Good afternoon, everyone,
Today I’ll be telling you about Power Word…
oops, I mean One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence.
Any longtime follows of this blog or…life will know I have a soft spot for Mark Lawrence as his Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off is what made me begin to take myself seriously as a writer. Consequently, that competition helped me discover an incredible online community as well as terrific authors such as Josiah Bancroft, Jonathan French, Dyrk Ashton, and a slew of others.
Also, the Broken Empire trilogy (beginning with Prince of Thorns) is one of my all-time favorite reads.
So when the Impossible Times trilogy was announced I was on board before ever reading a synopsis. I’ll buy anything he’s written…and read it eventually (sorry, Red Queen’s War and Book of the Ancestor. I’ll get there).
Before we talk about the actual content, I’d like to have a word about the title…
because it really should be Power Word Kill.
The name was picked from a limited selection by the fans.
They chose wrong.
That’s a small gripe, I know, but I couldn’t help but think about it every time someone talked about Power Word Kill.
Obligatory synopsis courtesy of Amazon:
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 & 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.
So…a group of teenage boys (and a very special girl) play D&D with an eerie 80’s backdrop. The easy comparison is, of course, Stranger Things.
And there is some of that, certainly.
I think a more precise comparison is:
Stranger Things meets Primer with a dash of Terminator…oh and featuring this guy.
Young Conan O’Brien with a machete
I love Mark Lawrence’s writing. For the most part, his prose is lean and direct, giving the reader just enough information to form a vivid image without being over or under-descriptive. Then every few pages, he’ll drop a perfect simile to illustrate a moment and
I love it.
Nick is our narrator, and Lawrence tells this story in his voice. Yes, OWK is Young Adult…sorry ’bout it. His understanding of math, the universe, and time travel clearly stems from Lawrence’s own career as a freaking rocket scientist (not that he’s traveled in time that I know of), but he writes with a proficiency that I believe comes from deep understanding. Not that it ever reads as dense or pedantic, quite the opposite actually. When complex themes or paradoxes ares introduced, Lawrence is able to succinctly summarize them in a way that doesn’t feel overly complicated or dismissive in a hokey SFF way.
And I’m leery of Time Travel (and dragons but that’s neither here nor there).
OWK establishes rules and sticks to them (so far as I can tell).
The other characters are mostly memorable: Mia, Simon, Elton, John, Demus.
All fine folks to spend time with.
My one complaint. I really disliked Ian Rust or simply Rust. He’s the Christmas Story maniac. Even as someone who knew a red-headed homicidal nut job in my youth (the kid actually tried to strange me in the middle of a church), Rust was hard to buy.
Yes, I know this was a SFF story concerning time-travel.
But I had a harder time believing Rust.
I realize that it’s just the story (and Scranton isn’t the mean streets of London), but I had a really hard time imagining the teenage weed-dealer turned actual murderer.
I mean, [MINOR SPOILER] he straight up kills a fairly prominent gang leader.
Shouldn’t that guy have had guards or something?
I know he wasn’t freakin’ Scarface, but still…
Not a fan of Rust.
With twenty pages left, I was pretty certain of how things would shake out. There were still a few twists to make it interesting. Heartbreaking ones, if I’m being honest.
Being a time-travel story also means we have a pretty clear idea of how the trilogy will end (because house rules). Some readers might find that off-putting, but I don’t mind.
Journey before destination and all that.
It’ll be really interesting to read Nick’s story going forward especially considering everything he has to do now that…you should just read it for yourself.
Coming off my first session with Dungeons & Dragons 5E, I think it only fitting I give Power Word….I mean, One Word Kill 4/5 D20s.
An interesting concept, a compelling story, and interesting characters make for an enjoyable read. A couple low notes keep it from being something truly special…at least in my book. Without a doubt, I’ll read Limited Wish and Dispel Illusion, and my expectations will be just as high as they were for One Word Kill.
Amazon Prime users can exercise their early read option to receive an advanced e-book or a deeply discounted hardcover.
I have the e-book…I’ve yet to ask my wife if I can just buy it.
I want it.
Consider this me asking, Brandy.
Next week, I’ll (hopefully) be taking a look at
Most Anticipated Book of 2019 right here.
Until that time,