Mar 15, 09
Read in March, 2009
There must be a trend now in new novels to expose the horrors of the technological age, and this one is no exception. I rarely read them if I can help it, but I decided to give this one a try since I have liked Harlan Coben's books in the past.
I finished it in one reading. It wasn't as bad as some books I've read lately; I didn't skip any pages. However, there were several points where I was taken right out of the story, which is not good for any author who wants to sell future works. In some cases, it was the dialog. It didn't flow well, and at times, it was unrealistic (what 16 year old boy refers to his father as "father" to his friends? A little formal for a teenager...). Contrived details (a hulking bouncer for a rough club in a black neighborhood conveniently has a green tattoo of the prestigious college he and the MC both attended. Seriously?), convoluted plot that doesn't entirely wrap up all its threads, and the characters... oi.
So many characters, so many plot lines, it was hard to keep track of what was going on and who was doing what to whom. They seemed stilted and flat to me. Very undeveloped and rather cliche in most cases. Though, in the case of the "emo" kids, the characterization was completely wrong. Not that I have a whole lot of experience with the culture, but I have enough to know that they were awfully violent for emo kids. Most of the characters I ended up not really caring about, since there wasn't enough development to them to be believable. Tia (the mother) made me want to smack her upside the head at a few points. Jill was cute, but I kept thinking of her as an 8-year old instead of 11. Mike, the main character, was probably the most developed and believable character to me. The only character I ended up really caring what happened to her was Reba.
The technology in the story is real. How it is used and accessed seems a little out-there. At times, I wasn't sure if his point was to show us the dangers of such technology or extol its virtues. Maybe that was the point, but I don't know.
I wonder if he had taken out some of the subplots and characters, if the main story would have flowed better and the plot would have been tighter than it was. It would have been nice to see this go through another edit that replaced all the infodumps with action and showed what happened instead of telling it to the reader.
There was a lot to like about the story, and I did get a few aha moments when he revealed something I didn't expect. It was engaging enough for me to read it in one sitting without skipping pages, and I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen in the next chapter. The story just lacked the development and style that I normally see in a Harlan Cohen novel.
Overall, it was an average read and I would give this to a friend if they had some time to kill.