by L. Ashley Straker
Simon Parfitt is a technician who fixes phones for a living. A new smartphone model has become particularly problematic and so, one day, while trying to figure out why, he makes a very disturbing discovery: while accidentally breaking open the phone’s battery, he finds a spider-like thing inside.
What does this mean? How did it get there? Is it organic? Are there more? How exactly do they affect people?
While trying to discover the answer to those questions, he gets involved in a massive, dangerous plot, but one which will also allow him to finally give some meaning to his life.
Getting into the book was a bit difficult for me. It started with the first few paragraphs of the first chapter; I had a hard time figuring out what was going on. One minute the main character was home then at the lab then seemed to be home again… I finally got that he was remembering something that had happened before, but I felt the transition could have been done better.
It continued on to a slow placed narrative for the most part, riddled with a lot of technical talk about phones, which I didn’t really get, but knew it was necessary to set a sort of scientific basis to what was going on. There were times when the action accelerated; those were fun. But when there were lines and lines of scientific explanations it just lost me.
I could have used smoother transitions between each of the 4 parts, or at least what happened in between should have been backtracked and fully developed as the narrative developed.
At some points the characters lines felt a bit rehearsed.
Considering I felt the book had quite a few slow paced moments, I cannot say it completely gripped me. I was disgruntled not only by the scientific talk but also by all the military talk and action, since I would have preferred to be presented with a more personal narrative of events.
I think what dissatisfied me the most was that the plot was obviously moving forward but I could not really tell how. You see, we are presented with a threat that is so unreachable, undecipherable, uncontrollable and omnipotent, that it could not possibly be human. It takes control over people and technology.
There was this scene when Simon was driving and then walking around and every single camera pointed to him that I found particularly daunting. Obviously something big had to be at play here, but what? AI? Aliens? Those options and others were considered.
So there is such an intense atmosphere of fear and unknown (and that was the highlight of the book, to me) and we are told that not a single person could even begin to unravel how, why or what exactly was happening; not even Simon, with all his geeky scientific knowledge.
But suddenly our heroes are being able to handle it. I felt it lacked progression from one state to the next, that there weren’t enough explanations for this, at least not one that was conspicuous to me.
They were all running around with clear plans of what to do next and pretty effective tools on how to get the jobs done, but all the time we were told they had no idea how to control or decipher any of it and up until the end of the book I still have no idea of what on earth is going on.
So it sounded too simplistic to me.
Some examples on things I would have liked to have been explained better:
I thought that finding a secret government organization based on a tv show was a bit farfetched. Maybe I missed something, I don’t know.
I didn’t catch how Max found Simon when he first saved him; I am pretty sure no answer for that was provided. He never told him where he worked, only what he did for a living. And I don’t get how he got past Dave the guard.
I felt the government put all their cards on the table way too fast, when first meeting Simon. To my knowledge, they did not know him that well and, besides, he was a civilian. I thought they should have been digging for the entirety of information he had and whatever they knew should have been conveyed on a need-to-know basis for as long as possible, or at least that they should have put up more of a fight before providing it and do it gradually, also to increase the suspense.
When it was first said that everyone’s ears were being inspected for bugs, why were we not told what happened when they tried to remove them? Unless they didn’t try at all? If so, why not?
Now, related to what I was mentioning earlier about not getting how they got from not understanding the technology at all to being able to do stuff to stop or interfere with it.
Why weren’t we given an explanation as to why the cameras they transported via cables worked? Surely whoever jammed the radio signal and all other cameras could take care of those as well? We had been told before that ‘they’ could control closed system cameras. So it seemed to me that one minute ‘they’ could do anything and then there were exceptions and I could not tell why.
While on the subject of cameras, we are told the military secured the ones in Simon’s workplace building. How? Dave the night guard said he was not able to control them last time he was there. How exactly are the good guys able to control anything if the entity is that powerful?
Maybe I just didn’t get all the scientific explanations but it seems to me that thing with Sasha guiding Simon should not have worked. If they could not pinpoint the signal, figure out what or how it was sent, then how the heck could they reroute it?? And even have Sasha talk to Simon? I just don’t get it.
The bead. Why on earth was Simon so absolutely certain that it was a listening device and had all the other features that he would have added. I get acting on the safe side, just in case, but he seemed utterly convinced, as if he had proof, which he hadn’t.
I can’t say I was a fan of the main character or that he will stay with me for long. I get that the guy is lonely, pretty much the only thing that is going on in his life is his job, but he is good at it and is in a pretty respectable position, since he is in charge of a whole team. He is even told that he is one of the most intelligent people in the whole company at some point, or something like that. So it kind of bothered me that he keeps saying that it was nice to feel important and taken seriously. First with Natalie, then the MI5 in general, then Howelett and Vigo in particular and well, throughout the whole freaking book. It just got annoying at some point.
Max, on the other hand, I did enjoy meeting. He made me laugh on several occasions and, well, he just is who he is.
I would have preferred to see a deeper approach to how this whole situation affected normal people instead of so much military stuff.
I did appreciate how they were always one step ahead of the good guys. Simon in particular, poor guy, kept getting played. He is definitely not your average main character. But he grew on me, to a point.
I felt the romance was beyond forced. Again, maybe I missed something, but it seemed to me like he didn’t even get much private time with the girl to talk, they just went through some really exciting times together, considering what was at play. And then suddenly he is dreaming of a life with her. Why? Because she held his hand?
Even though I did not really get the closure I would prefer with that ending, it was still an enjoyable read at times, and I did notice titbits throughout the book that made it very interesting: an attempt to link current to past events or inside jokes; humour, mostly by Max; the atmosphere of fear and unknown, amongst others. So I will round the rating up to 3 stars because I do admit bigger fans of this specific genre will pick up on what I obviously missed or did not find clear, and therefore will enjoy it more.
I would like to thank the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.