Encoded

Encoded

By Thomas McDaniel

5/7 stars

I had a lot of fun reading this book. It was interesting and fairly unpredictable with quite a number of plot turns. Since I did not know where the plot was going to end up, I stayed curious and engaged throughout the book.

There were a couple of things that I thought McDaniel did especially well. First of all, I found the dystopian setting in the book very believable. Mind-altering technology is being used to control the populace by a giant corporation. Everyone knows about it and many people go there voluntarily to eradicate unpleasant memories. Anyone who is critical of the company, however, tends to disappear. The result is a city full of people who are docile and subdued. It’s a wonderful combination of benevolent dictator and menacing Big Brother mentalities.

I found McDaniel’s reinterpretation of classic mythology to also be quite fascinating. [mild spoilers rest of the paragraph] You find out early in the book that humanoid mythological creatures really exist. Vampires, werewolves, angels and demons are all from the same evolutionary stock as humans, but became separate species eons ago. This is a different take on origins than the ones I have encountered before. Rethinking something like vampires and werewolves is dangerous ground. Do it badly, and you have vampires that sparkle. Happily, I thought McDaniel did a fairly good job with this one.

There were a lot of ideas in this book. The problem with a ton of ideas is that you don’t get enough time with any one of them to fully flesh it out. I honestly thought that there were enough plot points in this volume to work over two or three books. This was most evident in the training of the main character. She learns incredibly fast and well, almost to a superhuman extent. Throughout the book she continually advances her skill sets (particularly combat training). There was so much of it at different points in the plotline that it became overwhelming. She could have trained an equal amount in several books as she did in this single book. Granted, this is a better problem than not having enough for the characters to do. It would have been nice to see the ideas develop more though. Hopefully this will happen in the next book.

One way of developing the story is to show instead of tell. “Flames kindled in Erica’s heart” is more evocative than “Erica was angry”. The writing was pretty good most of the time but there were occasions when the prose rang a little false. This was particularly true when Skye felt intense emotion. The emotion was often simply named rather than described which made for a less redolent reading of the text.

Overall, I would suggest this book. It is a little rough around the edges, as most first novels are, but I think it is worth the read. Support new authors!

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