Stephen Lawhead is an author whose name I was familiar with, but hadn't yet sampled. When I received an offer to listen to his book The Skin Map (A Bright Empires novel) it was the tag line that convinced me to say yes.
"It is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure. Chasing a map tattooed on human skin. Across an omniverse of intersecting realities. To unravel the future of the future."
Kit Livingstone is on his way to visit his girlfriend Wilhemina. Somewhere along the way, he takes a shortcut through an unfamiliar alley in London, England and ends up.... Well, he's not quite sure where he ends up. But the man who greets him by name says he is his great grandfather Cosimo and he's been hoping Kit would show up. Cosimo spins a fantastic tale of ley lines, time travel and alternate worlds. Kit listens, but decides to head back to his own time. He finally gets to Wilhemina's apartment. She's quite angry at Kit for turning up almost 8 hours late and doesn't believe his reason, so Kit decides to show her instead. He find the alley again and makes the leap into the other world. But....Wilhemina loses her grip on Kit and doesn't make the jump. She is lost...somewhere. Kit rejoins Cosimo and his peers. They are seeking to keep The Skin Map - a tattooed version of the ley lines and their entry points safe. Kit just wants to find Mina.
I thought this was a great premise. Although I don't read a lot of sci-fi, the concept of ley lines is indeed fact based and the cause of much speculation in history.
The reader, Simon Bubb, was fantastic. He conveyed many different characters, conjuring up separate personalities with his voice. His reading style is even and measured. Bubb is British, but I had no problem understanding his accent. A five for the reader.
Although Kit is the main character, I found myself more drawn to Mina. She lands in 17th century Prague. She seems to assimilate much easier than Kit and embraces her new life. I found myself really looking forward to 'her' chapters.Kit seems more unsure of himself and content to follow.
I found the book very slow in the beginning. While I appreciated the historic detail Lawhead has infused his story with, it dragged for me after awhile. While I didn't fast forward, I would have been flipping forward if I had a book in hand. Again, the concept is great and I was looking forward to what would be found in these alternate universes. I kept waiting for things to happen - some action. I did get my wish close to the end of the book, but it wasn't a satisfying finish for me. I had the feeling that this first book was simply setting things up for future books in this planned five book series.
So, for me a solid listen. I'm curious as to what Lawhead has planned - the second book, The Bone House was released in September 2011, but it's not at the top of my must have list.
You can find Lawhead on Facebook