Let me start by saying that I never, ever wanted to love a book as much as I wanted to love this. Having spent my life looking up at Gillian Anderson as a role model, inspiration and feminist icon, I really desperately wanted to add her to my list of favourite authors. Which is probably why the disappointment was quite so crushing when I read her first novel. Although, to be fair, she co-wrote it with author-ghostwriter Jeff Rovin, so I’m not sure who to pin the bad writing on.
Billed as “a science fiction thriller of epic proportions” by the publisher, A Vision of Fire is really more of a spiritual drama of little thrill, very little sci-fi and limited proportions, I’m afraid. There’s a little bit of psychology, a little bit of medicine, and a whole lot of dabbling with mysticism from various eras and corners of the globe, but it fails to come together in a coherent narrative. There are some good ideas in there, but they are too vague, dealt with in passing, and not given a chance to develop any real depth or complexity.
The writing is clumsy and seems a bit forced, lingering too much on unnecessary details and not giving enough attention to the important thoughts. The characters are one-dimensional stereotypes and the story is pretty predictable and completely fails to engage. Anderson has said from the outset that the book – eventually to be extended into the “Earth End Saga” – will be adapted with her in the lead. And it actually very much reads like she thought up her perfect screen character and then constructed a story around it.
Much as I love all of Gillian Anderson’s other work to date (as an actor, screenwriter, director, producer…), I just can’t find anything to like about her literary collaboration. It may have worked if the authors had skipped the novel and gone straight to screenplay – and yes, of course I’ll be watching the movie – but I’m certainly not holding my breath for the sequel to the book.
That said, she’s still one of the most awesome women on the planet.