I don’t pretend to totally understand chaos theory: butterflies flapping their wings on the other side of the world seem distant and, if I’m honest, rather insignificant to me. Jealousy and envy – that I get. Who hasn’t been a little envious when their friend got the boy, the job, the promotion…?
Mike Robinson skillfully blends chaos with jealousy and supernatural horror in The Green-eyed Monster, a book filled with characters as eerie and strange as anything thought up by King or Koontz.
James Becker and Martin Smith are writers so alike they are almost the same person. They were born at virtually the same time in virtually the same place and echo each other’s lives from school onwards. But the boys are deadly rivals, each trying to outdo the other at every opportunity.
The book opens with the death of Becker at the hands of Smith. How the two men got into this situation is then told in flashback, through the eyes of the people with whom they connect – if connect is what you can call it. The boys never talk to anyone else, they never have friends, girlfriends or join clubs.Yet their classmates cannot think of one without the other. They are inseparable in the minds of all who know of them.
Their story is told through the eyes of their first teacher, a classmate in high school and the cop who arrests Smith for Becker’s murder. This device works perfectly, allowing Robinson to show us how the pair influence those around them whilst maintaining the ‘otherness’ of the boys themselves. And through their writing, their influence is most definitely evil and sinister.
Robinson’s writing is exquisite. He weaves poetry from the dreadful things he sees and describes beauty in the evil resulting from the words of Becker and Smith. The voices of the narrators are believable and consistent and the story drew me in so much I was turning the pages long after bedtime.
But – and it pains me that there is a but – in the final few chapters it seems that the author lost his way. Remember how amazing The Matrix was? And then how exasperated you felt when Neo spent so much time discussing metaphysical philosophy with the Architect? As with the end of this book, I was left feeling let down, confused and a little bit angry. When Smith eventually meets ‘Grandfather’, an amorphous character who has circled and influenced both men from childhood, the story seems to go off on a totally different direction. Like God addressing Adam, Grandfather takes over the end of the book with a long monologue on creation, philosophy, good and evil. And it was, for this reader, just a little boring and irrelevant.
If I were to rate the first 90% of the book it would earn an easy 5*. With the disappointing end, I’d have to take it down to 4*.
In summary, Mike Robinson is a writer I’d love to read again and The Green-eyed Monster is still a brilliant, atmospheric and tense read, even with the disappointing end.