Robert Jackson Bennett

Orbit (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-84149-857-7

Reviewed by Mitenae

Connelly is travelling west in a pre-apocalyptic America, after the man who killed his daughter. He thinks he is alone until he meets Pike, Hammond and Roosevelt. Connelly soon learns that there are many more all after the same man, but the man they’re after is always one step ahead and is known by many names. Connelly is warned to go back, to go home, to stop pursuing him, but he won’t. He’s determined to kill Mr Shivers but the man Connelly is after is nothing like what he finds.

Although I liked this story, there are aspects of it that I found disappointing. Pike, Roosevelt and Hammond weren’t utilised enough, especially the latter two. I would have liked to see their roles developed and pushed more to counterpoint Connelly’s journey. In a similar sense, there’s a scene later on in the book where Connelly has become separated from his friends and he’s travelling. This section is largely glossed over in a few paragraphs but within it is the potential to develop this story to a richer, deeper tale.

The marketing on the back of the proof copy I have describes the book as an “apocalyptic thriller” yet there is very little within the text to make me believe this. We see groups of people travelling, decaying towns, decaying machinery, a lack of food, barren land, but none of this necessarily says to me apocalyptic. It could be any rural landscape anywhere in the modern world and that’s where I hit the other problem I have with this book. It isn’t set in any specific timeframe. There’s nothing in the story to tell me whether it’s set five, ten, fifteen years from now or twenty, fifty, a hundred years ago. There is very little that grounds it into a larger world, let alone an apocalyptic one. And the notion of it being apocalyptic adds little to the story; in fact it would have played better if it had been set within modern America, which would at least have provided the much needed context and counterpoint to the story.

Mr Shivers is a story with the potential to have a deep and lasting resonance. It has huge concepts woven within its pages, but the story itself is very commercial, more thriller than speculative fiction, and for me, doesn’t explore the themes it presents fully enough. Although I liked it I also found it a disappointing read, largely due to little made out of an interesting idea.