MILKSHAKE by Matt Hammond (2011)
Reviewed by Craig Sisterson
On the day David Turner is supposed to emigrate to New Zealand, he witnesses a savage murder and becomes caught up in ruthless global conspiracy. A thirty year-old technological discovery threatens his own future and jeopardises the lives of millions of others as David discovers that starting a new life is about to become a deadly game of cat and mouse... and, somewhat surprisingly, cows.
I found MILKSHAKE to be a relatively enjoyable, if flawed, debut political and environmental thriller. Overall, there is a good narrative drive, and plenty of action - but sometimes the writing isn't as smooth as some readers might like. Personally, I was frustrated by a little too much exposition and 'telling' (sometimes repeatedly - which is a pet peeve of mine, but doesn't bother some other readers as much), and Hammond seems to feel the need to regularly remind the reader of the situation the protagonist, David Turner, finds himself in (a bit too much 'spelling it out').
But despite some irritating flaws - which in all honesty aren't unexpected for a debut book that hasn't come through the editing process of a major publisher - I still found myself compelled to keep turning the pages. There is just something about this tale that even if the dialogue or exposition was bothering me, kept me wanting to find out what would happen to Turner. Hammond has brought together some really good ideas and interesting concepts, and also now and then shows a nice turn of phrase and descriptive passage, in amongall the action, with some good 'visuals'.
I was certainly intrigued, or hooked, to find out how it all comes together. And whether my home country would just become a testing ground for fuel-hungry Americans. I got a sense that MILKSHAKE could make a very good film.
Overall, I would say that MILKSHAKE is a good solid debut, that might have moved into the very good/great category with some further editing, rewriting, and tweaking before it was published. In all fairness, there are plenty of big-name, hugely popular bestsellers that suffer from the same flaws - plot and action-centric conspiracy thrillers where the writing is a little 'on the nose' (eg Dan Brown etc) and the dialogue a bit wooden or unrealistic.
I imagine many people would enjoy MILKSHAKE, which is entertaining and interesting.