Friday, January 17, 2020

12:23

12:2312:23 by Patrick F. Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If I were to rate 12:23 on the first half alone, my cursor would be hovering somewhere between four and five stars. In the beginning I was totally immersed in this novella. I've never seen this concept done before; it's exciting and unique, with two very likable protagonists.

Unfortunately the story loses momentum for me once the main players enter the gun store. While I love the book-within-a-book concept, the fact that Kim, Dylan, and Denny all know the immediate future makes the unfolding events feel underwhelming. Johnson tries to resolve this by withholding outcomes from the reader, but it doesn't really help. As a reader you want to see the main characters struggle through decisions in live-time, not have everything already decided for them--going through the motions simply because they're following a script in their head. (view spoiler) I wish Johnson had fleshed this out into a full-fledged novel, because he hedges on some good, thoughtful ideas, but chooses to skim over major events like a news report instead of taking the time to truly let the reader experience everything firsthand.

The story would be more interesting, too, if it was simply Kim and Dylan with no spouses. Kim/Peggy often felt like the same person, along with Dylan/Darius (all Mary Sues, as noted by the author), so it seemed redundant and unnecessary to feature all of them as characters and made me less invested in any of them. Once the couples joined forces in the gun shop, I could feel Johnson's strain as he tried to give everyone a voice in a situation where there is too many people and not enough distinct personalities.

Despite these shortcomings, 12:23 really is a fun and thought-provoking read with a great premise and some fun, unexpected SciFi sequences. If you're ready for a totally original concept, I say give it a go.