First published back in November of 1992, British author James Herbert’s novel ‘Portent’ followed on from an impressive line of well-received novels.

DLS Synopsis:
All of a sudden the whole world started to go crazy.  As if nature was fighting back against mankind, natural disasters began to erupt everywhere.  Devastating earthquakes shook the very ground across the world.  Floods wreaked their unforgiving havoc.  Gigantic hailstones rained down from the sky.  Freak storms and powerful twisters cut across defenceless communities.  And volcanoes erupted, spilling their deadly lava.  The world had well and truly gone berserk.

Each time one of these dramatic and devastating ecological disasters struck, a strange glowing orb could be seen floating around in the near vicinity immediately prior to the impending destruction.  To witness one of the curious globes was a prelude to almost certain death.

British climatologist James Rivers knows all too well about the uncontrollable force that can be unleashed by mother of nature.  Having narrowly survived a plane crash at the hands of Hurricane Zelda, Rivers is in the position of being very familiar with the destructive power of the Mother Nature.

Rivers is certain that there must be a reason for this sudden influx of monumentally devastating climatic disasters at near-biblical proportions.   And as he searches for any possible answers to the mayhem being unleashed, Rivers finds himself in the company of the eccentric Hugo Poggs and his daughter Diane Poggs. 

Slowly, Rivers begins to realise that the young orphaned twins that Diane Poggs had adopted have some very special abilities.  The twins appear to have mind-bogglingly pronounced psychic abilities, as well as incredible healing powers.  And slowly their connection with the dramatic ecological events that are taking place begins to reveal itself to Rivers.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a High Priestess of a strange New Orleans Earth Cult is working her cruel and destructive powers.  The Priestess’ evil is now searching out the twins.  Her unrelenting hatred must see the death of the children.

One man stands in the way of utter ecological annihilation.  One man who is finding answers to questions he barely believes are even real.  One man who must get to the root of it all, and protect those that are good and pure.  One man who stands to lose everything...

DLS Review:
James Herbert’s ‘Portent’ is a strangely disappointing read.  On paper, the premise sounds crammed with definite potential.  An ecological-apocalypse with a hefty helping of Stephen King-esque supernatural horror thrown in for good measure!  As I said, on paper it sounds like a right rip-roarer of a read.  Alas, it doesn’t live up to such promises.

For such an already well-established and one of the un-doubtable masters of the horror genre, reading ‘Portent’ is utterly perplexing.  The novel does start off reasonably well, throwing the reader into the ecological mayhem that is being unleashed across the globe.  Things certainly seem hopeful from here, and the excitement begins to build.  However, at this point, when the storyline begins to really start cooking, Herbert slams on the breaks, and instead bundles in an odd collection of boring obstacles for the principal protagonist to overcome.

First up is getting him to believe in the paranormal and psychic connection that the twins have.  Admittedly, Average Joe would be somewhat sceptical about such abilities.  However, that doesn’t really make for edge-of-the-seat progression.  Let’s not get bogged down with all of the ponderings of “but how can it be?”.  Just smash those doubts and get the hell on with it.

But instead of bringing the tale back to the former adrenaline-fuelled glory of the first handful of pages, Herbert keeps on with the plodding-pace of the psychic twins connection, until the reader just wants to strangle the two of ‘em just to move on.

The plot seems threadbare, with more of a meandering style employed to keep the tale going (but not necessarily forwards).  The plot had so many promises for an epic ecological and dramatically supernatural read.  None of which are ever developed upon.  Instead the tale just plods onwards, until the ending pretty much just wanders into place.

After reading the novel you can’t help but feel utterly cheated.  This is after all, a novel by James Herbert!  How on earth is it so poorly constructed and shockingly slow-paced?  It barely holds together any of its unusually weak storyline.  Disappointing is certainly the key word when describing the novel.

A very fine sprinkling of positive points do go in some way to rescuing a very small amount of the tale.  The characterisation of Rivers and the menacing High Priestess is admittedly darn good to say the least.  The early pages detailing the destructive ecological disasters are energetic and utterly captivating.  And the basic pencil-sketch premise is pretty sound from a merely conceptual point-of-view.  For the rest of the novel, you might as well give up now.

However, not everyone agrees with such an opinion.  Some readers have loved the book.  It’s one which I personally think should still be read, to see where you stand on this puzzling novel.  But for me, I can’t see myself every returning to the book again!

The novel runs for a total of 384 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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