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Editor reviews

The mass suicide of seven thousand king penguins is just the first of many ominous "portents" in best-selling thriller writer James Herbert's tale of escalating natural disaster. The very Earth itself seems to be fighting humanity like an immune system defending itself against a foreign virus, but there seems to be more at work, as magic, strange orbs of light, and children with psychic abilities come into play. Jonathon Keeble performs the audiobook, the gravity of his theatrical delivery bringing the full weight of this epic thriller down to the surface of our fragile planet.

Summary

The end is beginning. The time is just a few short years from now. But already the signs of global disaster are multiplying. Freak storms, earthquakes, floods volcanic eruptions are sweeping the earth. The last violent spasms of a dying planet. Then a series of ominous events signal the emergence of new and terrifying forces.

While scuba-diving on the Great Barrier Reef a diver watches fascinated as a tiny light floats past him towards the surface. Moments later he is torn to pieces as the reef erupts with shattering power. In the Chinese city of Kashi, travellers bring back reports of a strange light seen shining above the endless dunes of the Taklimakan Desert. And as the city's inhabitants watch for its return the desert rises up like a vast living thing to engulf them in a colossal tidal wave of sand. All have seen a portent: a sign of unimaginable powers about to be unleashed. A sign that something incredible is about to begin.

James Herbert was one of Britain's greatest popular novelists and our #1 best-selling writer of chiller fiction. Widely imitated and hugely influential, he wrote 23 novels which have collectively sold over 54 million copies worldwide and been translated into 34 languages. Born in London in the forties, James Herbert was art director of an advertising agency before turning to writing fiction in 1975. His first novel, The Rats, was an instant best-seller and is now recognised as a classic of popular contemporary fiction. Herbert went on to publish a new top ten best-seller every year until 1988. He wrote six more bestselling novels in the 1990s and three more since: Once, Nobody True and The Secret of Crickley Hall. Herbert died in March 2013 at the age of 69.

©1992 James Herbert (P)2013 Audible Ltd

Critic reviews

"Herbert was by no means literary, but his work had a raw urgency. His best novels, The Rats and 'he Fog, had the effect of Mike Tyson in his championship days: no finesse, all crude power. Those books were best sellers because many readers (including me) were too horrified to put them down." (Stephen King)
"There are few things I would like to do less than lie under a cloudy night sky while someone read aloud the more vivid passages of Moon. In the thriller genre, do recommendations come any higher?" (Andrew Postman, The New York Times Book Review)
"Herbert goes out in a blaze of glory" ( Daily Mail)

What listeners say about Portent

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Jonathan Keeble brings this audio book to life

Loved it. Brilliant story by Herbert brought together by the wonderful English voice of narrator Keeble. Kept me wanting more and more as I listened. Now looking to purchase another Herbert/Keeble book

4 people found this helpful

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Time changes everything.

I read this book first when I was 18. I've been carrying the paperback version from place to place ever since and when my eye rests on it I say to whoever is with me - 'have you read this? It's great. Very pertinent now.' When I was 18 I found this book unputdownable. Not so much now.

I allow leeway for the fact this book was written some time ago. Scarily almost 30 years. There's quite a bit of casual racism. Everyone is white unless pointed out by the author. Anyone of colour is a baddie. The 'baddies' are drawn in crass stereotypes. All the things i notice now that I did not notice then I am ashamed to say. However, setting that aside surely the underpinnings of the book are still sound? Well not really. I didn't actually care that much about the characters besides pogsy and bibi. They are the only two characters who are drawn sympathetically with some understanding of their history. Poor old Mac is almost completely unexplained.

I found the character 'Diana' inexplicable and the reasons she did things and agreed things maddening. The narrator especially made her particularly annoying!

The children were not endearing. You didn't warm to them.

So these are the things I liked. I liked the idea of the Portent. I liked the Gaia affect and the quote by Chief Ottawa. I remembered that these things had led me to do further research when I read it for the first time. I like the huge set pieces and I could see that it could be a humdinger of a disaster movie - I can only think it wasn't picked up due to the cost.

