Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: Devil's Plaything by Matt Richtel

Before I go any further, let me warn you: when you start reading this book, make sure you've got a lot of time. Author and journalist Matt Richtel has masterfully crafted a tale that will be very, very difficult to put down once you start reading it.

Devil's Plaything features the return of journalist/blogger Nathaniel Idle (introduced in Richtel's earlier work, Hooked) and his grandmother, Lane, who is suffering from dementia. Lane is a participant in the "Human Memory Crusade," a project designed to preserve the memories and stories of an aging generation for the future by recording them into computers. However, Idle soon discovers this project isn't quite as innocent as it appears and that is grandmother is right in the center of a national security project with far reaching ramifications.

As the story develops, the twists and turns will keep the reader turning the pages late into the night (don't say I didn't warn you) as Richtel demonstrates his keen sense for knowing exactly when to end a chapter well enough to propel you into the next one. The opportunity to put the book down and not obsess about what will happen next only occurs two, maybe three, times in the entire novel..

At first, technology seems to be the center stage of this novel, and its premise seems a little too hauntingly plausible in light of the constant access to technology today, coupled with the steady rise in the occurrence of Alzheimer's throughout the country (as discussed in here in this article and in this one), and the science in this novel is solidly researched and presented.

However, much of the story focuses on the relationship between Idle and his grandmother, a woman who is endearing and possesses a wicked insight and while at first it may seem easy to dismiss many of her apparent ramblings as an effect of the disease, all too soon it becomes apparent that she has seen and knows far more than she should. Before the end of the novel, Idle has made a successful and necessary realization that modern technology cannot and should not replace what is truly important in each of our lives: real human interaction.

From HarperCollins Publishers and available from your local, independent bookseller. (Shop local and makes a difference!)

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