Quick review: This book is really well-written and the story is original but the ending lets it down a little in that the moral of the story ends up being that “love conquers all”.
A bit more comprehensive review: This book drew me in right from the start. Max Barry can make the smallest of moments interesting and really, isn’t that a crucial component of being a writer? I was drawn to this book as a thriller about “words” and it is in a small sense, but it’s more about psychology and the manipulation of words in a supernatural way.
Emily and Wil are interesting main characters, flawed (which is a nice change) but not completely off putting. I kept wondering about who was the “traditional” bad guy and it ended up being neither of them even though Emily could easily have been that person. Keeping this knowledge from the reader for as long the author did was a really nicely played move.
The use of newspaper articles and online media and social media chats at the end of each chapter was really effective and gave an extra level of meaning to the book – it is a fable about the perils of government and corporate manipulation and control. And the use of poets as cover names I would think is akin to hiding broccoli in a child’s spaghetti and meatballs – I hope it makes a few people investigate the terrific writers referenced.
There is a lot of violence and killing in the book so be warned if that sort of thing bothers you.
And a great big shout out (as an Australian) for making Broken Hill the scene of “where it all began”. I really enjoyed that the story went off the beaten track because, honestly, how many stories can you have that are set in New York and Washington and London without becoming completely sick of them? (There’s a cap, trust me.) And even though Broken Hill isn’t exotic, it is an iconic Australian location.
I would definitely recommend giving this book a read.
*First published on Goodreads 22 September 2013