Winifred Morris's Reviews > Face/Mask

Face/Mask by Gabriel Boutros
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May 23, 2015

really liked it

What is great about this book isn’t just that its extrapolation of current political and military trends is so chilling, and plausible, but the complex web that it weaves of unintended consequences. It’s a character study of a man who deals with his boredom and powerlessness first by experimenting with risky vices, and then in an effort to cover up the results of that, or to deal with his guilt, he does something even more despicable—but still fairly harmless, he believes—which sets off more consequences he has to seek redemption for and cover up. I loved the way his actions kept connecting with other people’s actions in ways that he could have never guessed, because those other people were keeping secrets too. Just about everyone in this book has a secret. The world is one of rampant corruption. Even characters who are clearly disgusted with the political oppression just keep going along with the lies and collecting their bribes. But not everyone keeps a secret for selfish or expedient reasons. Janus’s wife, and eventually even Janus, keep secrets to protect other people too. The result, as I said, is a complex web of secrets and unintended consequences that hangs on basic human emotions: fear, jealousy, sexual desire, but also idealism. It’s this that raises Face/Mask above most dystopian novels.

That said, there are problems with the book. It was hard to get into it. There are long passages at the beginning where the author tells too much, shows too little, and jumps around in time so that I had to look back at the dates on the chapters to try to keep the story straight. Also, Janus comes off as very unlikeable, especially at the beginning, so I had a hard time caring what happened to him. And I think he could have been more of an everyman, a better husband and father, and still made all the mistakes he makes. I might have put the book down if I hadn’t been given a copy of it to review. So I soldiered on, and then I did become completely enthralled as the story settled into a more chronological flow, the connections began developing and expanding, and Janus grew into more of an everyman, as surprised as I by the perfection of the end.

So in spite of its flaws, I recommend this book for its portrayal of a terrifying future that nevertheless resonates with the realities of today and its exploration of the way many of the things we do don’t work out anything like we expected or planned.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
May 20, 2015 – Finished Reading
May 23, 2015 – Shelved

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