Book Review: Resonance, by Chris Dolley

By science fiction standards, I’m not exactly an SF buff. A decent amount of the fiction I read might fall into the genre, but identifying many names beyond Neal Stephenson or Robert A. Heinlein calls up blanks. But again I was bitten by the Amazon Kindle $2.99 price point, picked up Chris Dolley’s Resonance on a recommendation, and was very happy I did.

This being a review aimed at people who haven’t read the book, I’m going to avoid spoilers. This makes things difficult in SF, of course. So I’ll set the stage without getting too deep.

Graham Smith is an odd fellow. He’s quiet, behaves in a nearly-mute fashion, and his level of living via routine makes OCD look like a hobby. He keeps notes in his pockets, in his house, and anywhere else he knows he’s going to be reminding him of where he works and where he lives. He does this to keep those things from “unraveling”, his word for when they suddenly and inexplicably change. One day he may live in a house on a certain street; the next he might live elsewhere. One day a coworker might be married; the next she’s single. All this without explanation or even acknoledgement that the world’s changed.

This life seems to work for him until he meets Annelise Mercado, a woman trying to save him from a company who wants him dead. She upends his world in short order. But can he keep her from unraveling?

From there, the book delves into its plot in full force, and since I’m avoiding spoilers, I can’t go any further.

Overall, the book’s two main credits are pace and cohesion. I was surprised when checking Amazon’s page for the paperback to find that the book is over 500 pages — it reads much quicker. The advantage of setting your book in contemporary London over a typical SF novel is that you don’t need to spend a couple hundred pages on worldbuilding, and you can head straight to plot. With much SF (and I’m thinking here of Stephenson’s Anathem), you spend so much time trying to figure out the world that you’re in that you find it distracting from the story. Cohesively, the book also avoids one of the main problems I’ve found in a lot of SF, the reliance on the deus ex machina ending (again, Anathem). I really got the sense that Dolley had his central thesis of the book and its ending planned out before he started writing, and managed to build his plot logically and deliberately to its conclusion.

Now why am I posting this review on a libertarian blog? Well, partly because entirely outside of libertarianism, I’ve learned enough about the readers of this site to know that good SF novels are always appreciated. But there is a slight tinge of the story hanging on corporate/government relations. While that portion of the story isn’t exactly imbued with a libertarian message, it’s certainly interesting to anyone who watches the continued interplay, whether cooperative or competitive, between corporations and government.

Resonance was a well-done novel. I’d gladly recommend it at standard paperback prices. But it’s another argument for the Kindle $2.99 price point. I probably wouldn’t have bought it on the whim that I did at standard prices, and I would have been missing out on a great read. So while I’d recommend it at standard paperback prices, it’s a veritable steal at $2.99. Check it out if you get a chance.

  • coyote

    I will second this recommendation. Clever premise and very engaging.

  • Brad Warbiany

    Thanks, Coyote… Now that I think about it, I probably bought it on your recommendation!