Flash Bang Whiz

A History of What Comes NextSylvain Neuvel (Take Them to the Stars #1) 2.5/5

Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for the ARC.
Expected publication date: 2 February, 2021.
Read: 12 January, 2021.

In this new trilogy (?) from the author of Themis Files (reviews for #1&#2 and #3), Sylvain Neuvel, we are introduced to a strange family of women trying to get humanity to the stars while avoiding the “Trackers,” the strange men hunting them down trying to prevent this. We meet Mia and her family as they are fleeing Germany in early 20th century. Slowly we realize that Mia’s family is special – the women of the family all look the same and can trace their ancestors over 99 identical generations.

Mia and her mother throughout the book sneak into humanity’s attempts at scientific progress, all with the same goal – make people achieve space flight as soon as possible. They interact with scientist well known to all readers (Einstein, Wernher Von Braun), and those less known (Sergei Pavlovich Korolev) and they hand them ideas to pass as their own. Why they want to do that we don’t know, and Mia as well doesn’t know. Over the course of the book, we realize that somewhere in the past the reasons for all this got lost, but the main idea remained.

This plot idea would promise a wonder spy thriller novel almost, but for the author and his writing style. It is so dry and monotonous that you almost feel like you are reading flash cards for a novel, and not a completed novel. The ideas are there, the plot lines are there but there is no colour given to the narration, what there is of it. It’s like those moonscapes – there are hills and valleys and craters, but it’s all grey.

If this were a movie script it would make a bit more sense, but even then, the number of events taking place in the span of these 300 pages could not be shown in a single movie. This was the same problem I had with his third Themis Files novel (too much happening, not enough world), but in Themis Files we had the explanation for this – the whole series was written in the form of diary entries and mission logs. A History of What Comes Next doesn’t have that excuse. It is a traditional novel. And again, considering it is only 300 pages long, he could have put some meat on those bones.

I’m most likely going to keep on reading the series when other books come out, not because of the writing style or the prose or anything as poetic as that, I’ll read it just to see what comes next.

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