The Strange Life; it says a lot about the book, this title. Intriguing? Yes. Compelling? Yes. You can sense the ‘but’, I suspect. This is a strange book. It follows the life of a young boy of military parents as he grows into adulthood after those parents mysteriously disappear following an accident for which his father is blamed.
His early life is deeply troubled, and troubling. But, for me, the depiction of this part of his story could have been done in a lot fewer words. In fact, I think this book would truly benefit from some severe editing. I’d cut it by a third to seriously improve pacing.
That said, the story is nevertheless engaging and absorbing. The characters are well created and credible in spite of their great variety. It’s clear the author has done some thorough research for this novel and has used his findings well. There is some interesting science here, but there is also paranormal activity that lends the book a sort of magical realism feel. The relationships between Brandon and the women he attracts are well handled, as are his interactions with his various minders, mentors and his family.
This book isn’t quite sure what it is. Is it a biography of an unusual soul? A psychological thriller? An adventure story involving treasure? A romance? It is all these things, and I have no issue with that; I like books that mix genres and expand the boundaries of recognised styles. But this book, especially in the beginning, reads like a history; a factual account rather than a novel. Almost, it is a report. There is much telling and very little showing, so that the reader is told how the players feel rather than being shown this essential element of characterisation.
Still, I was compelled to read to the very end; a satisfactory conclusion to the book. I’m left feeling that the story could have been told in a better way, and in far fewer words. But I read as a writer, and I know many readers enjoy a good story regardless of the manner of its delivery. And this is a good story.