by Tobias Hill
It seems unnanimous so far that book bloggers are less than enthusiastic about The Hidden. I'm not about to disagree. What was hidden in The Hidden was interesting storytelling, engaging characters and appropriate puncuation.
Let's start with story. Ben Mercer, running from a failed marriage, becomes entangled with a mysterious team of archaeologists trying to uncover the glories of ancient Sparta. There is history, mystery and danger. Sounds intriguing, yes? Not so much. Actually, the history parts were interesting. The details of archaeology were alright also. It was the wreck of Mercer's life that was like trudging through a mucky swamp. His obsession with his ex-wife was pathetic. His endless questions and need to be a part of the group of folks he was warned away from was tedious. There was no substanse and nothing to compel the reader to continue reading. The action finally picks up near the end but the contents of the action were bewildering. They seemed out of place for this particular story. There were some attempts at foreshadowing but not enough.
Now the characters. I didn't like any of them. Ben Mercer was the worst. He was a whiny, snivelling child. He let everyone walk on him. I could never get a true sense of who he was. Maybe that was the point, to show that even Mercer didn't know who he was but, again, it fell short for me.
Lastly, puncuation. Was this an attempt to push the restrictive bounds of literature? Was there a deeper reason for leaving out quotation marks? All dialogue was confusing. I could never be sure who was talking to whom. There is a reason we follow standard puncuasion rules: clarity.
To be fair, there is a great deal of research into many different subjects from ancient Spartan history to archiology to the more recent history of the specific regains of Greece dealt with in the novel. The characters, while unsympathetic, were unique and distinc. The themes all followed each other smoothly. The Thesis chapters were effectively revealing about Mercer's mental state, moreso than his inner thoughts. Unfortunately, it was all for nought due to the book's confusing and boring nature.
Tobias Hill is a man of some scholarly statue in England. He is an accomplished poet and writer of short stories, a winner of some few honors. I would be interested in reading some of his shorter works. I believe he could be interesting in a more concise writing style. The Hidden might be more up the alley of men who read fiction since their tastes seem so different from those of women.
Go check out what others are saying about The Hidden at TLC Book Tours. There are some interesting comments, not all of them as prickly as mine.