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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley: Impressions


To say I enjoyed The Rook by Daniel O'Malley* would be a painful understatement. This was the most fun I've had reading in quite some time. Now, if you are not into books or stories that have anything to do with the supernatural, don't get too excited; this book is most definitely not up your alley. However, if you are, and you've just been waiting for something like the x-men running an MI-5-type secret branch of the government, complete with a secluded boarding school, dangerous conspiracies, campy humor and an amnesiac superhero protagonist, well, you should read this. Right now.

The book opens with Myfanwy (I keep having to check the spelling - it's a Welsh name, the novel explains, and is pronounced like Tiffany with an M, it says, although later it seems that might not be accurate after all, but it's ok, because most of us do not have Welsh alter-egos monitoring our inner mispronunciation of Welsh names and words) Thomas standing in the rain surrounded by dead bodies wearing latex gloves, and she has absolutely no idea who she is or what's going on. She reaches into her pocket and finds a letter from her former self who had been warned something like this could happen & was uberprepared for just such a thing.

And so we are introduced to the former Myfanwy Thomas, whom we learn about through her series of meticulously written letters describing who she was and as much as she knows about the conspiracy that lead to her amnesia. We learn about her job as a "Rook" (yes, after the chess pieces) with the super secret super powered Chequy, the supernaturally-inclined version of the MI-5. In order to determine who has stolen her memories and who is out to destroy her, amnesiac Myfanwy must fake her way through her role as a high-level executive with the aid of the letters and a binder chock full of histories of the organization and the high-leveled people with in it. She must come to grips with 4 bodies that share one brain, a woman who can enter her dreams, a house covered in what I couldn't help but picture as pink poltergeist goo absorbing all the inhabitants into a hive mind of some kind, and a weird conspiracy replete with mutants that were built instead of born.

That's the basic premise, and I don't want to say too much more for fear of giving anything away. I'm not saying this is a literary masterpiece, but it's a fantastic, imaginative, highly engaging, smartly ridiculous and cleverly wrought story. If you happen to have enjoyed Joss Whedon & The Bourne Identity, I think you'll really like this book.

*I received this book courtesy of Little, Brown and Company through NetGalley.
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