One Word Kill


I've been quite curious ever since Mark Lawrence made the announcement for his upcoming science fiction novel, One Word Kill. With nine fantasy yarns under his belt and a well-deserved reputation as one of the best SFF authors writing today, I wondered if Lawrence could make the jump to science fiction and wow readers in a different subgenre. After all, very few writers have been truly successful in this endeavor over the years, and I was wondering why none of the big SFF imprints elected to sign Lawrence to a book deal for this new series.

Well, ye of little faith and all that crap, I should have known better. True, it's a very short work and time will tell if Lawrence can maintain this level of quality and originality throughout the series, but suffice to say that One Word Kill delivers on basically all fronts. So it's mission accomplished as far as this novel is concerned.

Here's the blurb:

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons and Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.

If you've been following the Hotlist for a while, you probably know that cancer has hit my family pretty hard a number of times in the last decade or so. My mom is a breast cancer survivor, but two other people who were dear to me sadly weren't so fortunate and passed away. I also have a young cousin battling cancer as we speak and the jury's still out as to whether or not he will make it. Hence, every scene featuring Nick coping with the Big C as he put it had a big effect on me. Particularly the scenes taking place at the hospital during chemo treatments and all that they encompass, physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Those were extremely powerful and can hit you pretty hard. Mark Lawrence captured the essence of the disease and its effects on the patient and everyone around him close to perfection.

As is usually the author's wont, worldbuilding is only there to provide the tale's backdrop and doesn't intrude on the storytelling. Quantum physics, the multiverse theory, and time traveling are at the heart of One Word Kill, but this is no hard scifi work. Indeed, it's probably Lawrence's most accessible title thus far. The author does his best to dumb down the science involved and I'd say he succeeded in doing so.

Both the blurb and reviews claim that One Word Kill is akin to Stranger Things and I reckon that the TV series likely was an inspiration. And yet, I feel that the characterization has more to do with the members of the losers' club in Stephen King's It. As a former player, it was easy to relate to Nick's Dungeons and Dragons gang. Unfortunately, only Nick, the protagonist whose first person POV drives the story, and Mia, the mysterious goth girl who joins their little group unexpectedly, are well-drawn. Given that this novel is barely 200 pages long, I wish that Lawrence had taken a bit more time to further flesh out Simon, Elton, and John a little more. I understand that it's Nick and Mia's tale for the most part, but in the end everyone has a part to play for things to work out. Which is why I feel that they all deserved to be in the spotlight a little more. Having said that, your heart goes out to that bunch of geeks time and time again. And not just because of the drama or the violent episodes. One of the most memorable scenes of One Word Kill has to do with dancing lessons.

This is a decidedly short science fiction work, one you wish turned out to be quite longer. As such, the pace is never an issue. This compelling story makes for a quick read and I went through it in only three sittings. It's a good thing we'll get the two sequels in 2019 and won't have to wait long between each installment.

My only complaint would have to be that the endgame was inexplicably rushed. Given the size of One Word Kill, I have no idea why. Especially since a dramatic event occurs right at the end, one that is more or less glanced over, and which robs the ending of the emotional impact Lawrence wished to convey. Other than that and the fact that it's too short and I wanted more, I enjoyed everything about this book.

I also wish a responsible adult had given me the most important piece of advice you can give a teenager: Kiss the girl. So simple, yet so profound.

Looking forward to Limited Wish, the second volume in the Impossible Times series! Mark Lawrence proves yet again that he is not a one-trick pony and comes up with another captivating read in a new subgenre. This bodes well for the rest of this trilogy and whatever the author works on next. One Word Kill will be released in a few weeks and I commend this one to your attention. Especially since the digital edition will be quite affordable. And if you have yet to give Mark Lawrence a shot, this is the perfect opportunity to do so!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

1 commentaires:

Peter Willard said...

For members of Amazon Prime it's one of the choices of free books for April.