It turns out that Trespass by Mikey Campling isn’t a time travel novel in itself, but rather operates across times thanks to the “Darkeningstone”.
By the end of the 260 pages we still know pretty much next to nothing about this stone and its powers, but there are a few hints through the novel that it may in some way transport characters or spirits across the ages. Trespass is the first in “The Darkeningstone” series, the second is “Outcast” and released only last summer. Book 3 is “Scaderstone Pit”, not yet released.
Trespass is set across three times; 3500 BC, 1939 and 2010. Each time has its unique set of characters, and I was very impressed with how the writing style remained unique in each period.
It kicks off in 2010 with Jake, a teenager who discovers the Darkeningstone in a disused quarry. It’s written in the first person and a very YA style complete with melodrama and Jake’s illogical way of thinking and drawing conclusions.
A chapter later we’re zoomed back to 3500 BC where the Darkeningstone is ‘created’ and where there’s mysticism with Burlic and Tellan. Trespass flits back and forth between these two times (actually, between each chapter) until about half way through when we visit quarry workers Vincent and Bob in 1939 who also stumble on the Darkeningstone in the quarry. Again, the writing relating to this time period is very different from the first two.
At first I was quite irritated with the flitting between the times. There are 74 chapters and between each of them we change time. Each chapter isn’t long enough to get really stuck in; the imagery hasn’t had time to come to life and empathy with characters hasn’t set in yet and then – SWOOSH! we’re whisked away to somewhere else.
After a while though I seemed to do a complete 180 on this! After all, it’s equally annoying to be stuck into a section and feel with characters and then – SWOOSH! get whisked away! Perhaps it’s that it took me a few chapter / character / time period changes before I grew accustomed to the rapid changes!
The downside though, was that I found each chapter ended with a strong prod to continue reading to see what happens. What did happen was another chapter in another time period to another group of characters before going full circle and picking things up where it left off. But because the chapter endings weren’t quite of cliff hanger material, new chapters started with a bit of a let down in comparison to what we may have been looking forward to reading.
However, I think the writing itself is very well done. Often, for example, a YA style of writing grates on my nerves because characters like Jake (or Sean in the Time Will Tell Series by Les Lynam) really rile me up. But that said, Mikey Campling writes with power in this arena. (This is especially impressive when you consider than within Trespass he writes in three very different styles…).
For example. The house I grew up in backed onto a thin strip of forest. It could have been nice but it wasn’t because behind it was a council estate. 1980’s Gorse Ride, I spit on you with contempt. It was rife with chavs and miscreants who dumped all kinds of crap into the woods. Later, the woods were knocked down so that old people’s houses were built on it. I remember feeling sorry for these old folks as they had no buffer between them and the gates of hell…until one crazy old man squirted water over the fence and at my mother who was gardening. I stopped feeling sorry for them then. But I remember my feelings of dread about those woods, but at the same time they had a certain enchanting mystery – a glimpse into how life was on the other side of humanity.
Mikey brought these feeling from 40 years ago right back with Jake’s feelings about being the the quarry and the “Brewer Boys” – presumably descendants from the Mr Brewer, the bullish quarry foreman from 1939.
Similarly, Mikey’s writing in the other two ages was just as powerful for me.
Despite excellent writing I thought the pacing was slow. There’s a build up of suspense where certain layers are added, but looking back…what actually did happen? When I look at the events, not much other than some scrabbling around in a quarry actually happened. And when things did start to happen, – SWOOSH! Stop, break, and another chapter.
Coupled with this is the direction of the plot. Everything leads to the Darkeningstone, but we never really find out anything about it. It affects people’s lives (mentioned in passing) but what more? In this sense it reminded me of The Mirror (Marlys Millhiser) which similarly had a lot of mystery surrounding it but we never find out anything concrete.
(Talking of comparisons to other works, I don’t think anyone will miss the similarity between a mysterious dark slab of stone in Trespass and the obelisk / conclusion in Arthur C. Clarke’s “Space Odyssey 2001”.)
The termination of Trespass is the downfall of this novel. After investing my time with 260 odd pages I wanted more more of a conclusion than Trespass offers. What it does, is just stops. *Growl*. At best, it stops in a similar semi-cliffhanger type of way that all of the previous chapters have concluded, but nothing deeper. A huge disappointment given the excellent writing beforehand.
Actually, the surprise in the ending is what happens after the ending; an Afterword with explanatory notes. I made a point not to read this until I’d drafted out this review, but when I did I was surprised.
I’m guessing that other readers have had similar thoughts about how Trespass ends because there’s a section in the Afterword explaining it, that it’s neither a cliff hanger nor (as I had suspected), a marketing technique – a lure to get us to read Book 2 to find out what happened next.
I think Mikey is right on both counts. I agree that this is no cliff hanger because it’s no more cliff like than the endings of previous chapters. And as a marketing technique it fails (for me) because I’m not tempted to read subsequent books for fear of a similar ending.
Mikey is also right in his third point which is that if there’s any disappointment it’s because we want to know what happens next. Yes, I’m bitterly disappointed, and yes I want to know what happens next! It’s what kept me turning the 260 pages. But the finish won’t make me turn any more.
The argument is given that the conclusion makes us think about what happens next. (Personally, I was caught somewhere between thinking Space Odyssey and “What the Hell?”). I appreciate books which make me think, but in this case I’m pretty much being left to think up an entire novel in order to close it.
All in all I enjoyed reading Trespass! It has a good writing style and I was really drawn in, but for me the end is its downfall. It really frustrates me because it makes me feel that I’ve wasted my time with a novel which doesn’t take me anywhere.
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