Burridge paints beautiful imagery of the Seychelle Islands, which are north and slightly west of Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean. His love of the area is present, even throughout some of the more gruesome events depicted in "Kolony."
The novel begins with a prologue, set in 1882 England, in which a young, aristocratic woman is wooed and then deceived, brutally raped and murdered by one Eric Liddle, who we learn is a pirate. Liddle's escape via ship ends the prologue. The first chapter takes place far away, on one of the Seychelle Islands, and depicts the human sacrifice of young boy by a mysterious man whose most distinguishing feature is an extremely long thumbnail, which has been filed on one side to almost razor sharpness. So we're clearly dealing with some bad folks, here.
Burridge introduces us to his protagonist, Timothy Scully, at the beginning of the third chapter. Scully is returning to the Seychelles from the Far East, where he had been working as a diver (SCUBA, not Olympic). His return is prompted by the news that his fiancee has disappeared.
Mystery, intrigue, and mayhem ensue.
I'm not going to get into much more, if any, detail about the plot itself. My overall experience with the book was disappointing, unfortunately, for more than one reason.
First of all, after the prologue, there is really no clear indication that the story has jumped forward to the 21st Century until well into the 2nd chapter. Nothing in the description of the characters in the human sacrifice episode gave me any clue that the story was no longer set in the late 1800s. In fact, we don't actually learn that little detail until about halfway through the entire book, which is over 600 pages long (paperback). That was more than a little annoying to me, because until thumbnail man reappeared, I had no idea why the first chapter was even in the book. Plotwise, it wasn't necessary as written.
I also had difficulty keeping track of who was speaking throughout much of the story. Part of this may be related to publishing and printing choices, which I'll address shortly. But the main problem was Burridge's frequent habit of writing dialogue without beginning a new paragraph whenever changing speakers. If a writer is going to stray from that convention, he should at least throw in a "he said," or "she said," just to help the reader stay with him. There were several times when I had to back up almost an entire page just to retrace whose turn it was to speak.
This next issue could either be attributed to Burridge, or perhaps to his publisher. I mentioned the dialog not being sufficiently broken up into paragraphs. But the paragraphs themselves were often difficult to identify. Usually, a book will indent the beginning of a paragraph, or skip a line, as I'm doing in this post. Sometimes both, but that's really overkill. Kolony does neither. The only indication that a new paragraph has begun is that the previous line of text does not reach all the way to the right hand margin. As with the dialogue issues, this sometimes made it very difficult to follow the story. More difficult than I would have thought, actually.
There is quite a bit of action in Kolony, but something about Burridge's style made it very hard for me to follow it. Many times I read a passage thinking that the characters were standing within arm's length, only to find out later (through inferrence only) that they were in fact barely within earshot of each other. It certainly changes the dynamic of a situation to find out that, not only could two rivals not touch each other; they wouldn't have been able to have a successful rock fight.
A few more points, and I'll be on my way...
There was a little too much Deus ex machina for my taste.
My favorite character was a dog.
So many characters were revealed to be in league with "the bad guys" that it stopped being a revelation after a while, and more of a "okay, I was wondering when we were going to find out."
The dog was really big.
The good guys win, sort of.
That was one awesome dog.
Burridge's account of how the bad guys got to be the way they are did not make me suspend disbelief. In other words, throughout the entire novel, I was fully aware that I was "reading a book," and not experiencing a story. Big difference.
One of the most badass dogs ever.
The epilogue was in the form of a letter from one character to the protagonist. By the time I got to it, I didn't really even care that it was set in a script font that was almost too small to read.
I really wanted to be able to recommend "Kolony." But I'm afraid that dog will eat me if I do.