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Friday, 11 October 2013


Now we have some experts telling us that in a matter of decades most of Earth will be uninhabitable due to man-made global warming – unless we act soon. I suspect the earth might throw a proverbial spanner in those predictions… Even so, this Friday Forgotten Book may be considered timely. Published in 1992, Portent is one of the late great James Herbert’s best.

The cover warns that ‘The world will never be the same again.’ The story begins with newspaper clippings of penguins committing mass suicide in 1990, then in the next two dozen pages ranges to the near future, to the Great Barrier Reef, the Gulf of Mexico, and British Columbia, where we witness the catastrophic demise of some interesting characters; it’s as though the world’s gone mad, the weather and tectonic systems in concert with the appearance of eerie bright lights, are causing untold devastation, swamping islands, killing thousands of people.
One survivor from an earlier disaster, Rivers, a climatologist, is summoned to the home of a strange family; here, he meets Diane, her two mysterious adopted children and the academic who believes the world has had enough with the depredations of mankind and is fighting back…
James Herbert, R.I.P.

Portent is a superior disaster novel, and maintains a tense suspenseful pace throughout. The vignettes are well researched – some of the disasters recognisably extrapolated from recent events (1990s) – and divulge a great deal of interesting detail. The many characters we encounter from numerous countries are believable and evoke sympathy. The action and disaster sequences are graphic but not gratuitous, credible and, because of that, quite horrifying. The various disasters are portents: auguries of the death-throes of a planet? Ultimately, the book is about good and evil, in all their guises. A Green plea which deserves to be heard – and read. Highly recommended.

[Note to politicians – just don’t use this to try to make us feel guilty and tax us even more!]

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