Prism World by Lyn Gilleland (398 pages). Available on Amazon.
It’s really hard to be objective when it comes to reviewing a book by someone you know. And yet you as a reader, as well as the author, would not expect any less from me. And so I find myself reviewing a book that I consider a breakthrough for the author, while still having its pitfalls. While the author has written other books, for all intents and purposes, I would consider this a first novel.
The story is set on a world that is very much like our own, yet small clues tell you it is in a time circa 1940s to 1960s. Biplanes still fly, people shoot revolvers, and the dress code is similar to what I might have seen when (or before) I was a child. With that in mind, the circumstance is not retro. The main character, Lightning, is what is called a Phantom, a dreaded super-assassin trained and used by the despotic government. Because she and her fellow Phantoms are trained only to kill, kept in isolation in the dark, and know nothing of the outside world, when Lightning suddenly decides to switch sides, she is much like an infant. A murderous infant that can kill you before you can blink, but an infant nevertheless.
The part that I found fascinating in the story was the irony of someone so lethal becoming so dependent on those around her to function in society. Alice, a character I consider exceedingly annoying, ends up being best friends with Lightning. She takes Lightning under her wing and teaches her what it means to live as a young woman in society.
While she is slowly acclimating, the situation for the rebels—the people she has latched onto—becomes more and more perilous. There are conflicts in belief and technique between her and her new friends, which makes the story that much richer.
The basic story—that of Lightning, her adjustments into her new situation, and the ongoing battle against the tyrannical government—I found interesting and engrossing. There’s plenty of action, much of it on the level of spy versus spy, or maybe, assassin vs. assassin. Gilleland does a good job of showing us the life of a Phantom, the situation she had thrust herself into, and introduces us to other Phantoms that are well fleshed out.
Where I see the story lacking is our understanding of the actual world she has inherited. I wanted to care about the rebels, but with the exception of Alice, I didn’t get to know them, and wasn’t really touched when they died, one by one. The author could have taken a little more time to flesh out these minor characters, and even though they died, their death would have meant a lot more to me. I would have liked to see a richer world. Instead it seemed pretty monochrome.
It’s a good book; don’t get me wrong. I give it four out of five stars. As I mentioned, the reader ends up empathizing with Lightning, and maybe even liking Alice a little. But I think it would have been better with a little more background color in it.
In any case, the author shows a lot of promise, and I look forward to her next book.