Paul Garrety

Helix Prophecy, book 2

Harper Voyager (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-7322-9155-6

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

The Emerald Tablets is Book 2 of the Helix Prophecy, apparently completing the story begun in The Seventh Wave. Like the first book, it could be read as a standalone novel without much problem; you will probably get more out of it, however, if you’ve read the first novel.

Callum wakes up in 2062. On the brink of death in 2012, Callum was thrown forward into the future (the how is never really explained), apparently to serve as a last ditch reserve to save humanity. The Immortals have taken over Earth, but now they want to return to their own planet, taking with them some of what they’ve gained on Earth. And that would annihilate Earth, so Callum must stop them, despite the fact that most of the current population doesn’t really care. The Emerald Tablets of Atlantis (something else that isn’t credibly explained) have the power to frustrate the Immortals in their departure. So Callum sets off on a wild-eyed chase to try to find the Tablets before the Immortals do.

Frankly, I found this a much weaker novel than The Seventh Wave. Like its predecessor, The Emerald Tablets is a mediocre novel, but it doesn’t have the same strengths as the first. The characterisation is weak and unconvincing, and I found Callum’s romance with the magical equivalent of an artificial intelligence who’d taken over someone else’s body kind of freaky, and not in a good way. There were some moral issues here which Garrety didn’t even acknowledge, and nor did he look at the parallels between Maggy’s behaviour and that of the Immortals who survive by taking other people’s bodies when their own wear out. Maggy is labelled “good guy” and we’re supposed to not question that.

The Emerald Tablets is full of ideas that sound good on the surface but which don’t quite convince when you look at them straight on, such as the tech-babble by which the Immortal Karalla chooses not to put a trace on our heroes’ electronic signal, but instead to “stain” it so that she knows in general terms where they are – a decision made in part because they’d detect a trace but not a stain. This really makes little sense if you actually try to think about it. And that was a problem with a lot of the novel; it’s okay if you read it fast and don’t think too hard, but pause for even a moment and you’ll notice some credibility problems.

To some extent, this is a novel that reads like it needed a go through a challenging editor or workshop – someone to say “but why?” fairly frequently, to force Garrety to really think through some of his background and rationales. Because, again like its predecessor, this novel has some strengths. For me these were largely eclipsed by weak characterisation and poor credibility, and I found this novel rather tedious to read.

However, Garrety has a pleasant enough writing style, even if it isn’t backed up with much of substance here. It’s easy enough to read, although every time he used the word “imaged” I wanted to ask if he really meant “imagined”. Excluding this, it’s an unobtrusive and readable style. There is plenty of action, and individual action scenes are well choreographed and believable. There are some interesting set pieces, and some interesting ideas, although Garrety relies heavily on coincidence in some areas.

There’s a lot of action, but frankly some of it seemed a bit pointless. Everyone was madly chasing the Emerald Tablets, but even only a day or so after finishing the novel, I’m having trouble remembering why.

The Emerald Tablets is not a novel I recommend, although it may be enjoyed by readers who are in a mood where they really don’t want to engage their brain strongly while reading. It isn’t by any means the worst I’ve ever read, but it bored me.

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.