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Book Review: One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

One Word Kill

Mark Lawrence

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week. Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next.

My Rating:

Mark Lawrence steps away from his fantasy world and steps expertly into science fiction with One Word Kill. 

The first person narrative of teenager Nick Carter during the marvelous year, 1986, follows his friendships with differently geeky teenage boys and one girl who manages to infiltrate their weekly game of Dungeons & Dragons. Like Stranger Things, a real-life adventure intrudes and mingles with their fantastic gameplay. 

Troubles abound, not least of which is the diagnosis Nick receives on the outset of the novel; leukemia. Things become twisted as multiple universe theory and quantum mechanics combine to complicate the present with implications from the future. 

One Word Kill is a book about young people, reminiscent of the troubles teens faced in the ’80s, about the remarkable strength of friendship. It is a book for all ages and holds more profound questions about personal philosophy and the world surrounding us. 

Lawrence does a brilliant job of diving head-on into familiar science fiction conventions, while simultaneously flipping them a bit sideways to give them his unique spin. His prose is sharp with pithy observations and a touch of well-placed humor. Nick is a joy to read. He is a relatable protagonist, and riding along inside his head through the novel is never dull. 

The book is full of well-crafted characters and villains whom the reader will be eager to see avenged. There is so much heart in One Word Kill, and it showcases the challenges of adversity in an utterly realistic science fiction world. 

Many thanks to Mark Lawrence, 47 North, and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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