After James

AJbyMHI received this as an Advance Reader Copy (releasing September 16th 2016) from a Goodreads giveaway so take all my opinions and observations with a larger grain of salt than usual.

I have pretty mixed feelings about this novel. Within it are three connected stories. The first is about a woman named Alice who worked for a pharmaceutical company that developed a creativity enhancing drug. After her company acts questionably she decides to quit, hide out in the wilderness, and turn them in. The second is about a man named James who is hired to be a “literary detective” who discovers more than he bargained for. The final story is about Celia whose father drastically changes after meeting a strange artist. The artist also begins taking a disturbing amount of Celia’s life into his work. The stories are connected by themes of politics, religion, and science to name a few. Each story approaches these topics in different ways and each one almost feels like a different genre.

Alice’s story is more horror-like and is surprisingly less scientific. The plot took a turn I wasn’t expecting, but I liked it. It also has a lot of interesting visions, symbolism, and imagery. It blurs the lines of reality and imagination which I usually love, but in this case it is a little confusing to read. I am also confused about some Alice’s actions. She samples the drug herself which just doesn’t seem like a good idea- especially in her isolated situation. Though I liked this story I wasn’t overly impressed by the execution of the idea. The twist is unexpected and a little strange, but if you go in knowing the story is somewhat like a horror piece then it isn’t very original for that genre.

I didn’t enjoy James’ story as much. I read the first half and skim-read most of the second half. It is the longest story of the three and I also feel that it is the most boring. There is a detective style mystery that unfolds, but it didn’t keep my interest very well. It reminds me a little of something inspired by 1984 with its technological and political invasiveness. I simply didn’t find myself caring about the thin characters or their problems.

The final story about Celia is again part mystery, part science, and part religious. Hard to explain, but the last story circles back around to the first story while also hinting at the second. Again, I am not on board with the decisions some of the characters make. Celia and her father have some personality compared to the characters in the other stories at least. I somewhat enjoyed this story, but like with the first one the ending takes a strange turn. As with the other stories it is difficult to be sure of what is real and imagined.

The novel as a whole is just OK. I feel like it may not be my thing. It sounds good from the blurb and many of the ideas are interesting, but I don’t feel like they are executed in an engaging way.

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