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Lost World: Translated from the Brazilian Portuguese by Clifford LandersLost World: Translated from the Brazilian Portuguese by Clifford Landers by Patricia Melo

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am afraid to say that ‘Lost World’ is the first book to get 1/5 stars from me this year. No matter how bad a novel is, I hate giving that rating. Even worse is leaving a book unfinished, which unfortunately I had to do with this one. I don’t usually say a book is no good, but in this instance I must point out certain narrative errors that eventually made me throw in the towel.

Having been seduced by the front cover that is deceptively reminiscent of that film-making masterpiece the ‘City of God‘, I picked up Melo hoping to have discovered yet another brilliant South American novelist. It wasn’t to be. The premise itself promises something in the persuasion of ‘No Country For Old Men‘, as it’s protagonist, one ex-contract killer by the name of Maiquel, sets off on a (I quote) ‘heart-stopping journey of revenge’. Mmm. Yeah. The ‘Guardian’ also hailed it as ‘A Hero’s journey with a difference’, and The List said it was ‘Casually brutal and utterly uncompromising, this Brazilian noir thriller is nerve-shreddingly compelling from start to finish’. Has it whet your appetite as it did mine? There was me thinking Javier Bardem‘s Mr. Chigurh gets his own novel, but boy was I wrong.

Let’s get one thing straight; first off, I’ve read a few of McCarthy’s novels and know he is famous for being a bit stingy with his prose. He is very much in the ‘show don’t tell’ school of novelists, but the important thing is he knows how to make that work for his story. Melo probably wanted to go after that sort of ‘leanness’ as well, but ended up omitting, skipping and rearranging some vital storyline elements like an amateur interior designer who decides to nail the sofa to the wall because they think its ‘innovative’.

For one, our main character isn’t introduced properly. In fact, NONE of the character’s are introduced properly. They are all sketches that are being constantly rubbed out and re-drawn to accommodate Melo’s last-minute ideas about what they SHOULD be like. This is very frustrating and tiring for a reader as we shouldn’t be made to work THAT much for a story. For instance, I didn’t even know what Maiquel LOOKED like. I discovered almost 60 pages on that he was a blonde who dyed his hair black.

There were also other things that did not match. Maiquel has come out of prison to pursue and punish his girlfriend (who he’s still a little bit in love with) for setting him up, kidnapping his daughter and running off with the local preacher. Melo also reminds us he is a fugitive. If so, wouldn’t you take care to hide your identity, keep a low profile? Not Maiquel. He goes around sleeping with strange women who end up complaining about him to policemen and stealing his wallet. He also rescues dogs that are victims of hit-and-run accidents and takes them to the vet (Assassin school lesson one: stay away from government buildings/ establishments). That’s not the end of it either. This supposedly brutal, heartless Hardman gets hold of his ex-girlfriends phone number and does what might you like? Yep. Rings her. Several times. Thus fairly putting the wind up her and causing her to shift locations. Idiot.

Maiquel’s not very bright. In fact, the other characters are much more intelligent than him which lowers his credibility as a MC to well, 0. Still, good girl that I am I managed to haul myself through roughly 100 pages to see where Melo was taking this stagnating storyline. After all, I was promised a ‘fearsome climax’, so I thought I’d look for it, and the climax usually begins to show from the middle onwards but I kind of lost the will to live, so to speak.

In short, this revenge story had lots of plot-holes in it. The initial personalities of certain characters were about 10 sizes too big for them. Such a pity. I wish I could say Melo’s ‘Lost World’ might be the victim of bad translation, but I don’t think so. If you truly want to read something that is dark, uncompromising with a contract-killer that has a fear-factor on par with Harris’s Hannibal Lecter (minus cannibalism) then opt for McCarthy’s ‘No Country For Old Men’. The movie is amazing too, you won’t regret it.

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