Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Review: "The Codex File" (Miles Etherton)

Imagine that someone infiltrates the Internet. Suddenly, your computer knows everything about you, and that's the tamest part. It can even be programmed to end your life, should someone decide that you're a threat.

Enter The Codex File by Miles Etherton.

In this political cyber-thriller, follow Michael Robertson, whose wife Colette is brutally murdered for her involvement in what he only vaguely understands as "something to do with computers." When Michael is released from a care facility after a breakdown and returns home, he starts to meet key people who worked with his wife and who not only know why she was killed, but also might have had something to do with her death.

The novel shows a great deal of potential in its premise. In an age of Internet- and electronics-dependence, and of super-computers and iPhones smarter than their owners (think auto-correct, usually), I can imagine an entire generation of readers --- mainly late teens through about forty years old --- that would find itself fascinated.

Furthermore, themes and elements like betrayal, conspiracy, government corruption, underground movements, computer hackers, secrecy, torture, brutality, and technological brilliance and advancements will also appeal to a wide array of readers.

However, there is also a lot of room for improvement.

The timeline for the novel attempts to be one of the up-and-coming popular parallel story lines, back and forth between past circumstances and present circumstances, but instead, it comes across as complicated and confusing, especially given the flashbacks to Michael's memories of his life with his wife and daughter before their untimely deaths. The relevance of those flashbacks seemed unfounded.

In the characters, there are glimmers of potential for expansion and three-dimensional appeal, but with each character using approximately the same speaking style, vocabulary, and tendencies, it would have been impossible to differentiate one voice from another without the attributions (which erred heavily on the side of words other than "said" and therefore tended to distract me from the surrounding text).

A great deal of the novel is written in long, wordy paragraphs --- either in dialogue, thoughts, or scene-setting --- that I found myself skimming or skipping entirely. In a thriller or suspense novel, it pays to keep paragraphs short, the tenser the scene or circumstances, to maintain tension and character involvement.

Much of the long paragraphs' content comprises a lot of complicated information that might be better received if it were worked into the text and the forward story line more seamlessly. Head-hopping --- bouncing from one character's perspective to another in the same scene without warning --- is common. And there are errors in consistency, passive and active voice, and the cause/effect of writing character actions (e.g., "Bob shrugged his shoulders as he heard Jill's question," which is incorrect because he had to hear her question before he shrugged his shoulders in response: cause and effect, or action and reaction).

In a future edition of the novel, prior to its release, a thorough edit and proofread would serve very well to mine the gem of a story idea and potentially intriguing characters that exist, to ensure that readers stay as involved and invested as possible.

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Title: The Codex File
Author: Miles Etherton
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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