Book review

One Word Kill

by Mark Lawrence

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How much did I like this? Well, I didn’t enjoy it, I loved this book genuinely, straightforwardly, and, well, just tremendously!

I didn’t read anything in advance that gave me much of a clue as to what to expect, other than it vaguely involved people playing Dungeons & Dragons, at least somewhat, and it was a bit reminiscent of Ready Player One, which was my book of the year, back in the day. All of these were true, to be fair – the heroes in this tale are young adults, they play D&D, and it’s set in the 1980s. But I don’t think that makes it YA fiction, any more than it makes it “Ready Player 0.5” or something – or actually more precisely I don’t care, it was just such straightforward fun!

I’m not going to say much more than this, because SPOILERS. One of the things I really liked was that the style of writing – I found it compelling, dragging you along by the scruff, so that I had no idea what might or could happen. It caused me to read it all in a bit of a charge, and all the better for that I think. At some point I realised this was part 1 of a trilogy, so it’s not a huge book to get through in any case. The 1980’s period detail was excellent, and all the characters were well painted (although I think I ended up with less of a feeling for what was going on in Simon’s head than the others’).

One warning: there is a thing going on with cancer in this book (not really a spoiler, as you find this out in the first couple of pages). Having been through chemo myself eighteen months ago, I found the first 25 pages or so to be tough going in parts, and wildly evocative for me. Very well written, which is what made it tough going. If that’s you, stick with it, because it’s worth the ride.

Here’s what the narrator has to say about this:

To be honest, though, two minutes after being faced with a diagnosis of leukaemia is not the ideal time to have someone establish that when the medical profession says ‘cured’ it means ‘survived five years’.

Mark Lawrence has a great ability to sketch out a character in a line or two – here’s the key to one of the narrator’s friends, with an aside that also points to the witty narrative:

He knew pi to more decimal places than any sane person would want to. I sometimes joked that it was an irrational feat of memory.

Well worth the five stars, and I can’t wait for the next one! 

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