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3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,572 ratings  ·  250 reviews
Edgy, hard-core, and wildly imaginative, this new thriller from New York Times bestselling author John Twelve Hawks (The Traveler, The Dark River, The Golden City) features an assassin-narrator unlike anyone we've seen before, set in a present-day dystopia.

Jacob Underwood is a contract employee of the Special Services Section, a shadow department in the faceless multinatio
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2014)
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Dusty Sharp I'm a big fan of both Jack Reacher and John Rain (can we please have another, Barry Eisler?). I will agree with Eric Goodson that this book isn't…moreI'm a big fan of both Jack Reacher and John Rain (can we please have another, Barry Eisler?). I will agree with Eric Goodson that this book isn't really all that similar to those. If you've read any of John Twelve Hawks other books, he deals with a lot of philosophical questions, and turns those into a narrative. Jack Reacher's stories are a lot simpler-straight action without the philosophical underpinnings. Barry Eisler does explore some similar themes in his non-John Rain books (such as government surveillance and corruption), but not from a dystopian perspective such as this.(less)

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3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,572 ratings  ·  250 reviews

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Liz Barnsley
This is a clever book, because it manages to be a fast paced action thriller, with dystopian themes, but right at the heart of it is a pure character piece.

Jacob Underwood is definitely one of the more fascinating characters you will find in fiction – emotionless and unfeeling it is hard to judge him for the things he does, which are lets face it, pretty horrific, because despite his actions he is eminently likeable. He doesnt make excuses or justify, he simply is…but as the book progresses ther
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I won this book as a Goodreads giveaway, but that had no effect on my review.

Jacob Underwood works for the Special Services Section of a large NY investment bank. His job is to take care of problems unconventionally: he is a contract killer. Jacob was recruited by Ms. Holquist, following a near fatal motorcycle accident, in which he was transformed into an unfeeling, unemotional shell that thinks he’s dead (called Cotard's syndrome.) He lives in a society where "Big Brother" watches everyone to
Mike (the Paladin)
John Twelve Hawks, the mystery man of literature. I read his first trilogy and liked the first book. Sadly the next 2 books of that series (after a promising and interesting start) bogged down in Eastern Cosmology.

Here we are again starting out with an eye to the loss of privacy. The story is told through a protagonist who has an unusual delusion. he believes himself to be dead.

The story is interesting as we learn a little about unnamed protagonists. he shows certain symptoms of high-functioning
E.J. Fisch
Oct 13, 2014 rated it liked it
I was really torn between and 3 and 4 star rating for this - realistically, it was somewhere in between.

I thought the overall premise of this book was really interesting. Call me morbid, but I'm a sucker for cold-blooded assassin characters. The idea that there was an actual scientific explanation behind Jacob's condition was especially interesting, and I liked the descriptions of how he functioned in the world. Definitely different than anything I've read before. I've recently become a fan of t
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once I started this book, I couldn't put it down. From the very beginning this book grabs you with it's originality, it's perfectly paced action and most of all with the questions you need answers to.
Jacob is a contract killer for a seriously creepy group of people. He is particularly good at his job because he is dead. He is unable to feel fear, remorse, or much of anything really. He is a Spark inside a Shell. He wasn't always dead. He used to be a normal guy with a job and friends and a girlf
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
2.5⭐ ...more
Apr 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Victor Borge
Shelves: fiction

Some of the premises of this futuristic dystopian thriller seemed mildly promising. It is set several years after the "Day of Rage," a group of terror attacks in which bombs were set off at Eton, the Dalton School in Manhattan, and elite schools in several other countries. We're never told how many victims died, but it's a day with obvious overtones of 9/11, and it results in the creation of a total surveillance society. Congress passes a series of laws with Orwellian names such as The Need to K
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Part psychological thriller, part dystopian fantasy, Spark: A Novel is an exciting, fast-paced book set in a future where the government controls every aspect of life and corporate greed has created an underground economy that operates on its own set of rules. Jacob Underwood is a man with a rare psychological condition that makes him the perfect "enforcer" in this new economy. Underwood is an emotionless and methodical assassin, until something goes wrong on one of his jobs and his world begins ...more
Evan Hammerman
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you thought our world of The Fourth Realm Trilogy was paranoid with The Vast Machine, the world of Spark is paranoia on steroids. Surveillance is even more omnipresent and omnipotent than in the earlier books. The Vast Machine is even vaster.

