One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence
Published: May 1st 2019 by 47North
“Fear is a strange thing. Along with its close friend, pain, fear is a vital part of the kit that evolution has furnished us with for keeping alive. Part of its effectiveness comes down to how hard it can be to overcome.”
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.
I decided to check this out after (enter blogger name) reviewed it on her blog (check it out here) and discovered it wasn’t quite out yet but luckily as I have an Amazon Prime account I was able to download a kindle copy early for free! I’m assuming this is some new way to help authors drum up reviews for their books just before/when they’re released which is pretty cool, I’ll have to look further in it, it as about time my poor kindle got some love.
This was a short book and I think the shorter format really suited it and kept it moving at a good pace without feeling too clunky, there weren’t too many parts that were especially boring and I almost always wanted to keep reading or pick it back up when I had to stop. Some readers who aren’t very much into dungeons and dragons might find those scenes a little boring but as an avid D&D player I really enjoyed them and some parts talking about the game really spoke to me.
“The rules weren’t even called rules; they were guidebooks, handbooks, manuals. It was all there to give just enough structure to our shared imagination that we could vanish into it for hours, unwinding a story as we went. A story unique to us, filled with our own wonders, ingenuity, and proxy bravery. And it was something that carried on week after week, building over years even, creating a shared history, bonds that weren’t ever going to appear across a Monopoly board or game of cards.”
There were some parts that irked me, mainly about “girls” which sadly seems to pop up in a lot of the cis male written/fronted MG I’ve read (which isn’t a lot so it may just be my bad luck) that girls are almost considered this other species at times or lesser and weaker because of their gender, for example:
“I blinked back my surprise. One visit to the D&D table was unusual for any girl. Coming back for seconds was unheard of in my limited experience.”
Now an argument could be made for the “in my limited experience” part of that quote as yes, the main character doesn’t seem to have had many interactions with many other females at this point, let alone any interested in playing D&D, I feel like maybe the author is thinking this is the late 80’s and the gaming system didn’t really become hugely popular again until recently but honestly I know women who have played since first edition, my mum and her friends used to play before I was born and I’ve played on and off for years. There’s a lot of gatekeeping happening in the D&D community right now and this just really irked me and added fuel to that fire. I wasn’t a fan of the main character constantly mentioning just how fat, clumsy and unfit one of his friends were and that he was surprised that said friend could move quite dextrously when needed. There were more parts throughout that just really rubbed me the wrong way but I will admit I was happy that we had some queer and POC rep that was handled a little bit better I think.
Overall the story was good, I enjoyed a few of the twists and turns even with a good number of them being fairly predictable I was still fairly shocked at points, especially towards the end which I love. I did find some of the time travel stuff a little confusing, to begin with, but by the end I had (I think) almost a good grasp on it and it wasn’t a bad system. I’ve always found time travel to be confusing, to be honest so I think a good grasp is better than average for me, it did help that a tv show I love and a very popular film has just come out with similar time travel ideas which actually really helped me to understand each of them a little better.
Despite some of the problems I had with One-word kill, overall I definitely enjoyed it. There were some great moments, a good amount of tension at times and most of the characters I found interesting. I have only given it a XXX rating however because it had some issues I just couldn’t look past. There are two more sequels due out over the next year or so and I’m interested in seeing where the story goes from here.