Monday, December 13, 2010

REVIEW: "Tag" (Book One: The Zumar Chronicles) by Simon Royle

Life is irrevocably changed for Arbitrator Jonah Oliver the day he's called in to work with a mysterious runner, Jibril Muraz, who seems to have no past, and an amazing ability to avoid the potency of the truth treatment. Jonah is not sure why this strange and alien being is asking specifically for Jonah's services, and things become even less clear when a telepathic message is received directly from Jibril that hints at secrets and betrayal. With little explanation, and much confusion, Jonah is thrown into a race against the clock to stop a terrible plot designed to eliminate two-thirds of the population. All the odds are stacked against him, and he soon finds that his past is not what he thought it was, and his future is even more uncertain.

In his first novel, Simon Royle has managed to create a riveting thriller that kept me up much past my bedtime. From the first chapter, I was engaged and eager to discover the secrets of Jonah's life as they unfolded. The book is set a century in the future, and the world looks much as we may expect; it is different, but somehow exactly the same. In line with the human tendency to shorten words of common objects (think net for internet, phone for telephone, TV for television), some of the important terms of this century include, amongst other terms, dev (device), trav (travel), and cred (credit- monetary units earned by "contributions"). Although common travel has extended to the moon and the world is now united, at least in theory, the people and the experiences are recognizable and definitely feasible. The idea of "tagging" humans with their identity numbers is perhaps not even as far in the future as the timeline chosen for this book. This fictional reality is extremely realistic, and the implications of such a future really demand to be considered.

The characters in this book were interesting and decently developed for a thriller. I may have enjoyed some additional development when it came to some of the relationships, particularly between Jonah and Mariko, to really understand their connections. In a fast-paced storyline like this, however, it really is more secondary to the action, and the action was well done. The writing style was very engaging and readable. I really didn't find myself rewriting any passages in my head, and that's always a good thing! The plot was well-paced, and it really compelled me to read the whole way through, especially as I began the last half of the book. The book switches from first person (when Jonah is present) to third person (when we're with everyone else), and it made me do a quick double take once in a while, but that is probably my fault, as I have a tendency not to read chapter headings, and that is where the time, place, and characters were clearly spelled out.

I really enjoyed this thrill ride, and had only a few piddly issues. One was that there were fewer commas in this book than I am used to. It may be attributable to writing style, but commas around clauses and the names of those addressed in speech really help me to interpret the prose appropriately. The author definitely included commas, and those used were certainly used appropriately, but I felt there were some missing. It didn't create any real issues with readability, but as I "read" in my head, it didn't force me to pause in places I normally would have paused. Additionally, as I read this book, I kept waiting for the twist that changed a good guy to a bad guy, or some major event that really turned the tables on what I thought and made me gasp "oh my gosh!" That moment never came. It wasn't necessary for a successful story, it just has the effect of adding to the suspense and excitement of a storyline such as this.

4.5 /5 stars

Available at Smashwords and Amazon

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