The protagonist is a hit man who has Cotard's Syndrome, so he thinks he's dead. A good trait for a hired killer. His employer adds to the feeling of paranoia.

The book goes on with the present story, with flashbacks explaining how the "hero" got that way.
Jessica at Book Sake
This is the book I have been most looking forward to over the year. I absolutely love John Twelve Hawk’s Fourth Realm Trilogy. The Traveler rates upon my top 10 favorite books and it’s in a genre I don’t read enough of because I don’t usually enjoy it so much.

Spark has a different feel than The Fourth Realm Trilogy. Yes, the paranoia with technology and being tracked by everything we do is still there and very present in the story. This lacks the heart and warmth that Hawk’s other books had, wh
Nicole {Sorry, I'm Booked}
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love Hawks' writing and this book was no different. I really, really liked this book.

Written in first person, Jacob's voice and point of view is like nothing I've read before. Jacob, along with the world he lives in, is clearly written with just the right amount of description. I felt like I was a ghost following Jacob around. Which is funny considering that Jacob believes himself to be dead. Or at least a being that does not entirely exist.

This book is a great metaphor for how we live now and
Reading Fool
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways, 2014
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

I do not read much science fiction and I did not have any expectations about this novel. But from the first page I was sucked in and I finished the book in two days. John Twelve Hawks presents such an interesting concept about freedom and choice. The main character is Jacob Underwood, a hired assassin who does not have any emotions because he suffers from Cotard's Syndrome: he believes he is dead. This was a fast-paced story with a weav
Karen & Gerard
Nov 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is about a Jacob Underwood who suffers from Cotard's Syndrome - an actual condition that makes you believe you are dead even though you aren't. He is a hired assassin who does his job very well since he has no feelings or concept of right or wrong. Things do change though, and when that happens, this good book becomes great! The good writing made me want to keep turning pages which led to a very good ending!
(Gerard's review)
Excellent (slightly dystopian and futuristic) thriller featuring an intriguing leading figure who believes he is already dead. Surprisingly touching in places for a novel with such a high deathcount.

Graeme Shimmin
In a dystopian future, an assassin with no emotions is asked to locate a missing woman. When his emotions start returning, he has to decide whether to carry out his orders to kill the woman or break with his employers and protect her… and the secret she has uncovered.

Plot Summary
In the near future, androids known as nubots have replaced most human workers, causing mass unemployment. The anti-nubot underground, known as the neo-ludites, carried out a terrorist attack known as ‘The Day of R
Hannah Rodgman
I am so sorry guys but this review might be a little short and a little shite due to both physical and mental illness.

This book was incredibly easy to sink into. It was a fast paced, easy read and I did enjoy it. The only problem I had was that it had very similar themes to his previous novels and so was not a breath of fresh air.

“Religion, history, and philosophy are just fictions we’ve invented to explain our meaningless world.”

The novel followed the story of Jacob Underwood, a man who belie
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jacob Underwood works for the SSS, Special Services Section of a large NY Investment Bank. But he’s not a banker. He’s one of an elite group of contract killers, employed by the bank who go after and eliminate bank enemy’s who commit crimes that can’t be reported to the authorities. What makes him a good hit man is not his steady gun arm or his excellent eyesight. It’s that because of a near fatal motorcycle accident he was transformed into an unfeeling, unemotional shell that thinks he’s dead. ...more
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Jacob Underwood has been transformed because of a motorcycle accident. He cannot identify, understand or experience human feelings and believes he is dead (he has Cotard’s Syndrome).

