The Art of Dying (Book Review)
By Kyle McKeon
3.5 / 5
I received a copy from the author in exchange for a fair review.
The Art of Dying is a novel for those who like their action bloody as hell and their heroines so badass they are straight-up assholes. This is not a book for everyone, but definitely for those who enjoy Sin City and The Boys.
This book is like X-Men on steroids. Set a couple of decades after a mutant uprising that decimated a city and caused massive loss of life, the story follows mercenary Alex Mercer as she takes on a lucrative job to hunt down a mark. It’s slowly revealed what the target, and Alex, have to do with the mutants (in this book, called GEHMs), and the path to discovery is laden in blood.
I did enjoy it. After a bit of a shaky start (I’ll get to that), it hits its stride quickly. Alex’s motivations and mentality are easy to understand and I enjoyed her sarcastic, self-deprecating humour. What I especially liked was that she was a female anti-hero to the extreme. She’s mean. Very mean. She doesn’t give a crap about hurting feelings or what she looks like. She’s grimy, disheveled, and self-sufficient. She’s clearly an alcoholic and tough-as-nails. I liked that she didn’t have a big “turning point”; she has this nonchalant approach to everything that isn't a shield; she just doesn't give a crap. Unfortunately, the accent/dialect/slang she had while speaking and in her internal monologue was jarring, distracting, and, quite frankly, annoyed me.
I also liked the other female characters. Unlike a lot of books in this genre, Alex was not the lone woman. There’s a rivel mercenary (and their rivalry is not motivated over being in love with the same guy, for once), random female soldiers throughout (also something that we need more of in action books/movies), and another female character, Lovelace, whom I had fallen quite in love with. There’s also acerbic, gun-running nuns.
The other characters needed a lot more backstory. The action scenes could have been tightened considerably to give more time to develop some of them. I had trouble remembering what a few of the characters looked like and had no idea how old they were.
What I particularly enjoyed was the poking of fun at the superhero/mutant world. The mutants all have the typical silly code names but these seem to be in reference to most being unable to control their powers. I would have liked a bit more focus on their creation and persecution. I felt like I only had the most basic grasp of the world-building.
Along with this, there were some other issues that kept me from loving it. While I thought the writing was interesting and the metaphors were at times unique (“She stomped the floor, twisting her thigh-high combat boots as if she was envisioning someone’s neck”), the novel needs another edit. There were missing words in sentences, instances of weird bolding that came through at random, and some missing punctuation. I can ignore the typos, but there were some inconsistencies (for example, Alex is 23 but she was a baby during the uprising 16 years before, which doesn’t line up). The novel is 3rd-person limited to Alex, but in the first chapter and a couple of other instances we see into another person’s head, which was confusing. I also don’t know why a Columbian family would have the English last name of Lovelace. I get it, the name means rebel, but it’s not Spanish.
Yet, I still really enjoyed reading the novel. It’s an adrenaline-fueled, fun book for people who don’t mind blood on a level with The Shining’s elevator scene. Thanks again to the author for reaching out!