One Word Kill, by Mark Lawrence, for Timeslip Tuesday

One Word Kill, by Mark Lawrence (47North, May 2019) , is a time travel story in which changes to the past create multiple timelines.  It's the story of 15 year old Nick, a math genius who enjoys playing D. and D. with his three buddies, and what happens when a girl, Mia, joins the game.  It's the story of Nick finding out he has cancer.  These concerns, even the fact that Nick might be dying, are back-burnered when a strange man starts stalking Nick, telling him that Mia is in danger and needs his help.

Saving future Mia involves a dangerous heist, and it also involves surviving the violent attentions of a gang of drug-dealing thugs, one of whom is a true psychopath.  Fortunately, the strange man is there to help when things get really ugly.

Turns out (and this isn't much of a spoiler, because it's told to the reader fairly early on) that this stranger is Nick from the future, come back to save future Mia.  Though his timeline's Mia might be in jeopardy, there are many many timelines in which this won't be the case, but future Nick is concerned only about saving the one Mia he knows, so he can't alter his own past too much, or he'll simply go off on a different timeline.  It's a delicate balance, and a delicate premise for the reader to except, because future Nick is making choices that present Nick can't entirely condone, choices that bring tragedy to one of the D. and D. boys.

It's not one that was exactly to my personal cup of tea-the heist and the violence of the gang members, and my inability to embrace future Nick's plans kept me from truly enjoying it.  That's a mater of taste, though, and not a criticism of the book.   It was fun going back to the 1980s, though, and the characters were great. Nick, being thoughtful and smart, and with a mathematical brain, adds a philosophical depth to the rushing around; here's a quote that captures, pretty well, how he's thinking:

"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."

This sort of digression seems like it might slow things down, but it actually helps the story stay conherent, keeping the larger time-travel element of the plot in the forefront of the reader's attention.  

The relationship between Nick and Mia starts to become a romance, but given the circumstances, it doesn't get very far, so on that grounds this would be fine for younger tween-ish readers.  It's also quite short, and quite fast-paced (albeit with the aforesaid digressions), so it is not a daunting book, though it does require some focus to wrap your mind around it all.  Kids who want to read it for the D. and D. might feel a bit sore when gaming gives way to real life adventures, but what there is of the game is solid (and the book's title refers back to a spell that's important to the game...).

It's a self-contained story, but leaves room for more.  And indeed it's on Goodreads as "Impossible Times #1" so more should be coming, which pleases me.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmmm. Doesn't sound like my cup of tea either. But I know some people who might like this one. Thanks for telling me about it.


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