Review: Trust by David Moody (Infected Books, 2012)
Or “How Not To Write A First Contact Novel”. It’s a shame, there was a lot to recommend this book. Despite its slight size it had a lot of potential given the subject matter. The intricacies of negotiating the tangled pathways of our first experience of a totally alien culture pave the way for all manner of thoughtful exploration. I’d previously read Moody’s Hater, first of a trilogy dealing with a bizarre epidemic sweeping humanity in which a small percentage suddenly find themselves feeling inescapably threatened by all ‘normal’ people and resort to extreme violence in order to escape. It was bright, original and showed a lot of promise under its clunky prose. Surely he’d be well suited to tackling the time-worn culture-clash theme? Unfortunately not.
Trust centres on the small town of Thatcham in contemporary England. The setting lends the book a Wyndham-esque feel but the similarity to classic sci-fi ends there. The book’s protagonist is an unemployed twenty-something, still shaken by the recent deaths of his parents. All that keeps him going is his loving girlfriend and helping out at a local farm, although he perpetually teeters on the edge of alcoholism. His life takes a sudden shift when suddenly he witnesses a massive alien craft being escorted by RAF fighters to a spot just offshore from Thatcham. Aliens have arrived and the world is never going to be the same again.
The nature of the visitation is fairly original, I’ll give Moody that much. The aliens have simply broken down. Their craft is irreparable given the technology and materials available on Earth, forcing them to to send a message to their homeworld and await rescue. Understandably these developments stun the global populace. The vast majority simply wish to devour any information they can regarding the visitors and regular news broadcasts are initiated for this purpose. ET-spotters stream into Thatcham to catch a glimpse of the aliens, allowed to wander freely from the camp in which they have been housed since disposing of their ship – the reactors could have exploded so they launched it into the sun.
Some people aren’t too enthralled though. Tom finds himself instinctively distrusting the visitors to the utter bafflement of his girlfriend and others. And those sympathetic to the plight of the aliens suddenly start turning on those who don’t share their point of view. From this point events begin to escalate as the true intentions of our new friends become clear.
Sound familiar? Well Trust starts out as more or less ‘V‘ in slightly altered clothing. In fact Moody even goes so far as to reference the classic show in the book. However where V played wonderful games with paranoia and our distrust of anything ‘other’, Trust misses the mark by a mile. For starters it focuses on a protagonist who is so thoroughly self-obsessed that the writing becomes almost claustrophobic. It’s difficult to feel any sympathy for a central character whose every thought is about either himself or how beautiful his girlfriend is. At times it feels like ‘Diary Of A Grown-Up Chav’.
Tom’s motivation is unclear despite him being a staggeringly simple and one-dimensional character. Every time he takes a decisive action, one which will affect the course of the novel, the immediate reaction is “Uuuh, what?” And if he is one-dimensional then the remainder of the cast are almost non-existent. Even his girlfriend, supposedly his raison d’etre, has her role limited to sparse, vacant dialogue and an excuse for several entirely unnecessary sex scenes.
In Moody’s defense Trust is a rewriting of an earlier short story and perhaps could have been done better service remaining at a shorter length. There’s just not enough meat here to make it worth the short time it takes to get through. And he also has labelled it an anti-science-fiction novel, preferring to focus on the personal aspect than the fantastical goings-on. I dearly wish he had taken the opposite tack because a human drama requires human beings.
I’ll still give his other works a chance. I’ll go back to the Hater series and have a look at his much-lauded Autumn books. However it’s hard to get past how amateurish this one feels. There are far better similar tales out there and this has nothing much to add to an already-crowded genre. Not recommended.