I heard so much buzz about this book and how it made best of the year lists by numerous readers. This is definitely a case of a book being overhyped and not living up to the buildup. The basic premise is good and I quite liked Riley and McClane, even Misha. Unfortunately that’s all I liked. The plot has so many plot holes that it takes more than just suspension of disbelief, you basically have to ignore any kind of logic, rational thought, and physics. Then if you can get beyond all the problems in the plot, which is a feat in itself, the multiple POV might just kill whatever enjoyment could be had. I don’t mind multiple third person POV but I do not need to read every single character’s viewpoint of a scene that just happened and adds nothing to the story. I don’t care about the background of a tertiary character that is only minorly involved and I certainly do not need to be constantly pulled out the story again and again to be told irrelevant and uninteresting information for no reason at all. This could have been a great book and there were things I liked about it a lot, but overall the execution made my eyes and brain bleed with all the problems. How people loved this I’m just baffled. I know tastes differ but I’m legitimately in the dark about this being a “best of” book in any way.
The plot is convoluted and makes about much sense as an action movie, but taken in that vein and accepting it adheres to no rational logic or universal laws of physics and biology, then fine. Riley is a regular old cowboy on the run from his mafia boyfriend when he happens to be overtaken by an alien weapons and armor system that crash landed on earth. The alien, who later calls himself McClane after Bruce Wills in Die Hard, has to have a host to survive and apparently any host, even human, will work. Now Riley and McClane are on the run from both the mafia boyfriend and the US military, though for very different reasons. The groups crash into each other in a rather entertaining, if wildly unrealistic, scene and the action only ramps up from there to the inevitable hand waving non-ending. It’s definitely an action flick in written form complete with enough head hopping to make some readers dizzy.
To start with what I liked – Riley and McClane. I really adored it when the story was in Riley’s POV. These two are very cute together and I loved their banter. McClane as an alien armor and weapons system was surprisingly charming. His hints of emotion, insecurity and wistfulness, really made me like him and I was happy to see how the relationship worked out with the two and then Misha. I felt the characterization was adequate though not especially nuanced. Mostly the voice given to Riley made me enjoy reading these sections the most. I even liked Misha and didn’t mind when the story shifted to his POV. Misha makes a good foil for Riley’s naiveté and I could see why the relationship really worked between them. Including McClane was a fun and interesting addition to the mix. Beyond these characters I could go along with the plot, even if I knew while reading it was full of holes and ridiculous. I tried not to take it seriously and just have fun with it, knowing that the story wasn’t trying to be realistic but more so action filled and light hearted entertainment.
In that vain, I could ignore the fact that an extremely heavy alien somehow could find room, biologically, within a human considering they were not designed to live in or integrate with human hosts. I could appreciate the entertainment of the ridiculous diner scene of the mafia hit men. I was even able to get through the helicopter takedowns by a handgun with a minimum of eye rolling. I lost it in the cave with the missile and hand waving ending though. I didn’t flinch at the elevator scene but the final scene was just over the top. I was ok with it but when the story didn’t even attempt to explain the ending I kind of wanted to throw the book. Yes I couldn’t expect realism but the story chose to back the characters into a corner so there should have been an attempt at explaining what happened instead of simply hand waving and trying to pretend mysterious things happened to make it ok and doesn’t matter how.
However, if the numerous plot holes weren’t enough to kill the story for me then it was the frequent head hopping. I am seriously shocked someone, at some point, didn’t offer that several of the viewpoints were totally and completely unnecessary. There wasn’t just Riley’s POV and Misha’s; there was also the military leader’s, the military doctor’s, Misha’s best friend Andrej (who I liked), and even Misha’s sister. I mean there were maybe only 1-2 people who didn’t recap a scene that just happened in their own POV while adding nothing to the story. The story was not enhanced by the information that Butler’s mother lost her job and her sister is in a wheelchair so she wants the alien technology to cure her sister; reasonable motivations but not pertaining to the story at all and unnecessary. Likewise all the additional POVs. The scene with Misha’s sister in her head added nothing to the story or the characters and while Young was a central and dominant character I didn’t find being in his head enlightening or interesting to the story. All of the information offered in these various different viewpoints could have been incorporated into the story in a much easier, more seamless way that wasn’t so distracting. Each time I would get excited about the story and reading Riley’s POV, the story would abruptly stop, killing any momentum, and switch to another head and totally different track. Honestly it became difficult to continuing reading and mostly I tried to make it through until the story came back to Riley.
I like the final four characters the story ended with quite a bit so I would like to read more of them but I have no real interest slogging through all the various different character heads to get there. The concept is great and action-orientated style makes it light, entertaining fluff but ultimately I simply couldn’t get past all the jarring pacing, plot, and writing problems. I really wanted to and clearly many other readers could but I think this author may not be for me, which is sad.