© Mark Lawrence 2019
Nick’s young life was shattered when he got the diagnosis: cancer. Leukemia, specifically. The odds weren’t good that he’d live five years to see the 1990s. But whatever was happening to him, inside, something else was happening. Out of nowhere, Nick would find himself sitting in last week, or encountering ghosts of himself running down a street in terror, or casually ambling up the staircase at his friends’ home. His friends were an imaginative bunch — they loved playing Dungeons and Dragon together, wiling away entire days exploring worlds that existed only on graph paper — but they wouldn’t believe this. And then there’s that strange, silent, man who keeps appearing in the distance — waiting, waiting. What is going on?
I almost never respond to Amazon’s frequent book adverts in my email, but this one caught my attention. The 1980s? Dungeon and Dragons? It worked for Ready Player One, so why not here? This is nothing like RPO, however; One Word Kill is its own…strange…yet fascinating story. Suffice it to say, the mysterious goings-on and the watching stranger do not stay unaccounted for every long, and Nick and his friends are soon saddled with a dangerous quest, one made more complicated by the presence of a sociopathic drug peddler turned casual murderer and arsonist stalking one of the kids. What took me about this novel was not the ultimate plot, which leaves big questions unanswered (it’s part of a series, naturally) and seems kind of silly on the face of it. Rather, it’s the emotional resonance Lawrence creates around young Nick, who has to sit with his illness — at first alone, because he doesn’t want to tell his kids — as it changes his perspective. Maybe because I so recently experienced Red Dead Redemption 2 and its story of a disease-stricken outlaw trying to do something good with his life, growing in wisdom and perspective even as things are falling apart around him, that Nick’s own perspective born of despair seemed so poignant. I plan to give the second book a try, as it seems like the other part of the story — the part that makes this one a little more sensible — will be told there.
“And I realised that just as the disease was starting to take me away from the world, I was for the first time, in a short and self-absorbed kind of life, starting to really see it for what it was. The beauty and the silliness, and how one piece fitted with the next, and how we all dance around each other in a kind of terror, too petrified of stepping on each other’s toes to understand that we are at least for a brief time getting to dance and should be enjoying the hell out of it.”