness in the story-telling department kept me reading just one more page, and one more, and one more…
The characters are another thing. Though realistic in a stock actor kind of way, I found it hard to empathize with them. The women are mostly beautiful and sexy, or gray and wise. The men are athletic, or brainy, or both. All have the incredible ability to fight to the death, yet emerge alive and with the emotional and physical energy to keep running or pursuing. Perhaps I wasn’t taken with them because I didn’t really like many of them – including Grant with his irritable, impatient, impulsive, petulant, self-pitying ways. As a whole, I’d say that character complexity, believability, and likeability were sacrificed to plot.
The writing is strong with vivid prose and a truly relentless pace maintained throughout. Parrish especially excels at the crisp description of fight and chase scenes, which abound. Gaffes, like Collin referred to as Grant before Grant is officially introduced, pus pouring out of an apparently uninfected wound only hours old, and ‘retch’ spelled ‘wretch’ were rare exceptions.
The Christian aspect of this book is found in the existential questions it poses and its symbolism. Grant struggles the entire time with questions of purpose: why am I here and what am I meant to do? The plot plays games with another philosophical/theological dilemma as Grant and others grapple with issues of free will: do I do the things I do because I choose to do them, or am I playing a pre-determined role? As the book progressed, I couldn’t help but also see how Grant’s portrayal as a potential savior, built on the fact that he was the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, paralleled another such one.
Though Relentless ends on a high note, many plot ends remain untied. We’ll have a bit of a wait to discover how they turn out. Book Two of Parrish’s Dominion Trilogy isn’t due for publication until the summer of 2007.Powered by Sidelines