Second Chance by Dylan S Hearn

Posted: February 2, 2015 in reading
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

In the age of the YA dystopia, it’s easy to find fiction that looks at what disaster might come our way and how we might survive. What I haven’t seen much of, and one of the things I really enjoyed about Dylan S Hearn‘s Second Chance, is that this book goes beyond that immediate speculation into a world where humanity has survived its own recklessness. Then it takes a step back and asks, what was the cost of that survival?

Mystery and Suspense

Second Chance is a tight, well-placed near future thriller. A young woman has gone missing, vanished despite the near-ubiquity of electronic surveillance. Many people are interested in uncovering, concealing or using the truth about her disappearance. A politician who will automatically lose her seat when her popularity falls. A detective from a private police company. A data cleanser, a type of researcher tasked with identifying and containing information that might harm his employers.

These plausibly cynical takes on modern professions are one of the book’s pleasures. Things are slightly exaggerated, but in an entirely believable way.

The real joy thought lies in the plot. As each of these people follows their own agenda, their motives mixing the selfish and the noble, the plot twist and turns, maintaining a high level of suspense.

Stripped Down Prose

I was initially thrown by the sparseness of Hearn’s storytelling. There’s very little physical description, and so little attribution of dialogue that I occasionally wasn’t sure on first reading who was saying something. This book is concerned with showing the structures of the world and the minds of the characters, not outward trappings and appearance. If you’re looking for something richly descriptive, or need a lot of description to bring an imagined world to life, then this probably isn’t for you.

But once I got used to it, that stripped down prose really worked for me, and for the sort of story being told. It lets the plot flow smoothly and swiftly without needing to simplify intentions or events. And when details came through, especially during the book’s tumultuous final act, they are all the more startling for that.

An Exciting Read

I really enjoyed this book. Reading it alongside the heavy exposition of Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic and the dense intellectual sprawl of Lavie Tidhar’s Bookman, it was great to have something that cracked along at such a pace, that was smart but still easy to read. I’d totally recommend it.

Full disclosure: Dylan and I know each other through our blogs, and he’s written very nice reviews of my books. He sent me a copy of this book to read. I don’t think I’m being biased in my review – if I don’t like something I generally just don’t write about it. But I felt I should be up front about this.

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Comments
  1. Dylan Hearn says:

    Thank you, Andrew, for your thoughtful review. I’m glad you picked up on the prose style. It was a deliberate choice (I’m not just being lazy), both for the reasons you stated and to be representative of the blinkered view of people half immersed/distracted by a parallel digital world, so you highlighting it as a positive is especially pleasing 🙂

    • Ooh, I hadn’t picked up on that second reason for the prose style, but it fits very nicely. Clever stuff! And rally fits with Nico suddenly noticing the horrible details during the riot – he’s noticing the dark things he’s previously avoided seeing.

  2. Dylan Hearn says:

    Reblogged this on Suffolk Scribblings and commented:
    Another great review of Second Chance, this time picking up on some aspects not covered before in other reviews. I’m especially thrilled by this review, not just because Andrew is a writer I admire, but because he is a big science fiction fan and has a deep knowledge of the genre, so praise from him is praise indeed 🙂

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