Limit: Part 2 by Frank Schätzing (book review).

I read part 2 of Frank Schätzing’s huge novel ‘Limit’ following straight on from part 1, reviewed earlier this month, which is probably the best way to read it as it was originally published as a single volume. The slow progress of multi-millionaire guests to the first lunar hotel that rumbled on through the first couple of hundred pages of book 1 has been long forgotten and the fast-paced action that took off towards the end of that book continues throughout this second half. There’s a long expository section to open the book, which would not be an ideal introduction to a standalone volume, but by this time I had more confidence that Frank Schätzing had a reason for us to know a detailed political history of Equatorial Guinea.

The complex, multi-stranded plot starts to come to fruition as the links between various groups of characters start to become evident and they come into contact as things begin to fall into place. The mystery of who attempted to kill oil executive Gerald Palstein and why takes on a larger significance against the backdrop of the race to claim a stake in the lunar helium-3 deposits. The extravagant trip to the Moon turns deadly as the shadowy international organisation that employs professional hitman Kenny Xin makes its move.

On Earth, Xin continues his deadly and destructive pursuit of private detective Owen Jericho and Yoyo, the missing dissident he had been hired to track down. The two of them join forces with rich businessman Tu Tien and act on the information they have begun to decode the very information that sent Yoyo on the run to start with and that launched Xin on his homicidal rampage.

Frank Schätzing continues to bring us realistic and sympathetic characters with complex motivations and unclear morality, people who operate in the world of secret agents and mercenaries but who stick to their own standards of what is right. The action moves from Shanghai to Berlin to London while things go from bad to worse, not only for the lunar tourists and the investigators, but also for the conspirators once their plan is revealed. The deadly lunar environment adds an extra element to the fray and keeps the action and tension at a high level.

I’ve read several translated novels recently, from Chinese, German and Finnish, and the fact that they were originally written in a language other than English always adds an extra layer of interest, though from such a small sample it’s difficult to know whether my observations are based on the writers’ language or their own individual style. In common with Wolfgang Jeschke’s ‘The Cusanus Game’, which I read last year, the characters are much more international than is often the case in Anglophone novels. It was suggested to me that perhaps what I considered to be excessive exposition early in the book could be due to SF tropes that I think of as normal might not be quite so familiar to a German audience. Interestingly there are several references to classic works by such authors as HG Wells, Arthur C. Clarke and Jules Verne, as well as long-running German novel series ‘Perry Rhodan’, with one of the characters in the book being a famous actor from the ‘Perry Rhodan’ films. There are also a number of odd-sounding metaphors that I thought perhaps were more familiar in German and only sounded strange when translated. That is the joy of reading translations and it expands your view of language, culture and literary expectations.

Overall, this is certainly a gripping novel despite its huge size, pulling together a plethora of ideas, characters and plot elements into a bold and monumental story. It started off rather slowly in the first volume, but the action ramped up and the plot kept going with always logical developments and well-explained consequences so that it never felt forced or that it was being dragged out for its own sake. I first became aware of this book a year or so ago and was put off somewhat by its size, as I sometimes am when it’s a new author. I’m glad I took the chance to get hold of it for this review though, it’s been a worthwhile trip.

Gareth D Jones

March 2017

(pub: Jo Fletcher Books/Quercus. 725 page enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78429-420-5)

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