TPG reviews: Infinity’s Reach, by Glen Robinson
Poorly plotted and largely devoid of thrills, Infinity’s Reach is an experience best avoided
Life was pretty simple for Infinity Richards as a teenager in a private school in Baltimore. Then she woke up to discover that she’d spent the past two years in a prison camp.
Now she and her friends are faced with a trek across a forbidding landscape scarred by a surprise nuclear attack on the United States. Their journey will lead them past hot zones, warlords, “crazies,” occupying Coalition forces and an assortment of allies and foes.
It may take her years to get to Camp Zion in the West where her father is reorganizing American forces to take back their country. But in the meantime, her journey across apocalyptic America will turn her into someone stronger, smarter and more courageous than she ever imagined she would be. More than three centuries ago, John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, second only to the Bible in readership. Now Infinity’s Reach revisits the challenges and lessons of the original Pilgrim’s Progress in a totally new and exciting setting.
If nothing else, Infinity’s Reach starts well. The book opens to Infinity and three of her friends lazing their days away in a summer resort. Hints are soon dropped that all is not as it seems: no-one can remember how or when they came to the resort, nor can they recall when they’re supposed to be leaving. It is soon revealed that the resort is nothing more than a drug-induced illusion and that the girls are really prisoners in a concentration camp.
Unfortunately, this sums up my experience with this book quite nicely.
For me, the first serious warning signs were in the second chapter. Infinity and one of her friends, Ellie, manage to escape the camp with the help of a secret service agent codenamed Evangelist. The girls are too weak to travel far, so Evangelist nurses them for two days only a short distance away from the camp – and nobody notices them. I guess prison security isn’t what it used to be.
Not long after leaving the camp, Ellie and Infinity begin to remember the days leading up to their imprisonment. This, among other things, leads them to realise who is responsible for the attack on the USA. I think I’ll just let the book speak for itself on this one:
“The country has plenty of enemies, but if you had been following the news, you’d know that the most likely candidate is the Asian Coalition. And they have enough money to throw around that they probably hired others as well.”
This is just about the closest that the book ever gets to an explanation. All we are ever told is that the Asian Coalition, which includes both Korea and China, went ahead invaded the USA because…well, because. If this premise sounds a touch xenophobic to you, then you’re not alone. There was certainly ample room to address this issue, but the book never even attempts to do so.
Shortly after this, Ellie is recaptured by the Coalition and disappears from the narrative, leaving Infinity as the undisputed main protagonist. Evangelist reunites with Infinity and takes her to an allied camp to receive survival training, but tells her that he must leave her afterwards. This is where Infinity’s journey truly begins, and is also where the novel completely falls apart.
I had several issues with Infinity as a character, but the biggest one is that we never really get to see her develop; instead, much of her development happens off-screen. Upon arriving at the allied camp, Infinity is as hopeless as one might expect; one training montage later, she is able to ambush an experienced agent in a field exercise. After realising that the Coalition is onto her, she decides to stick to the wilderness; after a two year time-skip, we suddenly see her as a grizzled survivor. This is, quite frankly, lazy storytelling and it robs this book of much of its potential.
Evangelist’s reintroduction, by the way, marked the beginning of a second problem: Infinity rarely herself moves the plot forward in any meaningful way. Rather, she spends much of the book going from one man to the next and it is only through their protection that she manages to survive for any length of time. More than once, a male character is reintroduced out of nowhere simply because the plot damn well needed it to happen in order for progress to be made.
I should also point out that the book subjects us to not one, but two scenes of Infinity gearing herself up for combat. In both cases she settles on two pistols and a crossbow. At no point does she ever actually use her pistols, while her crossbows are used to dispatch exactly one unnamed goon over the course of the novel. Katniss, she most certainly isn’t.
Most of the other characters are so one-note as to be hardly worth mentioning. Infinity’s original band of friends quickly becomes irrelevant, while her male companions often read more like plot devices than living, breathing human beings. The villains, meanwhile, are all flat and the primary antagonist is not even introduced until late into the book.
Furthermore, the plot is decidedly loose. Infinity blunders into situations, parts ways or joins up with a man, then moves westward onto the next. Infinity makes a major impact on the world around her exactly once; said impact is promptly rendered moot a few chapters later. All of this is eventually capped off by a climax which barely even qualifies as such: Infinity is captured, is rescued and is then exposited to while the villain is curbstomped off-screen. Yawn.
There is very little to recommend about Infinity’s Reach. The plot is unfocussed, the characters uninteresting and the ending anticlimactic in the extreme. By three quarters of the way through, I just wanted it to end so that I could move on. Do yourself a favour and give this a miss.
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