- Publisher: Macmillan; First Edition edition (2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1447252195
- ISBN-13: 978-1447252191
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 1,961 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,784,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cometh The Hour /book Hardcover – 2012
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I liked the early Clifton Chronicles books, but this last installment is just filled with bad writing, poor characterization, and haphazard plot devices. I've read that Archer had a strict deadline to produce this book, which may go to explain why his writing has suddenly dipped down to such a level. A few examples will help illustrate the book's numerous problems.
#1. The Unlikely 10-Year Old
One of the book's minor characters is the youngest in the Clifton family, a 10 year old girl who speaks with the wisdom and vocabulary of a 60-year old college professor. She also has a remarkable degree of independence and responsibility: she makes reservations at expensive restaurants and buys expensive show tickets and everyone she meets instantly deals with her as though she was 60 years old. At no point does the 10-year old girl act like a 10-year old, and too boot she's a super-genius compared to the idiots surrounding her. For example, when a doctored audio tape shows up and causes a crisis, no one knows what to do until the 10-year old steps in (paraphrasing): "Mom, aren't you good friends with the world's foremost expert on doctored audio tapes? Perhaps he could do a decibel analysis on the voice recording to look for discrepancies?" Mom: "Wow, it never even occurred to me that my good friend the world's foremost expert on doctored audio tapes might be able to help us in dealing with this crisis caused by a doctored audio tape. Thank goodness you are here to save us!" Seriously?
#2 Love interests are introduced and quickly killed for no apparent reason
Seb meets and instantly falls in love with a woman. Predictably, things go badly, but Seb knows that she is the True Love of His Life And Without Her His Life Is Over. In the span of about 20 pages, the two meet, fall in love, he overcomes her reluctance, her parents intervene and kidnap her, Seb jets to India to save her, and then she gets shot and killed. One page later, Seb acts as though this murdered True Love of His Life and Without Her His Life is Over never even existed. She is mentioned only once, in passing, for the entire remainder of the book. What, then, was the point of including the character and the subplot?
#3 Absurd conflicts that are suddenly resolved via Deus Ex Machina
The Farthings chairman has drugs planted on him during a flight and faces a long prison sentence. Now, as readers we could predict that Archer would have him saved via some dramatic plot device at the last moment. But the entire solution takes place off page. A private detective gets hired, and the trial begins with no mention of what the detective has been doing. Then, magically, on the last day of the trial, the private detective finds a previously-unknown stewardess who was arrested on unrelated smuggling charges in a different country. During that unrelated trial that took place entirely off page, the woman confesses to planting drugs on the bank chairman, and the detective (again unseen) manages to discover all of this just in the nick of time. Deus Ex Machina. Another example is the doctored audio tape episode. The tape gets introduced and solved in the span of about 20 pages because one of the minor characters just happens to know the world's leading expert on doctored audio tapes, who then shows up to save the day. In yet another example, Lady Fenwick carries out a far-fetched fake pregnancy scam. How does it eventually get foiled? By a character the readers have never met who, upon hearing the details, and despite never having met Fenwick and being located thousands of miles away, immediately figures out every last detail to the scam.
#4 Supposedly smart characters do stupid things for no real reason
The chairman of Farthings knows it is illegal to carry more than 10,000 pounds sterling cash into the country, but inexplicably does just that. Giles, supposedly a renowned politician and diplomat, is asked to play things cool during a spy mission to rescue his True Love from East Germany. However, he acts in general like a inexperienced goof and can't help but stare at her the entire time like a puppy dog. And, oh yeah, his True Love gets shot and killed by the end of the book. So what, then, was the point of it all? In another case, Seb is trying to meet up with the Other True Love of His Life and gets suddenly called back to England to deal with the drug planting crisis. He tries to call his True Love to explain why he won't show up at their restaurant date, but the phone is busy and so he can't contact her. If only there was some technology that would allow people to communicate in something other than real time--for example, imagine the possibilities for human history if wood pulp could be pressed into a flat shape so that marks and letters might be drawn on it to communicate ideas to other people who might not be physically present. In other words, it never occurred to Seb to write her a quick note and have it delivered to the restaurant or to his daughter's school.
#5 New characters and subplots get introduced despite having no reason to exist
One example would be Seb's temporary love interest, who quickly gets killed off. Another would be a minor subplot about Harry's publisher merging with a bigger press and then going independent again. Why are these subplots there when they contribute nothing? The best example is the inclusion of Margaret Thatcher as a character. Thatcher does nothing in the book except have a few conversations with main characters, and those characters then walk away thinking to themselves: "Hey, this Thatcher might become Prime Minister some day." We get it, She becomes Prime Minister someday. By the fifth or sixth time we get reminded of this, we have to wonder why we should care.
Mr. Archer should read Mark Twain's classic piece, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." Archer violates a number of Twain's rules for literature, most notably:
2. They require that the episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it.
4. They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.
5. They require that when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.