by Victor Robert Lee
My Rating: 5 stars
I read a lot—four-eight books a week, primarily thrillers (because that’s what I write). After a while, they start sounding alike:
- powerful but flawed hero stands against evil
- a crisis storms in that only s/he can solve and s/he is pulled out of retirement/another job/a satisfying domestic life to assist his/her country/a friend/a stranger
- despite herculean efforts, it threatens to destroy him/her
- at the last minute (sometimes, literally), s/he prevails, a better person because of this trial by fire
I’m always on the look out for a writer who can break out of that template and still provide the fast-moving, gut-wrenching action that makes thrillers the favorite of millions of readers.
I’ve found him.
Enter Victor Robert Lee and his debut novel, Performance Anomalies (Perimeter Six 2013) where Mr. Lee sets the stage for what could be one of the most riveting series in recent years. I’m not a fan of opening a novel with a dream sequence, but in this case, it worked.
The story is about an unusual man-without-a-country named Cono NLN. Cono has the gift of a hyper-fast neurological system (a genetic mutation), which he uses for good and evil, ambivalent to the purpose. As the book opens, he finds himself haplessly helping a criminal mastermind whom he calls ‘friend’ to destroy the world. It’s not faceless death that forces a second look from this unexpected crime fighter, but that it would destroy what few friends he has, and thus, Cono finds himself re-evaluating his life path. There is lots of back story, but it is so instructive in understanding this man who considers himself a freak, it doesn’t detract from the momentum of the plot.
This is a character-driven story, the plot interwoven with the hero’s essence. Don’t misunderstand: This isn’t an introspective account of a man’s moral evolution. Yes, that does happen, but what keeps the reader turning pages is the action, the adventure, the power of Lee’s voice. The author–through Cono’s eyes–treats everyone who populates this fictitious world as though he knows them, with a sense of place and a respect for their culture and attitudes. His writing is crisp, tight, with lots of sensory details to put readers right in the middle of Kazakhstan, a torture session, a sensuous walk along exotic streets. The words are magnetic, making readers want to get to know this man who can slow time like a stop-motion camera, despite his questionable morals and bias for violence. Quickly, readers feel connected to this world, one which most of us will never experience.
A side note: I was curious about Mr. Lee so Googled him and found a wonderful website sharing insight into his world, aka Cono’s world. It includes pictures (see below) and sources he uses for his writing–real world performance anomalies, the works of Dr. Oliver Sachs (a personal favorite), brain research. If you are the reader who wants to learn from what you consume rather than escape reality, you will love this.
It is clear from the construction of this story, this is no stand-alone novel. Cono has metamorphosed and we will see the future Him as a protector of good, enemy of evil. I can’t wait.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, Technology in Education featured blogger, and IMS tech expert. She is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-6 Digital Citizenship curriculum, creator of technology training books for middle school and ebooks on technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.