Part psychological thriller, part dystopian fantasy, Spark: A Novel is an exciting, fast-paced book set in a future where the government controls every aspect of life and corporate greed has created an underground economy that operates on its own set of rules. Jacob Underwood is a man with a rare psychological condition that makes him the perfect “enforcer” in this new economy. Underwood is an emotionless and methodical assassin, until something goes wrong on one of his jobs and his world begins to unravel around him.
John Twelve Hawks creates a rich and believable universe for Underwood to play in. Hawks avoids flowery and bloated descriptions in favor of a writing style that is as precise and methodical as his lead character. Each word is perfectly chosen to create maximum impact. Every element of world-building and exposition serves to not only shape the environment, but also to provide subtle insight into Underwood’s character. The result is a story that moves quickly and effortlessly from the first page to the last.
Underwood isn’t really a good guy or a bad guy, he’s neither hero nor antihero, he just exists. We can’t exactly root for him, but we can’t really root against him, either. The assassins misdeeds are many, yet Hawks manages to make him sympathetic.
At times the violence is a bit graphic, but it never reaches the level of senseless gore. There are a few disturbing images, including some animal cruelty, but it passes quickly and serves a purpose to the plot. Beyond these bits of violence, the book is surprisingly tame. There’s no gratuitous sex or language–there’s simply no room for it.
Spark: A Novel is an absolute must-read for anyone who enjoys thrillers or mysteries. Despite a bit of graphic violence, it should be appropriate for teenagers and above.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program.