Book Review: One Word Kill – by Mark Lawrence

Impossible Times #1

Scifi, Time Travel

47North; May 1, 2019

201 pages

3.5 / 5 ✪

One Word Kill follows fifteen year-old Nick Hayes through his weekly chemotherapy, D&D sessions, and a slow but insistent descent into madness. You see, it begins with the diagnosis of cancer, but takes off when Nick notices a strange yet familiar man following him. This man, Demus, claims he’s in a race against time to save Mia—Nick’s friend (in the way that teenage girls are considered friends to nerdy, quiet teenage boys; so, maybe somewhat)—and needs Nick’s help. Nick agrees but only after an important piece of info. See, Demus claims to hail from the future, a future in which Nick lives, something that’s of a great concern to a boy diagnosed with a mostly terminal disease. Now, Lawrence may not describe this as Nick’s intro to a less than sane version of himself, but honestly that’s pretty much what it sounds like. Next thing it’ll go all Pincher Martin and dude’ll wake up to find that he died at the beginning.

Anywho~ so begins Impossible Times.

So, going in to this I didn’t remember a whole lot of the premise. I knew it was by Mark Lawrence (whom I’m familiar with), about time travel, and set somewhere in the 80’s. That’s about it. And I started reading.

The resultant was actually pretty good.

While I was initially disappointed that the chemo didn’t make Nick develop time-bending superpowers (Spoilers!: he doesn’t), and he didn’t use said powers to travel time fighting crime and teaching various generations of women to looove—I got over it. The actual story is… what? More realistic, I guess. I mean, it’s the 80’s. In London. Back to the Future has just come out. D&D’s a thing. And there’s time travel, apparently.

The story’s pretty solid. I mean, it’s… complete. But kind of a bare bones complete. A straightforward plot that doesn’t take the time at the outset to cover all its bases. So, it’s your classic back-in-time to save-the-future time travel adventure, but with some interesting twists at the end. There’re also more than a few details we’re left hanging on. Maybe the author’s holding these for Book II, but it seems more likely an err on his part.

The D&D sessions help set the tone of One Word Kill. The title, for instance. It’s based on some D&D thing. If you’re unfamiliar with Dungeons and Dragons, well, the book will help with that. Maybe watch some Critical Role to top it off. Nick and his friends Simon, Elton, John and Mia find that their adventures through the fantastical world of imagination and twenty-sided dice often parallels their real world dilemmas. Many sessions even provide insight into how to approach their physical lives. As D&D often does, I’m told.

There’s a fair amount of math and physics talk, which Lawrence gets through in generally broad terms (this being a book that he’d like people to read for like, fun) and gets mostly right. If you don’t like science or math or find it confusing—it’s cool. Just skip it. Mostly it all comes down to Nick trying to justify time travel as an actual thing. Not just science fiction. Despite this, there was never any explanation of how exactly (roughly) time travel worked. I mean, like if there was a machine or wormhole or something. I would’ve expected Nick to harp on this, but he didn’t mention it once. Maybe Lawrence forgot, or couldn’t think of anything.

Nick’s a pretty cool guy. For being a total nerd and teen genius, I mean. His narration skills are pretty good (yes, this is written in 1st PPOV), although he gets distracted by the normal teenage things like girls, alcohol, girls, and video games (did they not have Mountain Dew yet?). Also cancer, but that’s natural (getting distracted by it, I mean).

I’m really trying not to spoil the plot, so forgive me if I’m being a little vague. Or maybe just get the book. I think it’s free for kindle unlimited. Or cheapish otherwise. Besides, it’s a great little adventure, yet fails to provide answers to all the questions it raises. It’s not bad by any means, but hopefully the plot will improve with the sequel. Which I eagerly await.

Limited Wish, Impossible Times II, comes out in just a couple weeks, on May 28, 2019.

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