Entangled might just be the worst book I have ever almost read.
I persevered. I got two-thirds through the book, desperately trying to find something worthwhile and interesting. There were enough intriguing concepts to keep me going, hoping for better content and more of a plot. After the first quarter, reading Entangled turned into drudgery and work. As I progressed, the tome fizzled. Eventually all the crap just overshadowed my curiosity and I finally gave it up, relieved.
This is Graham Hancock’s first fiction book. Hancock is a British writer and journalist. His areas of interest are ancient mysteries, stone monuments, altered states of consciousness, ancient myths and astronomical/astrological data from the past. One of the main themes running through many of his books is the possible global connection with a “mother culture” from which he believes all ancient historical civilizations sprang.
The book has two main protagonists, both teenage girls, one a 17-year-old spoiled brat daughter of a billionaire named Leoni in Los Angeles in 2010, the other a 16-year-old Cro-Magnon hunter named Ria that lived 24,000 B.C. in northern Spain. Through twists in the universe timeline, the two girls’ paths intertwine in “the spirit world.” An intriguing concept that piqued my interest and got me to buy the book and start reading.
But soon I realized that the writing is inept and the characters are as shallow as shadows. Take, for example Ria, the Cro-Magnon girl in the stone age. I understand that she would not speak English. The author, in order to convey stone-age thought and sentiment, would need to come up with a way to allow us to understand the character while having them speak English, without it becoming disturbingly obvious. Jean Auel did a good job with that.
As an example of this, let me show you how Chapter Eighteen starts. Ria has just been convinced by her Neanderthal friend Brindle that she should be taking hallucinogenic mushrooms, against the rules of her upbringing and powerful superstitious taboos:
Despite her worries, it wasn’t too long before Ria was having a good time. On Brindle’s further encouragement she had feasted on the mushrooms – she had forgotten how hungry she was – and now she was just hanging out, tuning in to the strange rhythms that the Uglies were producing. Her thoughts flew and soared on the bone song’s sad notes, swirled and dived amongst rivers of flowing colors…
Meanwhile Brindle was out of it. Not communicating. Silent. It wasn’t like he was asleep…
And had eating the mushrooms made any difference to her? Ria did a quick inventory. She hadn’t been turned into a tiger-toothed demon. She hadn’t been driven insane. Clan lore on these matters were obviously full of shit…
It is difficult for me to read that a Cro-Magnon huntress, after eating mushrooms, was “having a good time.” Teenagers in California “have a good time” when doing drugs. There must be a better way to describe stone-age adventures. Also, she was “just hanging out, tuning in…”
Brindle is a Neanderthal youth. I can’t deal with a Neanderthal being “out of it.” Or the girl thinking that her clan lore about poisonous mushrooms was “full of shit.”
The book is full of such trite phrases. The plot is boring and pointless. The writing is atrociously bad and juvenile. The structure of alternating and often very short chapters from the view-point of Ria, then Leoni, each with a cliffhanger ending, before switching back to the other line, is almost as disorienting as the content itself.
Now about the content. This is a book that Hancock obviously wanted as a tool to convey his musings and opinions. He is interested in the supernatural. Good writers have taken such concepts and developed them into powerful books. Examples are Stephen King’s Under the Dome. A believable and plausible story is built around the concept of what would happen if all of a sudden there was an impenetrable invisible dome put over a town. Another example is Stephen King and Peter Straub’s Talisman. What would happen if there were another reality, an underworld, parallel to ours, called The Territories, that some people could cross over into? A more recent example is Orson Scott Card’s Pathfinder, where the main characters have the ability to distort time in peculiar ways. The protagonist in Nicholson Baker’s The Fermata has the ability to stop time for everyone in the universe while he walks around. In his case, he uses the skill to satisfy his urge to undress women without their consent.
In each case, the author picked a very strange or impossible power or capability, led the reader to believe that it was possible, and built a great and entertaining story around it. The reader accepts the basic premise and is never jarred out of the story.
Hancock, however, crams so much of his pseudo-philosophy into the plot that I could not help but roll my eyes.
- Time twists in convoluted ways so there are places were various timelines cross and bunch up, making it possible for beings to cross over and travel through time.
- Out-of-body experiences are real and not hallucinations. People can interact with others during such experiences.
- There is a universal good – here the Blue Lady, an angel-like being with blue skin who acts like a god but can’t get rid of her own demons.
- There is a universal evil – here called Sulpa in the stone age and Jack (go figure) in the 21st century who drinks the blood of children and commits atrocities of unimaginable proportions.
- Drugs, like mushrooms, potions and chemicals can simulate out-of-body experiences.
- Neanderthals [the Uglies] communicate telepathically with each other and with Cro-Magnons of their liking without requiring spoken language.
- Neanderthals have healing powers when they link arms and chant. Bright blue light comes out of their hands and seeps into wounds and heals them in hours.
The author piles so many of these concepts into the story that it starts looking like a puzzling mess of weirdness that just does not make sense anymore. The flat characters just seem to bob around in this Castanedan tie-died world making little sense, but telling each other banalities and obscenities.
The book is written as the first book of a trilogy. The critics say there is no ending. I didn’t get far enough to notice, so when I stopped at 69%, my ending was probably as good as that of any other readers. I will not read the next books.
Rating: zero stars.