This is a good book – a classic slow-burn thriller that combines elements of sci-fi (genetic engineering), horror (characters include the Outsider and ‘Vince’), romance (ahhhh…), and a relentless increase in tension (ohhhh….).
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it essentially follows four main characters: a socially-repressed young woman (who goes on the biggest personal ‘journey’ throughout the pages), a professional assassin, an ex-special forces soldier struggling to find a reason in life, and a government agent. Their stories seem unconnected at first but slowly coalesce around the hunt for two genetically engineered creatures: a dog (good) with human-level intelligence and something else: the Outsider (bad). On that level, it has shades of a classic good vs evil fairy tale but it is not that simplistic.
Most of the individuals sit comfortably in their pigeonholes of right or wrong. But, without giving away too much, the true monster in the story is not the Outsider (as horrific as ‘it’ can be) but the professional killer. Vince is one of the most loathsome individuals I have come across on the page: evil wrapped up in a twisted belief that what he does is almost a divine right. He is superbly written. As are all the others. So to, the locations and scenes.
The prose is beautiful. Evocative. It switches between the simplicity that I see as the hallmark of many great writers, then throws in some sublime descriptions that take their time over a scene or a moment. That brings me to my first gripe. Some of the latter got a little too long-winded for me. There were some instances when I thought the author was going to describe each plant and flower in one of the protagonist’s gardens.
My second gripe relates to the main villain of the story: Vince. As despicably wonderful he is as a character, his fate was a let down.
He is so proficient at what he does, is always well-prepared, that what happens to him in the end felt rushed. Yes, he was facing opponents that knew what they were doing, but it seemed too easy. That said, I’m glad what happened happened. The guy was vile.
MINI-SPOILER ALERT OVER!
As for the non-human characters: Einstein and the Outsider. They are wonderful. There is a depth to both of them, more so to the latter (the ‘baddie’) that makes them worthy of their own sequels. The idea of having a dog with enhanced intelligence and a Mickey Mouse obsession is utterly endearing. But as mentioned in the novel, such a creature would undoubtedly be used by the powers that be for nefarious ends. (I’ll stop that line of thought here before it gets too bleak…)
All in all, Watchers is a book to take your time over.
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