How do you follow a mind-blowing debut? The phrase ‘difficult second album’ is commonly expressed in the world of music crticism, and whilst I’ve never seen it articulated in bookish circles, it’s certainly a phenomenon that applies to novels too. ( I say I’ve never seen it, I have a sneaking suspicion I’ve used it as a review title before.)
Buzz does suffer a bit from DSA syndrome. It’s impossible not to compare to Game and it does come up short. Buzz is set a year or so after it’s predecessor. HP is still in exile. Rich and bored. His sister, Becca is a bodyguard and has been promoted to team leader. As the novel opens Becca is on detail in Darfur, HP about to embark on a drug addled excursion into the desert near Dubai. Both will end in disaster. Simple misfortune or dark machinations of the Game?
The problem Buzz have over Game is that HP and Becca, aren’t in control of the plot, or rather, for most of the novel the question as to who is controlling who is not present. Game was so fresh because it involved a thrilling cat and mouse chase, where you were never entirely clear who was the cat, and who was the mouse. Buzz’s narrative presents two comparatively straightforward whodunits, each of them investigated separately. The two threads intertwine but the tying together feels more forced; a coincidence too far perhaps?
Having said that this is still a very readable book. The mystery elements are intriguing; the book demands to be read. You still want to know what is going on. Buzz is particularly strong when it come to its core theme. Computer surveillance and our own culpability in allowing our online lives to be controlled. Use of the Internet to manipulate opinion, for good or Ill, is something that is become increasingly prevalent. HP becomes involved in a company embroiled at its most sinister fringes. De La Motte uses this to show how powerful opinion on the Internet can be and how little most people consider where it comes from. Since one of the Game’s main reasons for existence is control of information, it is no surprise that HP finds himself inexorably dragged back in.
The conclusion of the book is exciting, but it is very much a holding novel for the final part, Bubble. Everything is set up for this to be an excellent climax and fortunately for those who don’t like waiting, Bubble is available now.