One Word Kill (Impossible Times #1), Mark Lawrence

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We might live in a multiverse of infinite wonder, but we are what we are, and can only care about what falls into our orbit

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. 

* * *
3 / 5

I would give practically anything written by Mark Lawrence a shot, which is primarily why I picked up One Word Kill in the first place. I’m definitely more of a fantasy reader than a contemporary sci-fi one, but I do enjoy an occasional well-written time-travel plot, which is what this book is about. I loved the main character and the writing style, but some elements felt way too ~extra~ or over the top.

We were a tribe who had always felt as if we were locked into a box that we couldn’t see, and when D&D came along, suddenly we saw both the box and the key

One Word Kill has a bit of a Stranger Things vibe. Set in the 90s, One Word Kill focuses on Nick and his dungeons and dragons group. Mia is a recent addition to the all-male group, and Nick grapples with his recent cancer diagnosis, a fledgling crush, and the fact that he seems to be being stalked by a man who knows more than he should. The book ties together quantum mechanics, time travel, having fun with the boys, and growing up.

Nick is a very likeable and relatable young man (never having been a young man myself). He’s got all the usual thoughts – like fitting in, going to parties, having a crush and being worried that a woman (gasp!) might tear apart his precious D&D group – as well as some atypical ones, like who is that man following me and his leukaemia diagnosis. His friendship group is fun and quirky and I love a good heist plan.

I’d brought Bertrand Russell’s Principia Mathematica because I wanted to see him build his marvellous mathematical house of cards. I need to see the edifice raised in all its glory

I definitely got the feeling the whole way through that the book was trying to “find its feet”. The plot, for the most part, is solid, but Lawrence uses the groups D&D campaign to reflect real-life in a weird and over the top metaphor. I thought that this was unnecessary in your face symbolism and was also pretty dull to read about. Having now read the next book, I can comfortably claim that this is one of the areas which the series improves upon – the next book feels much more comfortable with the plot it weaves and how it does it.

One Word Kill is a fun and well-written book, but it didn’t blow me away. It was rather predictable, I was unhappy with some of the character’s fates, and it got a bit too weird for me near the end. On the flipside, it was emotionally complex and I loved Nick.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of One Word Kill. 

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