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I’m still not sure if the editor who sent me this book to review did me a favour, or the opposite. On the one hand I certainly wouldn’t have read past the first couple of pages of I’d browsed them in a bookstore. These were almost the epitome of what a novel shouldn’t begin with, including most junior writers’ favourite start-point, “He got up and…”, and in the early sections, for a while, I genuinely thought I’d never seen so many sentences beginning with ‘He’ in one book before.

But once I had pushed myself past those pages the plot was intriguing enough that I continued (where I had doubted I would bother). And as the book progressed the language improved, and in the end reading all of it was a very different experience.

Though the first 30 pages suggest a tale of alien-life-forms’ intervention, Crogian is not so much an outer space novel as an Armageddon-style horror story, based on the popular theme of science-plus-military meddling with nature. The story is chilling, and often convincing, and by half way through I was willing to ignore the occasional dreadful sentence as the price of continuing.

Admittedly that was after I recovered from the biggest annoyance of the early pages. These introduced a collection of oddball Texas locals, got me involved with them, caring about them, and then ditched them all for what turned out to be the real, and quite different, plotline. (I don’t normally include spoilers like this but I felt cheated by it, so at least you’ve now been warned.)

Once he gets going, however, Leahy displays genuine talent, especially in detail and characterisation. I was impressed by his vision, but if I am honest by about ¾ of the way into the book, the horror and tragedy had become a little too unrelenting. I found myself skipping bits simply to find out how it all ended. OK, I confess: I prefer to finish a book feeling cheered up.

But I think the guy can write, and if you like believable, generally impressive writing, and an eco-horror about military stupidity, then this could be just what you are looking for. In which case perhaps you shouldn’t take my mixed reactions as your guide.

You can read an excerpt here.

Crogian by John Leahy
Trade Paperback, 278 pages, $15.95
Necro Publications

Review by Terry Jackman

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