Making sense of a rollercoaster of a book
Everybody knows that the blurb is one of the most important parts of a book, and surely the most important under the “business” side of things. It’s the thing that convinces you to buy a book or, conversely, to leave it on the shelf and move on. You can write the best book in the world, but if the blurb isn’t at least half as good, nobody will ever know.
Mark Kirkbride really did his homework. He came up with a premise and a blurb that caught me in and almost forced me to review his book, “Game Changers of the Apocalypse”. And I have to say that I didn’t regret it in the slightest, because it’s one of those book I could go on rambling about forever.
Not because I think it was perfect: there were many things I didn’t quite enjoy, and I have to admit was about to stop reading after the first chapter. But I’m happy I carried on and finished it, because of the way it went on and how it provided a unique twist to an inflated trope.
What “didn’t work”
I have already stated that I found a few things that made me frown, so I’ll get them out of the way first. Since the first chapter I didn’t like how Polly was introduced and how she behaved towards Greg. She gave me the “super-demanding-girlfriend” vibes, and I couldn’t believe someone that is in love with you would take it the way she did if you told her that you were not so sure about getting married. I mean, it’s quite a step to take, something that changes your life, and from a healthy relationship I expect much more dialogue than that.
This attitude of hers returns in other parts of the book, in situations that I found hardly believable. At times, she looked like a caricature from someone pissed at some demanding ex-girlfriend.
Greg, on the other hand, spent half of the book run-time as a victim of external circumstances, and the other half as someone incredibly good at finding a quick response at whatever the antagonist throws at them.
And about that, who is the antagonist, in the end? What do they want from Greg and Polly? That is not clear either, and I hoped a bit more of one on one (two on one) confrontation at the end of the book, a kind of explanation about why the apocalypse happened and how could Greg and Polly escape it.
But in the end, it worked
The best part about personal taste and preference is that it’s for the most part inexplicable. We can have a clear idea about why we like something more than something else, but as we dig deeper it always comes a point where we can’t justify our preferences rationally anymore.
This is what happened to me as I read “Game Changers of the Apocalypse”. There were so many things that rubbed me the wrong way as I read it, but I couldn’t stop reading, and in the end I came to appreciate the rollercoaster I embarked on.
The idea of fighting against some almighty entity that is writing your story was great and exhilarating. The fact that it all came through a fax machine (a fax machine!) in Greg’s workplace made it all even better. More personal, in some way.
It made me think about the free will against predestination debate (which is surprisingly more open than ever nowadays), or as the struggle of a character against their own creator, or their puppeteer. And I love books that make me think about complicated things, unsolvable problems, and this is what convinced me to stay. To finish the book.
Also, the pacing: Greg and Polly have barely time to breathe in the face of what’s happening to them. After the midpoint of the book, is a continuous trying to wiggle out of extremely dangerous situations, where they can use nothing more than their imagination and instinct. I found myself holding my breath for them more than once as I turned the pages, waiting for a moment to relax. Spoilers, there weren’t many of them.
So, should I read it?
Nothing is sure about the future, but if I had to pick one think I’m pretty sure about, is that I’ll never tell anybody that they should not read a book. Not only because reading is something opening your mind as few other media do, but also because liking or not liking a novel is a matter of personal preference.
I found many things to critique in this book, and many other things that I enjoyed. A different person could read it and have it all backwards, and that would be ok. I’ve been talking a lot about stories that spark debate, and how they can turn out even better than timeless classics*.
But I’m sure that if you read the blurb, you’ll have no doubt about it.
*No, I didn’t say you can skip the classics. I see what you’re doing.