I’m so annoyed with Max Barry right now! So much that I waited a day before writing this review.
The premise was interesting. A modern explanation for magic. It seems hokey at first, but then becomes more believable as the story takes shape. There are exciting scenes, but … always with the same people, over and over again.
So, to summarize this novel with one word: TEDIOUS. None of the characters are likable! Harry, sort of, because he’s thrown into things against his will, but he’s a douchebag with confused priorities so who cares? (That could be due to writer inconsistency, though). Elliot comes across as this fatherly Morgan Freeman type of guy, and then by the end he’s acting like a stupid 20-something who doesn’t know what he’s doing, continues to make stupid mistakes despite KNOWING who he’s up against! Emily is a psychotic b*tch who is impossible to relate to, unless the reader has spent time in life as a homeless serial killer card shark.
The plot plods along at a painful pace, not unlike watching a snail crawl toward a finish line 20 feet away–you know very well it’s going to reach it, so can we just fast forward, please, so the finish? The painfully bad switcheroo where XXX does YYY to ZZZ at a crucial moment using hypnotic instructions ruined the story for me. Right then and there. It was a groaner.
I did not like the split-time-plot, where one thread starts at the end and moves forward, and the other thread starts at the beginning and catches up. That was fine during the first half, well not fine, but acceptable. But toward the end, to keep it up? Tedious!
I kept thinking after ever chapter, I want SO BADLY to love this novel, but I just don’t, not possible as written. Great premise but like a sprint runner in 3 feet of water, the story repeatedly gets dragged down into uncomfortable minutia rather than giving the reader exclamatory moments. Just when I’m starting to believe Elliot is actually a spell-wielding sorcerer badass, someone kicks his ass again. Just when I think Emily is going to stop being a narcissistic psycho and do something for another person, she monologues and gets owned again.
This novel should have been rewritten. Barry should have gotten beta readers capable of asking the question, “W.T.F.? Barry? Sucks so bad! Please, you’re torturing the reader. At least do one thing cool with your characters?” But no.
3 stars, kind of rounded up from 2.5. Some fresh new ideas here worth a look even if the presentation sucks. Maybe another writer will do a proper job with the premise.