Content warning: mention of depression, ableism and suicide
Author: Tony Thorne MBE
Publication date: June 10, 2017
Publisher: Etcetera Press
Genre: Sci-Fi, Espionnage, Thriller, Young Adult
In POINTS OF VIEW, the hero is a young blind Londoner, named Horace Mayberry, who gets fitted out with some nanotronic eyes. They are inherently intelligent and can develop various functions to assist in whatever awkward situations the lad gets into. Horace is a cautious lad, who also occasionally experiences vivid dreams. He is recruited into a secret government agency in payment for his new eyes, as an apprehensive assistant to an experienced agent, Captain Aubrey Jackson, and embarks on a series of adventures, including being abducted twice by an international gang of crooks, led by Rudolph Beckmann a billionaire financier who is after the secrets of the laboratory that developed the nanotronic eyes.
Each risky situation Horace encounters, including being kidnapped twice by the terrorists gang, cause his eyes to develop new superhuman abilities as they range over the entire electromagnetic spectrum. His experiences also enable his somewhat introvert personality to evolve too, and his dreams become more meaningful as he becomes somewhat impulsive and headstrong. Horace eventually captures the terrorists' leader but he manages to escape, leading to an exciting finale when the two agents, backed up by a Spanish SWAT team, try to locate the terrorist's hideout in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands!
It's the first time I write a review without having read the book until the end. You may wonder, then, how could I provide you with a full review? Well, I will rather tell you why I didn't manage to finish this reading.
Point of View, Tome 1, had everything to arouse my curiosity. First, it was a spy book, and it's one of my guilty pleasure, even if I haven't read that many novels of this genre. The second detail about the story was the fact we had a hero who is blind, at least at the beginning of the story. And, you may not know it yet, but I'm blind myself, and representation really matters to me. So I was glad to finally find the main character who shared something with me.
I will first talk of the story and the plot. At first sight, I thought the summary was promising. A super spy with advanced technological eyes, it could be very interesting! But halfway through my reading... I realized that I hadn't got attached to the characters. Maybe the doctor who implants Horace's new prosthetic eyes, because he is the kind of cryptic character that I love, the kind you want to slap in the face because he doesn't want to give the main character (and you, the reader, by the way) the answers he seeks, but he has something of Walter Bishop, any Fringe fans here? Whatever.
Horace... well, he is the character I wanted to discover the most. But despite the way his disability his dealt with (I will talk about this in a sec), I didn't manage to sympathize with him. At first, I thought it was because he was thrown in a world and an adventure of which he knew nothing (and really Professor Cryptic didn't help) but... this phase of the story was too long to my taste. I saw Horace going from an adventure to another and he was just standing there, doing nothing. OK, he didn't know he would become a spy, and he didn't get much information on what would happen to him... But I didn't manage to go beyond this aspect of the story.
I also have to admit that the way Tony Thorne pictured Horace's disability stopped me from loving the character. I thought I would relate to him due to his disability and… I did, maybe in the first chapter or so. The fact he lost his sight when he was a teenager and depression fell over him afterwards, I can understand. The difficulty of independence when you are blind, especially at the beginning is very nerve-racking and hard on you.
But we have an eighteen-year-old character who is blind, lock himself up in his room, is wealthy and bitter against his disability. I don't understand why able authors always think that you have to be bitter when you have a disability. It's not always easy to accept it, I'm still struggling myself even after a decade, but… in four years, never Horace had sought help for independence, people who could help him to learn how to accomplish daily tasks, such as cooking, navigating with a white cane or a guide dog. He learnt Braille, at least... but once more, this is reductive for blind people. We can live on our own with some help still, but there're things we can do. We can be depressed because of sight loss but we can also obtain mental support, health care and things that sighted people have.
Depicting Horace like he cannot really live until he gets his sight back is... well, I don't want to use too many strong words, because, with time I got used to this kind of representation, it's the archetypes of a blind person for sighted people. So I won't tell you I was really surprised. Disappointed certainly, as every time I start a book promising diversity. But if I can sometimes overcome clumsy representations for LGBTQI+ characters, for example (and the keyword is sometimes, not always) disability is too close to home.
Maybe the author had a sensibility reader for the topic of disability, maybe he knows a person who lost their sight and didn't accept it... but we need positive representations; not to see the disability as a problem you need to resolve, something else than the bitter/depressed/suicidal disabled or chronically heal person who can survive without an able to save their life. Either it is some people the disabled person will pay because, yes they necessarily need someone else to do things for them or someone who will make them get out of their bubble of depression and self-deprecation. It's difficult to write a positive representation of a disabled character because it sometimes borders on inspiration porn. But if you wish to write a marginalized character (either it is a person of colour/disabled/LGBTQI+/etc) make your researches, please. There're a lot of resources on the Internet, articles, testimony, organizations, etc... and if you can, beta-read your story with a sensibility reader concerned by the minority you want to represent.
Sorry, I might have been a bit hard in this review and really, what I said it's not only for the author of Point Of View. I'm sure his book is full of adventures after a few more chapters, and people will sympathize and get attached to Horace. It was the opportunity for me to approach the topic of diversity in literature; because representation matters.