I feel that someone could pick this book up and rewrite it - some of the scenes are boring. The dialogue is often dull. It needs a good re-write. The characters could do with a bit of sophistication. But underneath the book still has an interesting premise.

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Not one of his best

Jonathan Keeble always narrates well and gives the story some depth but this story was disappointing. Very long winded but having read a number of James Herbert's books I do wonder how he came up with so much horror.

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Not Herbert's best

Reader was too loud at times, and his attempt at women - meh! Story OK but very dated

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Climate change given the James Herbert treatment.

In the near future the world is feeling the full force of climate change and a series of global disasters are increasing. Witnesses claim to see a ball of light before each catastrophe, ‘tinkerbell’ a portent, a warning. The ‘Last Days’ are coming, and one man stands in the way of total ecological annihilation.

James Herbert stories are quintessentially British, books like The Rats, The Fog and The Survivor are all set in England. But with Portent, his 16th novel published in 1992, he went global, it’s a story stretching from Australia to the Caribbean, from India to Louisiana, however it’s core, and it’s hero climatologist James River, are still planted firmly in England.

Portent’s theme of ecological disaster due to climate change was highly topical on its publication. Herbert hadn’t addressed topical issues before in any of his previous books (and he wouldn’t do again). Climate change came to international public attention in the late 1980s and although concern has grown over the years governments around the world were initially skeptical and ignored the warnings (some still do). It is from that point of view quite forward-thinking, and consequently still holds up today.

I have re-read most of James Herbert’s books, some like the Rats trilogy for example, several times. But this is the first time I have read Portent since its publication. It’s not a typical Herbert story, it’s as far removed from The Rats as Herbert would go, apart from maybe Fluke. It has the same structure of his other books, a main story augmented with small vignettes. It’s these vignettes which occur all over the world that give the book its panoramic effect. However this is still a James Herbert book at heart and therefore quite graphic at times and still slightly un-nerving. It’s a bleak story. And it still has a dark menacing ‘villain in the grotesque Madame Pitié. The only criticism I would make here is that she isn’t involved quite as much as i would’ve liked, she sort of floats in the background until the finale. This finale too I felt could’ve offered more.

However I really enjoyed re reading, and listening too Portent , I alternated between reading my original hardback copy and listening to the Audible version read by Johnathan Keeble, and because its been a while I had forgotten most of it. As I have said I think it still holds its own, it’s still topical, it has the James Hebert feel running though it but most of all its entertaining.

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Excellent I would recommend

Loved it, very moving, left me with a lot to think about. The reader added a lot to it.

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eye opening

This story verges on the ever present threat to our mother earth and in a fantasy style shows a possible future...its clear James did a lot of research to write this book and make it an more believable

The narrator Jonathan managed well to give each character as close to realist variety as he could and should be proud of his work

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Another great book by James Herbert

Brilliantly narrated. Interesting concept and another great James Herbert book. Would recommend this read on audible.

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Another winner

Wonderfully narrated by Jonathan Keeble, this book will keep you enthralled from start to finish.
Highly recommended.

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we didn't listen then...

and we're still not listening now...

Now, I'm no great fan of Political Corectness, especially in writing, but I have to start, before I say anything more about this book, with an apology for the horribly racist portrayal of Mama Petite, the 'misguided' bad guy of the story and her henchmen, who are described in such appallingly racist language, and are such cardboard cut out stereotypes it even made me blush.

That aside the book is well worth reading, especially now that the whole Gaia intelligence thing has popped up again, and Europe stands on the threshold of yet another war...

When will humankind WAKE UP !?

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  • Karl
  • 07-03-21

Hasn’t aged well

Can’t put my finger on it but whether it’s the narrator or the author, it just hasn’t made the jump over to the new century.

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  • Cheryl Williams
  • 05-11-20

I hated this book!!

The author was blatantly racist against black people. His descriptions of them were cringe worthy! I mistook this book for The Portent by Marilyn Harris, a much more entertaining, creepy story. Unfortunately that book is unavailable on Audible. And if the reader referred to gushing mounts of water as "geezers" rather than geysers one more time, I think I would have thrown my phone against a wall.