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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris - A book, because I knew nothing about it beyond it was written by Harris and was doing well, that surprised, even startled me.

I thought, for a few dozen pages, that the book, set in “the Year of Our Risen Lord 1468”, was taking place in 1468 A.D. To my surprise it was set after the Apocalypse. It is set 800 years later than 1468 A.D.. Scientism has been rejected and archeological research rendered criminal by the Church for “[T]he path to Hell begins with too much seeking into the past”.

Father Christopher Fairfax ventures into rural England to Addicott to conduct the funeral of a priest, Father Lacy, The priest has died from a fall, an “evil chance”. 

Wonder on whether his death was by chance besets Fairfax when he finds that Father Lacy’s library includes the prohibited volumes of The Proceedings and Papers of the Society of Antiquaries.

He is shaken to read in a volume a report on possible scenarios that could result in the Apocalypse. Church teaching had been for centuries after the Fall that “God had punished the ancients for their elevation of science above all by bringing down upon the Earth the four terrible riders of the Apocalypse - Pestilence, War, Famine and Death - as foretold in the Book of Revelation; and that thanks to a revival of the True Faith, they were blessed to be living in the time of the Risen Christ, when order had been restored to the world.”

Finding records extending back centuries before the Fall he is drawn to stay in Addicott.

The book is interesting as a form of archeological mystery in which the current investigators seek to determine what befell a far more advanced technological civilization. The Church’s explanation is God’s wrath. The fragments of history suggest a catastrophic breakdown of society in 2022 A.D.

Our current world is dependent on complex interconnected systems. Few of us sustain ourselves from the food we produce. Our huge cities require massive amounts of food to be transported to them daily. Could our society collapse? It is hard to know how close we came in the financial meltdown of 2008. Money and its movement and faith in currency was at grave risk just 12 years ago.

While interesting I was not caught up in the story. The plot plodded for almost 200 pages with hints and minor exposures of the past. Finally, a small band form to dig for the truth of the Apocalypse and the science by which people could fly and communicate by devices bearing the symbol of a “bitten apple” (interpreted to mean a bite of the forbidden fruit in Genesis). Interpreting a fictional distant past more advanced in technology is little easier than the efforts of contemporary real life archeologists deciphering the artifacts and writings of long ago civilizations.

Harris is often great, sometimes nearly great, occasionally far from great. My judgment of The Second Sleep is far from great. The premise is fascinating but not the plot.
****
Harris, Robert - (2002) - Archangel; (2004) – Pompeii; (2008) - Imperium; (2012) - "H" is for Robert Harris; (2014) - An Officer and a Spy; (2016) - Conclave and The Conclaves of Malachi Martin, Walter Murphy and Robert Harris;

6 comments:

  1. It is a fascinating premise, Bill, isn't it? I give authors credit who create post-apocalyptic worlds like that, since they have to create something really new and different. That's not easy. That said, though, if the story didn't really draw you in, it didn't.

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    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. It was an interesting world. I wish the story in it had been better.

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  2. You sum up my feelings about this book Bill. Harris is never less than worth reading - but sometimes he carries me away and I am left shaken and stirred by a book, or have to stay up late to finish it. But not this one - I just didn't connect with it. I did read it all though.

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    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. We will hope his next book is better. I think he benefits when the ending is figured out for him. In the Dreyfus book he did not have to imagine an ending.

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  3. Bill, thank you for this review. Oddly, I was not aware of "The Second Sleep" even though I read about Robert Harris and his books soon after reading FATHERLAND, which I read in just a couple of sittings. I enjoyed the book as well as his engaging writing style. That one book prompted me to buy "Conclave" and "Munich", both of which I'm yet to read; though, I read your review of "Conclave" with interest. Robert Harris and Dan Brown have piqued my interest in historical fiction, more so since I also enjoy reading history.

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    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. I have read books by Harris in different historical eras. He does well in delving into history. I just wish he were more consistent in excellence. I have not read "Munich". I would be interested in your thoughts on both books.

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