Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for One Word Kill (Impossible Times #1) by Mark Lawrence with a guest post.
My thanks to Emma Finnigan, Anne Cater and Mark Lawrence for the opportunity.
For my stop on the tour, I have a guest post. Now, I have already read and reviewed One Word Kill and I absolutely loved it, it is brilliant and a really powerful read. As such, I am going to include my review as an additional extra to the post after the guest post.
One Word Kill (Impossible Times #1) by Mark Lawrence.
- Paperback: 204 pages
- Publisher: 47North (1 May 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1503903265
- ISBN-13: 978-1503903265
- Amazon UK / Amazon US
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’ve done a lot of interviews. Around 75 of them are listed here: https://thatthornguy.com/interviews/
Inevitably I see the same questions come up again and again. Some are the generic “questions for authors”: Where do you get your ideas from? Which writers have inspired you? etc. Some are based on what I’ve written, and some are based on what the interviewer knows about me.
One of the most common of these personalised questions is: You’re a scientist. Why don’t you write science fiction?
I find asking that one understandable but it also makes me wonder… Do they ask the person who has dated, Why don’t you write romance? Perhaps they do ask the history graduate why he doesn’t write historical fiction, and the police officer why she doesn’t write crime fiction … I don’t know.
Anyway, the truth is that anyone can arm themselves with enough science to write science fiction simply by reading a few popular layman’s guides to “exciting science”. You don’t need to know how a laser works in order to give a character a laser gun, any more than you need to understand the mechanics of the internal combustion engine to put them in a car.
The science in Star Wars and Star Trek is 99% nonsense. Watch a few episodes and you are equipped to write similar nonsense. If your story is exciting and the characters are compelling then nobody will care. It will be good science fiction.
My first 9 published books are fantasy with a sci-fi edge. In all of them I site the story amid the ruins of an older more advanced civilisation that can supply the story with sci-fi things, be they time distortions, artificial intelligence, or particle accelerators used to adjust the observer-event relationship at a quantum level.
In my newest trilogy, which begins with One Word Kill, I’m presenting science fiction with a fantasy edge. The fantasy edge is supplied by the D&D game that runs through the story.
The science fiction wasn’t the big change. The big change, and challenge, for me was moving into the real world. The story is set in 80s London.
When you write fantasy you have to call upon a lot of imagination, but you are also saved from having to make things seem “real” to the same degree that writers setting their tales in the real world do. I can decide what constitutes normal behaviour for my characters in a convent to an invented god on a secondary world.
Very few readers are going to say “this doesn’t ring true for me”, there is no true. I made it up. Tangentially, I actually balked at having female points of view in my books because I wasn’t confident that I could deliver them realistically. What do I know about what young girls or young women chat about when they get together? At least that was my fear – that I would not be able to present them convincingly enough. That readers would say I had written women badly. Anyway, I gave it a shot and it seems to have worked.
So with moving to science fiction, and more specifically science fiction in the real world, my fear was that I would not be able to capture the setting in a way that rang true. Now I have to worry about how people speak, how they spend their time, how they react, all in the knowledge that readers will have their own experience of these things in this setting, and so creating the illusion will be more difficult.
Heartened by my success with the novices of Sweet Mercy Convent, I decided to give it a go. So, yes, the big challenge, in my mind at least, was not the move from fantasy to science fiction, but from an invented secondary world to the real world, not just the ‘real’ universe on some spaceship bound for a distant star, but in London.
Fortunately that seems to have worked too. At least people liked the book enough to publish it, and early reviews have been good.
