Monday, 7 March 2016

Toys by James Patterson & Neil McMahon - Book Review

3/5 Stars

He was a husband.

He was a hero.

Now he's a fugitive...


Edition: Paperback
Pages: 449
Chapters: 116 (Plus a prologue and an epilogue.)
Publisher: Arrow Books

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Author's Website


Toys is conflicting right from the get-go. It's an action-packed futuristic dystopian that takes place all over the world. Patterson and Neil McMahon merge the former's trademark suspense well with the fractured reality they both create. All in all, if you're up for a simple and quick read, then bag this number; suspend your disbelief and enjoy.

However, the novel feels like a template of every dystopian story out there. Bad ruling class oppresses poorer class until poorer class stands up. This is, sadly, the plot in a nutshell. While plenty of fun, there's nothing new here that you can't find more richly done in another novel in the same genre.

Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

Hays Baker is one of the Elite, genetically and technologically augmented humans who make up the ruling class of the world.
Borne by regular humans during World War Three, the Elites brought back peace and stability, at least to themselves.
Viewing humans as nothing more than vermin, the ruling class plans to enact a mass extinction event to kill those they see as sub par.
Hays, a prominent Agent of Change, feels nothing but exultant at this news; he hates humans as much as the rest.
But conspiracies abound and taint, pushing Hays into a situation he never thought he'd ever be in.
He now has to be the hero for the humans...

Plot - 3/5 Stars

One thing I want to dispute is the comparisons I've seen promoting Toys as a James Bond-like novel. That is just not accurate. Sure, we have a capable agent who has to turn his back on everything he's known and fight the people he considered friends, but that is strictly where the similarities end. Toys sticks closely to the standard dystopian formula, mixing mystery with action, all wrapped in a futuristic bow.

The futuristic aspects are mighty fun and complete sci-fi. Genetic manipulation, technology of your dreams etc. etc. It's a world of crazy stuff that, while it makes some plot dilemmas easy to escape, just incites your imagination. As do the Elites, the super race with super-human strength and speed and the like. My simple conclusion: It's fun.

Patterson's lightning-quick pace and writing ensure an enjoyable clash of chaos, but the story is very bare. The theme is a not-so-subtle depiction of stereotypes and racism, and while uplifting, it can feel bland and unoriginal. I don't care if an idea has been beaten to death, I'll read multiple novels about the same thing, because different authors have different ways of presenting their story. Toys, sadly, is almost all premise.

There are a few good twists to add flavour, and the prejudice against humans easily sparks your anger and attention, but the story's progression is clunky. It goes from one thing to another in the blink of an eye, without the usual substance between to help smooth the transition. The action is awesome and made interesting by the varying special features granted to the cast, but we just seem to bleed action with action, and that's not always a positive. It doesn't give the plot room to breath.

The end isn't too hard to predict if you're an avid fan of the genre, so it's really just there. I guess overall I feel very fifty/fifty.

But that doesn't mean you won't enjoy Toys. I still found it an engaging read, something I don't mind that I spent time on.

Pace - 4/5 Stars

Thanks to the action, adventure and simplicity, this standalone doesn't take very long to complete. The plot isn't hard to grasp, and with the themes being so streamlined, there's not much to ponder. It's A to B in no time at all.

The speed can be a little frustrating, which I surprise myself by saying, but sometimes I want slow scenes to help break up the monotony.

Characters - 2.5/5 Stars

The cast is where the novel falls hard. The characters just don't sell the story, which is another reason why it feels basic. A two-dimensional protagonist works with a two-dimensional supporting cast, and the cheesy and stilted lines of dialogue do nothing to help with their nonexistent personalities. The plot contains so much potential, and some of that could have gone into actually affecting the characters in one way or another.

Don't get me wrong, there are a few dynamics that do great throughout, but they're too far and too few.

Writing - 3.5/5 Stars

Not the best from Patterson and one of his co-authors. It feels a little unrefined and rough. Action scenes are fine, as vivid and exciting as always, but scenes where chemistry is sorely needed fall flat. Frustrating dialogue and too few breathers in between battles can stall the reader.

Overall - 3/5 Stars

Toys isn't phenomenal, but it isn't terrible. If you're looking for a quick read with a dystopian world then look no further. But be prepared to just get to the end, there are no revelations.

For more James Patterson reviews: Index

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