01/09/2009. Contributed by Gareth D. Jones
pub: HarperCollins. 487 small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-00-729954-6. pub: Delacorte Press/Random House. 356 page enlarged illustrated hardback. Price: $25.00 (US), $28.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-553-80753-0.
check out websites: www.harpercollins.co.uk, www.bantemdell.com and www.warrenfahy.com
When a boat-load of reality TV scientists arrive at remote Henders Island, they discover an ecosystem from their nightmares. Isolated for aeons, the life-forms they discover are stranger than any aliens and are potently inimical to the rest of terrestrial life. Warren Fahy has done his homework on the subject and 'Fragment' is packed out with anatomical detail and plausible-sounding scientific theories to explain the fantastic creatures. This academic detail, though, is just one aspect of a fascinating book.
As the US Navy arrives and brings with it a selection of eminent scientists, we're treated to a wide variety of viewpoints as the island is explored and its future discussed. The astounding complexity of the island's wildlife and the methods used to explore and catalogue it make this an intriguing story with plenty of 'Jurassic Park' moments to keep you on the edge of the seat. Some of the characters are less convincing though.
Thatcher Redmond, the popular TV scientist, is completely amoral and egocentric and has no redeeming features. He makes an excellent antagonist, but is rather two-dimensional. There's also an over-the-top presidential advisor, several military types whose lines could have been cut from any other action film and a TV producer who is only after the ratings. Nell Duckworth is the best developed character. We're given an insight into why she joined the 'SeaLife' reality show, stays on to help the Navy and how her feelings for the island gradually change.
Despite the somewhat stereotyped characters, especially with the minor players, the pace keeps you enthralled. For a time it's hard to keep up with the discoveries, but slowly the island becomes frighteningly familiar. I only discovered near the end that there's a map and a couple of excellent anatomical drawings at the back of the book which help to keep track of what happens.
This is first and foremost an adventure story, with the fictional science so cleverly blended into real life that it probably won't be considered Science Fiction by anybody. Oddly, though, if you were to change the explanation for the island's ecology and decide that it was imported from another planet, then it would be Science Fiction. Such is the blurriness of cross-genre boundaries.
Gareth D. Jones
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