In hospital they ask you to rate your discomfort on a scale of ten. I guess it's the best they can come up with, but it fails to capture the nature of the beast. Pain can stay the same while you change around it. And like a thumb of constant size, what it blocks out depends on how close it gets to you. At arm's length a thumb obscures a small fragment of the day. Held close enough to your eye, and it can blind you to everything that matters, relegating the world to a periphery."
I was a bit reluctant to read One Word Kill. I may have enjoyed every single published work of Mark Lawrence so far, but a Science-Fiction novel was a big departure from traditional Fantasy, and a huge risk for me since I'm not a fan of the genre. But since the setting of the story is in the past as opposed to a futuristic environment, and since it has been compared to Stranger Things which I fairly enjoyed, I thought I should give it a go. I ended up reading the whole novel, start to finish, in less than three hours yesterday night. And then I read it again today, for good measure.
I wanted to start this review by saying that this may be Mark's best work yet, but I realized I've said the exact same thing in my last 3 reviews of his books. By all accounts, Mark shouldn't be able to get better and better with every novel, since his work was perfect to begin with, but here he is, defying logic...
Standing at 60k words, with an insane pace and an ever-increasing momentum, One Word Kill won't let you breathe. It doesn't matter if you've never played D&D before (I have) or if you have knowledge of physics in general and of the quantum realm in particular (I haven't), this is a story worth reading. Due to its small size I'm not able to tell you more about the plot than what I've included in the blurb above without spoiling it, but I don't think I have to. What I can talk about is the other aspects of the book.
Pace and plot I've already told you about. The book excels at everything else as well. Even if you're of a younger generation, with Mark's vivid imagery and lavish descriptions you won't have trouble adjusting to the 80s setting the story takes place in. Same goes with the physics that replace the magical aspect of a fantasy book. Mark presents and explains the many-worlds interpretation in an easy to follow way, but that doesn't mean it won't get complex enough in places to make you think your way through many problems and dilemmas the story presents later on.
The prose combined with Mark's philosophical musings results in some quotes that will stay with you far longer than the story ever will, but I'll leave a snippet from the book to prove that to you.
"The equations that govern the universe don't care about 'now'. You can ask them questions about this time or that time, but nowhere in the elegance of their mathematics is there any such thing as 'now'. The idea of one specific moment, one universal 'now' racing along at sixty minutes an hour, slicing through the seconds, spitting the past out behind it and throwing itself into the future... that's just an artefact of consciousness, something entirely of our own making that the cosmos has no use for."
Finally, what shines the brightest among all other aspects of the novel is the characterization. You would think that 60k words wouldn't be enough to flesh out the characters but you would be wrong. Mark managed to make me care not only about the protagonist but the other characters as well in such a way that I won't forgive him for it, given the bittersweet ending.
All in all, One Word Kill is one of the best books I've read in my life, and I'm confident it will prove to be the same for you too.
ONE WORD KILL is out on May 1, 2019. You can pre-order it HERE.