Friday, December 11, 2020

Book Review - Brainrush

In reading the quick synopsis of Brainrush, you're made aware that you're in for a different kind of thriller novel.  Indeed, the story is an international, millitary-esque thriller but it expands into other genres as well ranging from sci-fi to paranormal and filled with bits of romantic and buddy comedy.  To a large extent, this is a cinematic novel filled with lots of action and quick takes but it also slows down and plods through a lot of detail and information.

The premise involves a terminally ill man named Jake.  During an MRI, an earthquake shakes the machine and rattles his body and mind and apparently unlocks some amazing mental and physical abilities.  Before long, these abilities get Jake caught up in a global adventure with high stakes.  The story continues to get more and more intricate with new threats and revelations showing up every few chapters.  Many sections read like something caught between James Bond and Jason Bourne.  As you reach the climax of the book and work through the final few chapters, you get a bit of X-files or Indiana Jones (and the Crystal Skull).

In terms of believability, the story stretches things as paper thin as many adventure movies.  As such, the general character and plot development is a little weak, but an entertained reader can employ their suspension of disbelief to ride alongside Jake and his friends.  As more and more outrageous plot elements showed up, I found my willing to suspend disbelief to be waning but I continued on and generally enjoyed the story.
More than the plausibility of the story, the thing I had the most trouble with was some of the writing.  I felt that many stretches of the book suffered from the "tell don't show" mistake of storytelling.  Descriptions were often ponderously heavy handed.  And while they really made a scene vibrant, it absolutely slowed down the pacing of an action scene to have lengthy sentences going into significant detail of the weapons or the scenery.  

I also felt like the writing spent too much time trying to tell me how I should react or interpret a scene rather than presenting me actions or conversation and letting me shape my own logical conclusions.  A lot of these flaws would likely be covered up in a movie since large descriptions or narrative statements would be removed.  They might even disappear in an abridged audiobook reading.  But in the print book, I feel like you could probably trim 50-100 pages worth of content (my copy clocked in at just over 400 pages) and not only maintain the story but improve the pacing and readability.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy "long books" with detailed description and narrative.  But I don't feel that lengthy diatribes need this much play in an otherwise fast-paced adventure story.

Overall this is a fun thriller.  It's a novel of escapism that's so outrageously over the top that you can (mostly) cruise through it without having to give it much thought.  This is both a plus and a minus.  It follows many stereotypical tropes of the thriller.  With all of these common concepts, the story is almost predictable in spots.  Fortunately, the author keeps the reader on their toes by twisting the tropes in new ways and adding wholly unexpected elements to an otherwise standard adventure.

If you're in the mood for something light and adventurous, give it a try.  There is some gunplay and romance but I suspect it would pull off a PG-13 rating.  The action and story are fun and keep you jumping.  And if you want to keep going, Jake and friends have continued their adventures through another 6 books so you'll have plenty to keep you occupied for a while.  

2.5 out of 5 stars

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