Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

ORPHEUS RISING is a standalone from Colin Bateman, perhaps best known for his dark, comic previous offerings set mostly in Northern Island.  Which this one isn't - it's set in the US, albeit with an Irish central character - Michael Ryan.  Although you'd be hard pressed to remember he's supposed to be Irish, as the setting is 100% mid-Atlantic sort of nowhere particularly special.  But then I'd imagine setting wasn't the whole point of ORPHEUS RISING, although I confess I'm not 100% sure what the point of the book was at all.  

Basically Michael is smitten when he meets and eventually marries Claire.  He's been on a sort of a road trip around America, lobbing into the small town where she lives with her father - the local newspaper owner - at the time that's she's pulling the porn shop owner out of the ocean after a shark attack. Michael stays - works for the newspaper for a while - writes his great American novel.  Claire's got a bit of a past with a weird ex-boyfriend who she says isn't.   Long story short - she's shot dead in a bank robbery.  Michael goes completely off the rails, but returns, years later, the writer of the "great novel" who is haunted by visions of his wife, who he claims has returned from the dead.  Along with a whole heap of other people.

Now I confess I'm a huge fan of Colin Bateman's books - and ORPHEUS RISING wasn't really what I was expecting from this author - but the book just gets, well flat out weird very very quickly.  And it stays weird for most of the narrative.   And not good weird - just weird weird for a fair part of it.  This probably isn't helped by Michael Ryan starting off just a bit annoying and ending up very very annoying.  Maybe it's because some of the supporting characters are too over the top as well - Ambrose, who he is travelling with in the later part of the book, is just gross and mostly not very funny and Michael is flat out just unlikeable.  Not that being unlikeable is a bad thing for a central character - it's just that there's got to be something that keeps you interested in him - and I struggled to find a single thing that involved me.  

The structure of the book was interesting - maybe that was the only weird bit that was good weird.  But, despite a willingness to store my disbelief out the back, and expect the totally unexpected, ORPHEUS RISING ended up a bit too much like hard work.


Year of Publication

The first time Michael ever laid eyes on Claire she was pulling porn shop owner, Paul de Luca, out of the sea after a shark attack - Paul lost his feet and Michael his heart.

The last time he saw her she was laid out in the morgue, shot dead in a bank raid.

Review ORPHEUS RISING, Colin Bateman
Karen Chisholm
Tuesday, September 9, 2008

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