Book Review: A Vision Of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin

Gillian Anderson - A Vision Of Fire - Header

I’m not going to lie the only thing that attracted me to A Vision of Fire was the author, well co-author, Gillian Anderson. I grew up on The X-Files, she will forever be Dana Scully and it says, and proves, a lot about the power of celebrity that her name alone is enough command my attention because, even though she is a well respected actress that doesn’t mean that she will or would be any good as a writer, even with the apparent best-selling Jeff Rovin holding her hand.

And yet, I somehow expected her to be. My loyalty almost blinding me before I started that all would be fine. That somehow the talents to portray a character and tell a story on screen mean you instantly have the talents to portray a character and tell a story on paper.

A Vision Of Fire - Gillian Anderson

Sadly though, while that may from time to time work out, I have to admit that this time around it doesn’t. I really didn’t get on with A Vision Of Fire at all. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that I am actually not sure what it was trying to accomplish, or really why anything happens. It seems to be a very mixed up book that has left so much confusion in my mind that I have no other emotion but that towards the story it presents.

I’m really not sure how much writing has been done by Rovin and how much by Anderson. I have nothing to compare it to. I’ve never read a novel by Rovin, so I don’t know his style, dialects or idiosyncrasies that may exist to identify his involvement. But that didn’t really matter, because I read the book purely as though it was penned solely by Anderson, my mind forgetting that she had help. And while the written language is very modern and up to date, it felt relevant, being instantly understandable and allowing you to relate and connect to what it was saying, it doesn’t really have a rich vein of imagery or depth to it. It doesn’t draw you in and while there are times when you can feel the pacing change, naturally forcing you to read quicker or slower at it’s command, it’s almost through a haze, a slight opacity.

Map O f Manhatten, New York - A Vision Of Fire - Gillian Anderson

I especially struggled to paint a clear picture in my mind of the world, and certainly of the characters, in which it is set. This is partly down to the fact that it is set mainly in the suburbs and blocks of New York, and Anderson describes them in a very that requires you to be familiar, as she is, with the layout. To already know, as she does, which street leads to which and understand the basic smells, colours and noise of the city. Which I don’t. And as a result, all distances and scales, the general hustle bustle and routine of life instantly become lost to me. A long walk is the same as a short one and the passage of time failing to be grasped. I still have no idea exactly how many days, weeks or months passed.

A Vision Of Fire is essentially centred around Caitlin O’Hara and having finished the book, I truly cannot describe her to you either. I never cemented her face in my mind. I am still not clear if she’s tall or short, blond or brunette, green or blue eyed. Her personality comes across with a bit more conviction and the relationship she has with the world and the people around her develops, but she’s never anything more than a simple illusion, a basic outline based upon social expectants rather than clear description.

Too Many Ideas - A Vision Of Fire - Gillian Anderson

My biggest problem though is the story Caitlin O’Hara finds herself in though. It’s just an incoherent mash of ideas that don’t work, and worse, stretch the plausibility of reality so badly that you stop believing in what you are reading, give up on trying to understand it or make sense of where Anderson was going when she wrote it and just start to withdraw from it. It descends faster and faster as more and more boxes are opened and elements presented that rather than adding interesting and relevant layers just break things up into ever more fragments. It felt at times like they if they got stuck on an idea, rather than think there way through it, they just brought a new angle, another ingredient to the table and pretended the old one would go away or that we wouldn’t notice it’s opened ended passing.

This sense that of just adding more and more, changing direction time and again in an attempt to drive the story forward, hoping you’d forget sections you’d read created a tone to the book that felt like I was reading an abridged version. That swathes of important pages had been torn away. I almost want to compare it to somebody else’s copy to check that isn’t true. I still want to pretend that I’ve been inadvertently cheated of the whole story, rather than accept that it’s simply a case of it’ being broken and disjointed.

They say that you should play on your strengths and write about things you know, and the opening chapters set up the idea that this is going to be a story linked to supernatural, extra terrestrial, ideas. That Anderson is going to rely on knowledge and insight gained from her time on The X-Files to create a narrative and in the beginning it does start to tickle your imagination that this is what it’s going to deliver; but then, as if she was scared to sail too close to previous plagiarisms, the story puts it all to one side and becomes this ludicrous juxtaposition of religion, science, and human history; all the time never quite letting you forget what it originally hinted at, but never using it either. As I said it’s a total mess based in a story that becomes so hard to follow and difficult to untangle, that rather than pull any enjoyment from it, you just start wondering why it developed as badly as it did when it teased some much else.

Mulder & Scully - The X-Files

I think I know the answer though, the cover. It states: Book One Of The Earthend Saga. And the more I think and reflect, the more I am sure that it’s trying to set up too everything else it wants to come. It’s creating characters, events and themes to run through the saga as a trail of breadcrumbs, and instead of working has simply committed the sin of making such a fuss of future promises that the here and now suffers so badly you give up and walk away. I wouldn’t say I am upset or let down by the fact that a book I painted in my head to be great, turned out to be poor. But rather, I just feel sad that it lost sight of its strengths because its core ideas are good and it’s language perfect for a modern generation of readers. It just fails to expand out on this foundation in a way that creates a worthwhile book. “Less Is More” as they say and it needs less elements and more X-Files.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

Comments are closed.