Several weeks ago I RTed a promotional tweet about this book. I didn’t really think anything of it; I RT book promos all the time if the author or the cover or really anything about it at all catches my attention, but in this particular case the publisher picked five people who had RTed the tweet and sent them an ARC of the book. There was no particular expectation attached that I would review the book or really do anything at all with it– I mean, I’m sure they were hoping, but there was no “give us an honest review and we’ll send you a book!”
But! I read it nonetheless, because reading books is kind of a thing I do, and I’m pleased to report that Jack Skillingstead’s The Chaos Function is a pretty solid read. I wasn’t familiar with him or his work prior to being sent the book– he is mostly a short story guy, apparently– but he’s definitely on my radar now for future work.
The Chaos Function is a bunch of things: it’s a war novel, it’s a pre-, post- and ongoing apocalypse novel, a dash of alternate history, some conspiracy theorizing and secret society stuff, and a bit of a physics lesson. The main character is Olivia Nikitas, a journalist specializing in war zones. The book is set slightly in the future but you won’t be terribly surprised to learn that Skillingstead posits that Syria will continue to be a war-torn nightmare, and Nikitas is covering the war in Syria when some shit goes down and two of her friends are killed. And then all the sudden … they aren’t anymore. Not “not dead,” not killed. As in she remembers them dying and they don’t. And it turns out that somebody else died in the same event, someone who gave Olivia the ability to alter specific events in the past, but not to control what happens next.
Heard of the butterfly effect, have you? This book asks you to imagine some really big butterflies, to overextend the metaphor just a wee bit. And every time Olivia tries to use her new abilities, things change in ways she wasn’t expecting, and most of the time they don’t change in a way she particularly likes. And this leads to some interesting moral dilemmas wrapped in and around the whole “people chasing me, need to stay alive, oh by the way World War III just started and I’m pretty sure it’s my fault” thing the novel has going for it.
At 304 pages it’s a fast read– Skillingstead has no time to waste on frippery or flowery language, which makes him a writer close to my own heart– and once it gets started he never lets off the gas. The bad thing? They got this to me early– way early– and the book doesn’t come out until March 19 of next year. So I gotta remember to repost this, I guess. Until then? I hear Amazon takes pre-orders.
Random odd thing– this is an uncorrected ARC, and I know how these things go– they’re not fully proofread and not 100% ready for full distribution so there’s occasionally wonkiness in the text and typos that are gonna get caught before the book actually gets released. But one thing I noticed that I found kind of weird: again, this will not be the case in the final release, but there are tons of places in the text where there aren’t following spaces after a quotation mark, and frequently spaces after periods are elided as well. This is weird because this type of error is something that modern word processors take care of automatically, so I’d love to know what was going on that so many of those specific errors made it into the text. Again, I’m not griping, just kind of curious.