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The Turning, by Paul J. Newell
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Appian Publishing
Published: 2006
Review Posted: 7/10/2007
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10

The Turning, by Paul J. Newell

Book Review by C. Dennis Moore

Have you read this book?

Lleyton Quinn has a habit of watching people. He studies them on the train, wonders "where that person lives; why that woman's reading a book on motorbike maintenance; why that fat bloke's got a tattoo of a daffodil on his forearm" because studying patterns is his job. Lleyton Quinn is a Demand Forecaster, which means he and others in his field of socionomics study the patterns of society to predict what kind of car people will want to drive in three years, how much whiskey a certain company should make over the next decade and a half (their brand takes 15 years to make), what fashions will be popular next fall, etc. Except this habit of studying people has gotten Lleyton Quinn into trouble because his preoccupation with a particular woman on his train, Tara Greene, led him to follow her down an alley one day, making him the last person to see her. Officer Melissa Keller begins with the usual questions, trying to find out if Quinn killed Tara, but she ends on a very different note, scribbling "I need your help!"

Tara Greene is only one of literally hundreds of disappearances over the last few years. The cases haven't been given much attention by the police because there've been no bodies, no ransom demands. As far as the official reports are concerned, they're just a bunch of cases of people up and starting a new life somewhere else. But Melissa and her former partner discovered links. Seems every person who's disappeared, starting five years earlier, is tied in some way or another to the next. Some are related, some are co-workers, some live in the same building, but so far every disappearance flows back to the one before it.

Paul J. Newell's The Turning is a great novel. It's got bits of scifi, bits of mystery, a little horror, lots of humor. Newell has built one very complex plot and he reveals each layer like a master, as if he's been doing this for decades (and considering he's 5 years younger than me, I hate him already for being such a great writer).

I was a bit put off by all the scifi gadgetry at first. It seems, to me anyway, that a lot of the scifi technology authors use to flesh out their worlds is so much fluff and nonsense, but as I read to the end I realized Newell had cleverly made his scifi tech a very important part of the story, and I don't see that very often, so I was very impressed.

The mystery as well was brilliantly constructed, all the clues there from the beginning, but the really important bits left unmentioned until the time was right. Hell, even the reader wonders every once in a while if Lleyton just might be responsible and not realize it.

I found myself floored when I read the line "That was the last time I saw her in person before she turned." Not only is it a chilling line in its context, but I realized I honestly cared about these characters. Anyone who knows me knows just how rare it is I care about ANYONE, least of all a character in a novel. I mean I'm a writer, I know the tricks authors use to get readers to care and for the most part I'm usually immune to them, like one magician in the audience watching another, knowing the rabbit is really in a little pouch hanging from the underside of the table. But Newell managed it and no one was more surprised than me.

The Turning did have its problems, however. At least I saw them as problems, although very slight. The humor was one. Newell is friggin' hilarious and a great humor writer. I didn't have a problem with the humor . . . per se. But there were times I thought the subject matter of the novel was a little too heavy, a little too serious to be cracking jokes and playing on words all the time. There's a time for humor, but there are times, for instance when you're main character is suspected of being responsible for a disappearance and the one person who thinks he's innocent has also just vanished, for putting a lid on the jokes and realizing the gravity of the situation. At times it tended to pull the reader out of the world and remind them they're just reading a novel.

There were also aspects of the plot as a whole, things you'll discover as the story is winding down, that seemed a bit cheesy and new-agey to me, but maybe that's just me, who knows? Still, it didn't prevent me from loving the hell out of the novel.

Newell's definitely on the right track, a talented author I'll gladly read again and absolutely recommend.
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