My final observation is on the nature of science fiction I’m writing. I’m not doing laser guns and spaceships. I haven’t invented warpoid faster-than-light drives, quark bombs, or multiphase disintegrator rays. The kind of science fiction where you take a “science word” and use it as a bit of exciting magic. I’ve actually relied on real science and elaborated in a structured way. It’s still fiction, and neither you nor I require a Ph.D to understand it (though I have one), but I did make an attempt to structure it so that it retains a substantial degree of logic. The trick was to pitch it at the level where I make the reader feel clever without going so far as to bore them and turn them off. Hopefully I’ve done that and delivered an exciting, emotional tale with real people, and with a crunchy nugget of almost-science at the middle that you can either swallow whole and get on with the story, or nibble at and enjoy in its own right.
My One Word Kill Book Review.
(originally posted on my blog on February 22nd, 2019).
Recently I read an ARC of A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher – you can find my review !!HERE!! When I was reading it I knew that I had something special in my hands. Upon finishing, I knew that I’d just finished something that was more than just a book, it wasn’t something that I had read, it was a story that I had lived and a book that I had felt.
Honestly, I didn’t expect to repeat the experience again so soon but with One Word Kill, the very next book I read I found myself doing just that.
With One Word Kill Lawrence hasn’t just created a book that you read, he has created a story that you live and a book that you feel. In that respect, One Word Kill is like A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World. Both are very different regarding their subject matter but both are also very human and connect with the reader on a profound level.
One Word Kill is a book that leaves an echo, lingering in your memory long after you’ve turned the final page.
My point is, a book that makes you feel is something very special. I’ve been honoured to read two such books recently and I am privileged to be able to bring to you all this ARC review for One Word Kill.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Quotes are taken from an ARC copy of the book.
There are some books that when you have finished reading them you need to take a step back and reflect upon the story that you’ve just finished, One Word Kill is one such book, I loved it all and it is exceptional in every way.
“It would be enough to know that he’d found the words I couldn’t and said something to help”.
One Word Kill is set in January 1986. Nick Hayes is a fifteen-year-old mathematical genius who finds out that he is dying. Then, he has a mystery to solve, an impossible mystery that shouldn’t be but, somehow it is and to top things off real-life events are starting to mirror those from in his D&D game. Nick finding out that he is dying isn’t a spoiler, it is written in the blurb and knowing it doesn’t lessen the impact on you when Nick’s diagnosis is revealed to both you as the reader and Nick at the same time. The diagnosis is something that immediately draws you towards the character before you even get to know who, as a person Nick really is and, in one word, the first page of One Word Kill is impactful.
Due to Nick’s love of mathematics and the theory involved behind the mystery, there is quite a lot of science involved in One Word Kill and it is rather high-end science, physics, branching timelines, quantum mechanics, the multiverse, the infinite-worlds theory and the like. However, it is never confusing. I will admit that at times you do have to pay attention to the terms and their descriptions and it is complex but it’s never overly confusing and doesn’t leave you scratching your head. The science involved is integral to the story and Lawrence writes in such a way that it is all really interesting.
To go with his love of mathematics Nick’s other love is D&D (dungeons and dragons). Nick’s life revolves around school and D&D and each week Nick and his group of friends (Elton who is into kung-fu, Simon, John who is the popular kid who doesn’t admit in school that he plays D&D with the nerds and finally, the new member of their group, the goth girl Mia) play D&D, using it to escape from life and reality into the realm of the fantastical.
“They say it’s good to share, but in the end, whatever anyone says, we face the real shit alone”.
Now, I’ve never played D&D before but I loved reading about the group playing their game. I felt that I was sat around the gaming table with them and I was transported along as they adventured and quested their way across the imaginary table-top fantasy land (Lawrence is a fantasy author and that really shines through in his writing when he is depicting and describing the creatures and events in D&D).
Along with school life and going to the weekly D&D get-togethers Nick also has to contend with weekly chemotherapy sessions. Nick’s diagnosis doesn’t define him, it’s part of him. A part that has been dealt by a cruel world and one that he didn’t ask for but a part nonetheless and one that he won’t fold under. When Nick is in chemotherapy it is grounding, he is away from the imaginary world of D&D, there’s no escape, he is laid bare and it brings home his illness and what he is going through.
