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The Rainbow Maker

by Mark Turley

(UKA Press, £9.99, 272 pages, 2004, ISBN 1-904781-17-9.)

Review by Stuart Carter

cover scanA self-righteous 'entrepreneur', a Royal Marine turned labourer and the head of a top-secret government research facility -- what, you may ask, do they have in common? Well, in truth nothing at all, apart from their DNA and the fact they're all lead characters in Mark Turley's The Rainbow Maker, an intelligent technothriller whose genesis lies, I suspect, in one too many encounters with the worst of London's intolerant masses. God knows, we've all been there: the woman who refuses to move down the bus and swears at anyone who asks her to, the man in the car behind who beeps his horn if you don't move the moment the lights turn amber, and the oblivious tourists walking three abreast along a narrow pavement. Grr. They've all got it coming.

Well, the good news is that in The Rainbow Maker they all get their just desserts. The bad news is that so does everyone one else in London, due to an interestingly exaggerated flaw in our social make-up that Turley christens the Black Cloud Effect; whereby the pressure of living in very close proximity to such a bunch of inconsiderate, stupid, rude ... er, ahem! Whereby the pressure of living in such close proximity to so many other people leads inevitably to a catastrophic phase transition where we all, shall we say, work off some of our frustrations in a more direct manner than is customary.

Turley's three-pronged narrative follows Zac the builder, Richter the scientist and Elliot the businessman in the lead-up to a Black Cloud outbreak (or is it ... ?) in London. There are also two minor characters, one a mysterious damaged recluse and the other a mysterious and secretive gentleman visiting some unusual friends in the Middle East. All of these characters go about their business, some of which is relevant to the overall plot and some of which isn't. It's all well written, and generally quite engaging, with a brisk feel that feels wholly appropriate as the four horsemen are quite obviously gathering just over the page ...

Turley writes rather well, although with a tendency to give in to his purple tendencies on occasion; which is not necessarily a bad thing by any means, but it seems rather out of place in a fast moving and rather less than beautiful story such as this. The story is interesting, too -- well handled, if not completely original (I'm thinking specifically of James Herbert's The Fog or even the Brit zombie movie 28 Days Later).

This next bit may be something of a spoiler, but the biggest problem with The Rain Maker is simply that it's too short. When the four horsemen (well, one or two of them, anyway) arrive they gallop into town do their thing and gallop off again -- it's almost blink-and-you'll-miss-it stuff. The book's climax is extremely unpleasant and grisly, but these would have taken longer to watch in a film version of The Rainbow Maker than they actually took me to read, so that where the book's climax should have been a bloody beating it's more like a nasty poke in the eye -- unpleasant, but over very quickly -- and the excellent build-up and drama of the Black Cloud Effect Turley has given us before is rather wasted.

One thing I would add is that as a Londoner I can honestly say that things here generally aren't anywhere nearly as bad as Turley makes out. I read The Rainbow Maker not long after the bomb attacks of July 7th (the Russell Square bus bomb was just round the corner from my work), and his descriptions of mean and surly Londoners rang particularly hollow just then ... although a Saturday night on the Old Kent Road could be a very different kettle of fish ...

So, an interesting and talented author, someone to watch out for, I think, but this novel does, in the end, disappoint.

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