Paul Garrety

Helix Prophecy, book 1

Harper Voyager

ISBN: 978-0-7322-9154-9

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

The Seventh Wave is Book 1 of the Helix Prophecy, which appears to conclude with Book 2 (The Emerald Tablets). However, The Seventh Wave also stands alone, and could be comfortably read without any intention of reading the second novel.

Callum is a professional thief, a good one. He plans his jobs thoroughly, keeps the risks low, and makes a nice profit to feed his gambling habit. But one night things go badly awry; he breaks into a house and all hell breaks loose. Just as he thinks he’s found the treasure trove of his dreams, he finds it’s guarded by creatures from his nightmares. During his hasty exit from the house, he collects freelance journalist Sam Goodman, who’d followed him in. She was interested in getting dirt on the houseowner, and a friend named Freda had told her Callum would be breaking in.

Rather curious, Callum thinks, since he doesn’t know Freda and no-one knew what he was planning. But Freda turns out to be a mysterious figure from his past who knows him even if he doesn’t remember her, and before too long he’s caught up in an interplanetary war. Someone wants to take over Earth, and Callum is charged with protecting the ancient artefact which could either guarantee or prevent them reaching their goal, depending on who has it. Not exactly keen on the whole thing, Callum nevertheless is soon fully caught up in the conspiracy.

Unfortunately, there were some early credibility problems with characterisation and plotting which I never quite got over; these tainted much of the novel for me. For example, when Callum and Sam first meet he knows nothing of her except that she is a journalist, and she followed him as he broke into someone else’s home. Yet he promptly spills his guts to her, and tells her comprehensively how he goes about fleecing people while making sure it can’t come back on him. Unless of course he tells his secrets to someone who publishes them … I simply didn’t believe that a professional thief would do this with someone he just met. And Garrety doesn’t make much effort to provide a justification either.

Similarly, the background just didn’t ring true. Callum is haunted by the guilt of his wife’s death during a burglary. But there doesn’t seem to have been any other impact on his life – the police don’t appear to have asked Callum any questions, for example. This same idea has been handled better by other writers (such as Michael Connelly), who recognised that there would be practical implications for the survivor which would go beyond their guilt.

And finally, in places Garrety just doesn’t seem to have paid much attention to reality. Yes, I know this is a fantasy, but to be credible some things have to be grounded in reality. For example, early on Callum and Sam have quite a long, complex conversation, while swimming for their lives, fully dressed, in freezing water. I can’t see that happening. Not many people could conduct any kind of conversation under those conditions, let alone one that fluent.

The Seventh Wave is not without its strengths, however. The plot has potential, although it never fully engaged me. The early flaws mentioned above meant I didn’t really lose myself in the book, and wasn’t able to really believe in the characters’ actions. However, for some readers this won’t be a problem, and the relentless action will provide enough impetus to keep them reading. And although the characterisations weren’t fully convincing when Garrety ventured into motivations or background, he was nevertheless able to draw a number of distinctive characters who could not be confused with each other. I found it hard to care about any of them given they didn’t seem fully real, but again some readers will probably not care about this overly, accepting the distinctive surface characterisations as enough.

The Seventh Wave is a mediocre novel. There are good ideas, an ending that isn’t quite what you might expect, and the writing style is pleasant enough. However, it lacks a certain spark needed to make it truly interesting or compelling, and there are enough small flaws that it fails to convince the reader. I never quite managed to lose myself in this novel, and in the end I didn’t care what would happen to the characters. However, there is an audience for this type of novel: frenetic action, characterisations that are clear (although not deep), and a plot that moves along even if it doesn’t bear close examination. Readers looking for something relatively undemanding may enjoy this.

DISCLAIMER: Lorraine Cormack is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.