Title: Children of Paranoia
Author: Trevor Shane
Narrator: Steven Boyer, Emma Galvin
Audiobook Length: 12 hours, 11 minutes
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“ALL WARS HAVE RULES.
Rule Number One: No killing innocent bystanders.
Rule Number Two: No killing anyone under the age of eighteen.
BREAK THE RULES, BECOME THE TARGET.
Since the age of eighteen, Joseph has been assassinating people on behalf of a cause that he believes in but doesn’t fully understand. The War is ageless, hidden in the shadows, governed by a rigid set of rules, and fought by two distinct sides-one good, one evil. The only unknown is which side is which. Soldiers in the War hide in plain sight, their deeds disguised as accidents or random acts of violence amidst an unsuspecting population ignorant of the brutality that is always inches away.
Killing people is the only life Joseph has ever known, and he’s one of the best at it. But when a job goes wrong and he’s sent away to complete a punishingly dangerous assignment, Joseph meets a girl named Maria, and for the first time in his life his single-minded, bloody purpose fades away.”
Thoughts: Children of Paranoia is like the love child of Franz Kafka and Jeff Lindsay, of Dexter fame. A reader is taken on a whirlwind of a ride, where answers are few and far between, and all anyone really knows is just what few answers exist. Not for the faint of heart, even through the graphic nature of the killings a reader maintains a level of sympathy and respect for Joseph because he really does believe he is on the right side. After Joseph meets Maria and his world turns upside-down, sympathy turns into empathy, and the heart of the novel grows in strength.
War is a powerful motivator. More importantly, can anyone say that they ever truly understand the causes of or motivation behind wars while they are being fought? While some may be skeptical of Joseph’s blind following of his leaders and enthusiasm for his job, there is one particular scene that is extremely telling in its use of propaganda and emotion used to instill conviction in new recruits. One could even take this scene and its lessons one step further and identify it as the clever warning it is. Mr. Shane does not hit the reader over the head with his politics, but a reader is left with no doubts as to the concerns Mr. Shane does have about the manipulation of people by its governments.
The format of the novel is both unique and a great communication tool that only serves to intrigue the reader. It is not apparent, at least on audio, that Joseph is telling his story via journal entries, and this confusion adds to the reader’s sense of unease, which in turn builds even more tension. Through the use of the journal entries, Joseph is able to maintain his emotional distance while obtaining a level of intimacy with the audience that is more believable than an omniscient third-person narrator or even if Joseph had been “talking” to his audience directly.
The two narrators, Steven Boyer and Emma Galvin, are perfect in their roles. Mr. Boyer plays an excellent Joseph, as he is able to convey the dispassionate, almost ruthless demeanor appropriate for an assassin but lets the emotional turmoil with which Joseph struggles creep into various words and phrases. Ms. Galvin’s performance is simply heartbreaking. The switch in the narrative is a brilliant stroke on the part of Mr. Shane, and having two narrators capitalizes on this change to eke out as much emotion and pathos as possible. Combined, their performances make Children of Paranoia one of the better audiobooks of the year.
Children of Paranoia is an adrenaline rush of the best kind. The final chapters leave the reader simultaneously sobbing and pumped up, ready for action. The ending is at once a suitable conclusion to this thrilling read while also leaving the reader breathless in anticipation for the next novel is this amazing trilogy. It is going to be a long wait to find out what happens next.
Acknowledgements: Mine. All mine.