What an utterly utterly ridiculous book this is. This is, I suppose, Sci-Fi-omance, where Steel was either being exceptionally experimental or just odd.
I dug in eagerly to this after enjoying ‘Star’ so much, and my senses were instantly put on alert by Steel’s revolutionary use of the first person. That’s right, I was genuinely exited by a tense. This just shows how much Steel’s ‘formulaic’ and ‘cliched’ writing style works, in grabbing and holding readers; when she makes even the smallest of changes you feel either betrayed in an almost Job-like way, or privileged you have been chosen, through your selection of this reading matter, to join her on this “journey”.
This journey begins in a similar fashion to all the others. Steph is left by her philandering husband, who she married young, after he has met a younger woman with a bigger trust fund to mollycoddle him. The first thing that made me angry was how Steph then ‘re-invents’ herself. She doesn’t look at the situation and think, ‘that man was a shit and I could do better’, oh no, she decides with the help of a therapist that Rat-Man left because she had become slovenly, not shaving her legs, wearing make up or sexy underwear, and not generally conforming to his heteronormative expectations as passed down from a patriarchal, consumerist culture. Instead of fighting the power, Steph proceeds to cut her hair every six weeks, invest in a ladyshave and spend all the remains of the trust fund on silky pants, you know like you’re supposed to.
Rat-Man takes the kids to France for the summer and Steph decides later to join them in Paris. If there is one thing I will say about the book, the relationship between Steph and her children is incredibly well done. You see the angsty ‘normal’ side of mother/teenage daughter relationships brilliantly in the interactions between Charlotte and Steph, and her son Sam is clearly a Treasure. In fact, in all Steel’s books, the children have been well done, well rounded characters, in fact often she writes them better than their parents. I would love to read a kids book by her, as I think she’d be quite good at it.
Anyway, whilst relaxing in her silky drawers by the Seine, Steph meets Peter, an American biotechnics engineer also holidaying in Paris. This is the beginning of a lovely romance, that carries on to their summer in Lake Tahoe (of course!) and develops into something more serious. Although the children are hesitant at first, they gradually warm to Peter and become a happy little ‘family’ unit.
And that could be it. Right there, you’ve got a lovely little Quick Read waiting to happen. But Steel had taken one to many happy pills that morning (either that or her publisher can’t do runs of only 140 pages) because, from completely out of the blew, Steel goes all Sci-Fi on yo ass.
Introduced to the family is the Klone, Paul Klone, a weird robot/clone/biobot thing that isn’t fully explained, to the point where I’m not sure it is supposed to make sense. Basically, Klone is a clone-robot in the shape of Peter that he has been developing as part of some top secret programme. For reasons best known to himself, Peter invites Klone to stay with the family, without telling anyone first, whilst he is away on business. Because that already makes so much sense, Steel complicates this even more by deciding Klone but have the personality of MC Hammer crossed with Sam from Sex and/on/in The City. He turns up wearing Versace bling, wanders around like Lady GaGa’s stunt double and spends all his (Peter’s, I think, from this point I was so befuddled I couldn’t really keep a grasp on the actual plot, and was doing the opening and closing of the mouth whilst making ‘but where’s the Titled Older Man who is going to whisk you away? why have you changed things? what happening?’ noises in the way of a toddler on the first day of nursery who has just seen mummy drive away in the Jag and has been left in the car of a sixteen year old wearing sovereigns and polyester) money on champagne and handbags.
For some reason, Steph takes all this in, decides he is not a nutter and in fact should definitely be aloud to stay in her house with her children. She then decides the best ting to do would be to sleep with him. His sexual adventures include something called ‘the triple flip’, basically doing somersaults whilst actually shagging, which made me either want to start making diagrams in the style of More magazines ‘positions of the week’ (the most laughably vanilla sex-education in print, missionary style, anyone?) or just be a bit sick. This turns into the most unfunny charade I’ve ever read, and to be honest with you, I couldn’t finish the book. By the time the ‘love-triangle’ is really kicking off between Steph, Peter and the Klone, I was a) not bothered and b) bored stupid by Steel’s attempts firstly at humour (think Wendy Holden on a really really off day) and then at introducing an element of science that made less sense that Manikin (you know, the one where Sam from SI/O/ATC goes forwards in time etc).
I know, its really bad of my not to finish the book, but it’s awful! And its not just me that thinks so! This book got trashed by even her most ardent fans. Look at goodreads if you don’t believe me, loads and loads and loads of people agree with me, its crap. Everything went well in the end though, because I started ‘No Greater Love’, which is much better. Lesson learnt from this one: stick to what you know!