I was aware the rest of the universe had read and raved about this one and was all set to somewhat sulkily shun it for that very reason, but one of my book blogging buddies persuaded me to give it a go. Sorry if it was you and I haven’t namechecked you, but I have the memory of a goldfish. I am also linking this review to @SciFiMonth, where you can find lots of sci fi goodness.
BLURB: Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters. It starts with a man in a mask kidnapping him at gunpoint, for reasons Jason can’t begin to fathom—what would anyone want with an ordinary physics professor?—and grows even more terrifying from there, as Jason’s abductor injects him with some unknown drug and watches while he loses consciousness.
When Jason awakes, he’s in a lab, strapped to a gurney—and a man he’s never seen before is cheerily telling him “welcome back!”. Jason soon learns that in this world he’s woken up to, his house is not his house. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And someone is hunting him.
And if that sounds like a rather creepy thriller, you’d be right – it is. But there is also a solid sci fi element nested within the plot that I thoroughly enjoyed. As the story unfolded, I found this one difficult to put down as I had thoroughly identified with solidly nice Jason, loving husband and father. Crouch has a knack of writing the familiar and everyday with conviction and colour, so that when everything suddenly upends into violence and sci fi weirdness, the reader is truly shocked. This reader was, anyway…
I very much enjoyed the characterisation of Jason and his lovely wife, whose promising artistic career was cut short by debilitating post-natal depression, which lost her openings and opportunities when she was ‘a coming talent’. I also liked the fact that nice, solid Jason also had darker depths that become all too apparent in the final stages of this thriller.
Any grizzles? Hm. Call me very, very picky – but I wasn’t absolutely happy with the ending. Having spent a fair amount of time close-up and personal with teen boys, I’m not sure the finale would work successfully under those conditions. He was the one character who, I felt, was a little sketchy and lacking in depth. That said, for most of the novel he didn’t need much fleshing out. Therefore I’ve knocked a point off, though that still makes it a five- star review – and quite right too.
Highly recommended for fans of thriller adventures who would appreciate a sci fi element in their story, along with those who generally enjoy the SFF genre.