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Mark Taylor: Genesis: Mark Taylor Series Prequel (The Mark Taylor Series) Kindle Edition
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"Genesis" is the story of a photographer named Mark Taylor who is asked by a friend to go to Afghanistan in 1999 to take pictures for a book on the mistreatment of women in certain Middle Eastern countries. While at a local bazaar, Taylor buys a camera that was apparently a relic left behind from the Soviet invasion years earlier. When he gets back to his home in Chicago, he discovers that the camera actually has the ability to predict the future in certain circumstances. Sometimes, when Mark takes a photograph with that camera, that picture shows something tragic that will take place in the future: an accident, a disaster, or a crime. The first time this occurs, he's understandably too slow to realize what's going on, and a little girl drowns, just as the camera foretold. After that, Mark decides to try to stop the bad events from occurring, even though his finances and mental well being sometimes suffer as a result.
Obviously, a book based on a premise this bizarre requires a massive suspension of disbelief. Author McDonald never attempts an explanation (scientific, supernatural, religious, or any combination thereof) of why the photos appear; it's a given (further, Mark sometimes has dreams at night as well that reveal to him more detailed information about the subject of a "future" photo). However, McDonald makes it somewhat easier to accept this premise because she makes Mark into a believable, likable, clever character whose actions follow logically as a result of the camera's power. She has obviously put a great deal of thought into what would happen if such a camera existed, and what happens in the book seems the logical consequence of Mark's discovery, from the difficulty of figuring out where and when an event will occur to the problems that arise from talking to the police, who might think Mark either a nut or a criminal..
"Genesis" was written after several other novels about Mark Taylor and his camera, but it's a prequel to those other books. I haven't read any of the other books, so I don't know how well "Genesis" clarifies any of the details in them, but I have to judge "Genesis" solely on the basis of how it succeeds as a standalone book. And, as a standalone book, it sometimes feels as if there are a few pieces missing. For example, it's clear that there's more to Mark's trip to Afghanistan (especially the mysterious actions of the friend who invites them in the first place), but McDonald never explains them, so her description of the entire trip feels a bit choppy.
The biggest letdown in "Genesis" concerns the 9/11 attack. As soon as I realized Mark was "in action" in the summer of 2001, I guessed he would foresee the attack and try (and fail) to stop it. McDonald does a good job of describing how Mark reacts to his failure, but her description of what he tries to do to prevent the attack seems rather perfunctory. The sequence should have been the most suspenseful in the book, but, instead, it almost seems as if Mark was going through the motions.
As a prequel for a series of novels, "Genesis" is terrific. The book has a great premise that, although completely fantastic, seems almost believable. It's also got a good protagonist who has the necessary motivation and intelligence to succeed at changing a disastrous future. As a book to be read on its own, however, it feels a bit incomplete at times. However, since I don't have a camera that can predict the future, I'm definitely interested in reading more of Taylor's adventures to see just what the future does hold for him.
Genesis fills in those gaps, giving us a chance to become better acquainted with Mark and his story before the camera turned his life upside down. A must read for current Mark Taylor fans, taking us up to a post-9/11 timeframe just before the start of No Good Deed. Also, a viable introduction to Mark's tale for those who prefer their stories be told chronologically.
**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.**