The characters in One Word Kill feel real and they come to life on the pages. Not just Nick who is the main character but all of the characters from Nick through to the secondary characters through to the very minor characters with little page time too. There’s a part in One Word Kill about half-way through where Nick finally acknowledges how he is feeling. It is only an innocuous and throwaway comment around the D&D table between him and his group of friends but it is a moment that breaks your heart just a little. It shows the power of the writer and the bond that Lawrence has created between the character of Nick and the reader.
“But if I broke that dam open and let those emotions flow, I had no idea how I could close it again”.
The school bullies and the maniac in One Word Kill are menacing and written in such a way that you really get a sense of how threatening they are and how dangerous and deadly an encounter with them could be. Then there is Eva, the weekly chemotherapy sessions that Nick has to endure are where he meets her. Eva is a fellow patient also receiving chemotherapy and she is very talkative, babbling away to Nick who, at first finds her annoying, then she isn’t as Nick realises that she is a fellow patient just trying to cope and deal with her diagnosis like he is. To the reader even with her limited page time, Eva is endearing and she will tug on your heartstrings.
One Word Kill is Nick’s tale, told from his first-person perspective but his group of friends are all fully-realised with their own personalities. It’s contrary on my part but as much as One Word Kill is about Nick, it is about his group of friends too as they help form the core of the book and, for the most, they are there side by side with Nick.
“She made me feel like I was part of something, part of the world, not just skating around the edges too tied up in myself to join in”.
I really liked the group of friends and found them and their dynamic to be a cross between younger teenage versions of the group from The Big Bang Theory (more so Nick than the others with his intellect and to a lesser extent Simon too) and Adam Goldberg and his group of friends from The Goldbergs only far less wimpy, grittier and with more mettle. Just nerdy teenagers doing teenage things, sharing banter and jokes, trying to get by, playing D&D, not knowing how to talk to girls, trying to figure out who they are, generally being awkward and avoiding the school bullies.
At just over 200 pages One Word Kill is only a small book but it is a remarkable book that is full of feeling packing an emotional punch and a hell of a lot into its short length. Lawrence is a master of description, whether it is the fantasy settings of the D&D table, the parks and tower blocks of London or something as simple as him describing the cold night and frost starting to appear on parked cars. The 1980’s setting is well described with references to Back to the Future, The Terminator, the Commodore 64 computer and my personal favourite for nostalgia, one of the characters uses a saying from The A-team! Lawrence’s writing is emotive, full of meaning and poetic with the occasional glimpse of humour thrown in for good measure, a little light in the darkness and it all makes for an effortless read. There’s plenty of room for both characterisation and storytelling and the pace moves along throughout with the momentum building as you near the finale of the book.
One Word Kill is like an ocean, there are hidden and unseen depths beneath the surface waiting to be discovered. It is something more than words, it is something deeper and it is a meaning that can be found through reading the book. Nick is a character that makes you care and One Word Kill a story about who you are as a person, how you act on the chances and choices that you are given, how you face what life throws at you and how you deal with adversity.
“This was about more than the game. It was about control. About losing control. Taking it back. Giving yourself a chance”.
Come to the end of One Word Kill and Lawrence gives the reader a bittersweet ending and one that leaves a lasting impression. It’s not entirely dark though and with the very last sentence, I found myself nodding and smiling away.
Words have a power to them, put them together you form sentences, paragraphs, pages and a story. In the right hands that power can multiply and resonate, Lawrence is the right hands and One Word Kill has that power.
About Mark Lawrence.
Mark Lawrence is married with four children and lives in Bristol with his family. Before becoming a writer his day job was as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say ‘this isn’t rocket science … oh wait, it actually is’. He is the author of the Broken Empire trilogy (Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns), the Red Queen’s War trilogy (Prince of Fools, The Liar’s Key and The Wheel of Osheim) and the Book of the Ancestor series (Red Sister, Grey Sister and Holy Sister).
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