ISBN : 0-00-719017-4
Author : James Twining
Title : The Back Sun
Pitch : A pair of retired art thieves are dragged into a sordid affair from the Past. They will try to uncover a lost fragment of history from the end of WWII, and will fight their way through old-fashioned Nazis, Neo Nazis, spies and crooks. Enigmas, clues, and devious characters protect something big…
In the same kind as the Da Vinci Code, this book takes a few characters who are drowned in a series of events too big for them, generally hopping from dire to unmanageable situations. The events take place in a “realist” framework, something not quite true, but believable.
It is by all accounts a good thriller, something that gets you surprised or misled pretty often. But that’s exactly what bothered me in the Code : they are in an impossible situation, but lo! they are (with) the only person on the face of the Earth that can do something about it ; or better, thousands of people have tried fruitlessly to solve the puzzle, or to understand the clue, but hey! it you take a look at it with a shiny-technology-that-wasn’t-invented-at-the-time-but-still-works-great, you can find the answer.
Therefore, the question is not “who did it?”, “how will they escape?”, or “what is that thing anyway?”, it is “what will happen to them next?”. The framework being well documented or known, the artistic licence is by essence limited. “What if there was a secret order of SS capped by Himmler?” might or might not interest the reader, but what such a mysterious group could be responsible for has to be unobtrusive, or else it would be common knowledge, and therefore useless.
While I like a good thriller as much as the next guy, the vein of books trying to get as much borderline unbelievable material as possible within the confine of the “real world” is not my favorite. It’s almost as if there was a challenge : “how far can we push the secret underworld before they stop believing?”. Well, books are fiction. You can have pink rhinos flying, as long as it doesn’t contradict the book’s background, that’s fine with me. But, until I see a pink rhino hovering by my window, appreciating the book doesn’t mean I believe its contents to be true. I think the story should be consistent within itself, and good by itself. Going for the border between book and reality doesn’t necessarily beat having an unrealistic flying dragon.