Hello Humans! As many of you may know I am a huge fan of Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor trilogy (Red Sister, Grey Sister and Holy Sister). When I reviewed an advanced copy of Holy Sister the author asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing his other upcoming book One World Kill, a very different book, with a different publisher – this book is brought to us by 47North, the arm of Amazon publishing that brought us Jeff Wheeler’s many books as well as Charlie N Holmberg and more. I knew this book was going to be quite different from the fantasy trilogy but I was interested to see how it read.
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.
Content warning: Cancer, Drugs
I started this a little tentative, I’m not what I would call an aficionado of this kind of genre. You add together time travel, male protagonists, ‘nerd culture’ and you have a lot of things that I have seen done terribly in the recent past. I was burned by how annoying Ready Player One was and now anything that has a teenage boy and the 80s I get a little antsy. But this review isn’t an RP1 comparison post (though I’ve done that before). This story does some cool and interesting things and a few things that I thought were less successful – so let’s dive in.
I thought that setting the story in the 1980s was very cleverly done. It managed to not fall into most of the 80s traps, either feeling like an author has done this solely to make it so that characters don’t have mobile phones, otherwise, the setting is the same, or it feels like someone smacking you about the face with obscure 80s trivia to no end. This managed to include a good amount of detail, I enjoyed references to Back to the Future having only just released – that raised a smile – but I also liked the references to particular current events in this time – without feeling like a history textbook. This book was drawing on the perspective of a teenage boy who, at least in his opinion, has bigger things to worry about than geopolitical relations and current affairs – he has his interests and that’s what comes through in the book.
I’ll be honest, the way I read any book with time travel in it is usually to take the words at face value and just accept what I’m told characters know and when they travelled where. I cannot, therefore, tell you how ‘plausible’ the time travel is, though I’m sure even a hardcore science fiction reader enjoys working out the ins and outs of plotholes and paradoxes? So, sorry I can’t comment on the accuracy of the science but that’s not how I read this particular genre – doubtless, there will be other reviewers who will be able to fill that gap for me!
I would say I had a bit of a problem with the ‘nerd culture’ at the start of the book. You can see that Lawrence is trying to write a loving homage to D&D but at times it walked that line of fulfilling a stereotype that you’re trying to tear down. Obviously, I can’t speak to the culture of the 80s and it’s entirely plausible that the whole thing was much more ‘four teenagers shocked at the presence of a girl in their midst’ but…I don’t know it sat just at the edge of that ‘is this gatekeeping?’ feeling for me. That feeling had lessened a lot by the end of the book, but I’d say you have to push those feelings aside.
Overall, I thought this was a good read, it has that brevity and ‘to the point’ feeling that a lot of 47North titles have, a good read for travelling or even if you’re just in the mood for something a little shorter. I’m pleased to have read a book with a pretty non-annoying male protagonist. I’m still far more of a fantasy gal but I’d say this is worth a read!
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
One Word Kill is available March 1st!
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What say you? Let me know in the comments if you’re an RPG person – I want to hear about it!