Other than the crazy and different - yet disturbingly believable - world Jacob exists within, Jacob himself is fascinating. He tells his story, including his current job as an enforcer, and his history - and what has happened to make him the way he is. Despite Jacob's lack of ability to experience or understand emot
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
If you're concerned about electronic security, and surveillance, this is the book for you. If you'd like to toss "cogito, ergo sum," around the dorm room this will give you something to play with. If you're at all curious about "Cotard's Syndrome," and who wouldn't be, this will be right up your alley. And if you'd like a quick-read, thriller-diller with a totally whacked out assassin as a protagonist, bad guys who give great bad, and altruists who are as flaky as they are moist, i.e. impossible ...more
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Jacob Underwood makes the perfect assassin as he's very good in his job, only capable of three emotions - boredom, curiosity and digust - and most importantly he's dead.

At least, that's what he himself believes. He suffers from Cotard's Syndrome, a very rare psychological disorder in which people believe they're dead. This makes a cool premise of a book doesn't it?

It starts really good, as I was immediately sucked into the story and eve
Libby Dogherty
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a book on philosophy, disguised as a novel. Don't let that deter you. The plot is inventive and will keep you interested, but to the discerning reader will serve as evidence in a developing hypothesis cleverly set forth by the author and slowly discovered by the main character. What is humanity? What makes us human? Are we more or less than computers, robots, even ancient buildings? Yes, it contains its fair share of social commentary on the surveillance state, but it is more about our r ...more
R.A. Raab
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I don’t know what it is about John Twelve Hawks, but every time he releases a book, I think, “Meh,” and decide to pass. Then a good review comes out, I get the book, I read it, and I wonder what the hell I was waiting for. Spark is just such a book. One of the best thrillers of the year, and it kept me riveted throughout the book. It’s about an assassin who already thinks he’s dead (I know… it sounds stupid but it works). He suddenly gets a conscience and it makes him question every assignment ...more
Oct 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Mr. Hawks' latest book seems a bit scattershot, searching for something to be outraged about, but never quite finding it. His near future world of panopticon-ish surveillance is not realized enough to make us scared. However the brain damaged assassin is an interesting enough main character to carry the tale.
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating character study. Since my total disability, I have found a partial emotional disconnect, though not enough to kill. Like Jake, animals are on the top of my pyramid (of course cats outrank dogs in mine). My mom didn't think I'd like this book and wasn't going to pass it on to me. I'm really glad I found it! 
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
At first I started reading out of curiosity, and then the story hooked me. I got to say even though I am not sure I liked the ending too much it was good and it wasn't a dissapointing book.
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow! A lot like 'Person of Interest.' Computers are taking over jobs, but they aren't the real danger. That would be people.
Sher Free
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Super interesting premise that doesn't always deliver. JTH does deliver on his anti-corporate, systemic numbing of the masses themes as usual, and the MC was fascinating.
Shaina Pierce
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
If you haven't read Spark yet, then you should. It is calculated, and concise. Hawks has out done himself.
Eric Johnson
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Many interesting ideas. A good storyteller.
Nov 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014-read
3.5 Stars
An assassin who thinks he's really dead and only drinks complete, a whole meal replacement drink. The whole robotic feel to his dialogue was annoying to me.

Overall, a good read.
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John Twelve Hawks aka J12H/JXIIH.

His real identity is unknown. He communicates using the internet and an untraceable phone and has never met his editor.

Several guesses have been made regarding his identity: that he was Thomas Pynchon, Dan Brown, or Steve Hawking among others...
“Religion, history, and philosophy are just fictions we’ve invented to explain our meaningless world.” 2 likes
“In reality, the universe is neutral about our existence. Only dogs care.” 2 likes
More quotes…