Dude. DUUUUUUDE. I follow Janet Reid's blog and when she suggested this one I threw it on my library queue thinking it would be a nice Bourne/Bond/Ryan* type romp. It was all that I wanted it to be...and more.
It opens with a dead body, so you know I was totally hooked at that point. All in. Also, the main character is British (in my head he sounds like Pierce Brosnan) and Grant took his time subtly developing the character and the plot. It's not only smartly written, but he managed to make me feel smart just reading it. And the fight scenes were amazing. Jason Bourne makes me want to start running; David Trevellyan makes me want to take up mixed martial arts.
It's your basic whodunnit/mistaken identity/special ops-meets-FBI-meets-NYPD in a turf war/action thriller with a dash of Deranged Lunatic** and Evil Plot To Take Over The World thrown in for good measure. The plot bobs and weaves and twists (but not too much and not in any way that I put together until the character did) and dumps you out the way a good roller coaster does: vaguely disoriented and needing a minute to digest what just happened and then gunning for more.
This is Grant's debut novel. He's clearly been honing his craft for a while because: DUDE. That's how good it is. I keep saying Dude.
It's not a quick read but it's WORTH IT. Read it with a beer, but not too many beers or you'll get confused. If it weren't so darn heavy I'd say take it on the plane, but I'm certain that Men everywhere won't be shy about being seen reading it.
So good. It's so good. Note that I tagged it "Wish I were smart enough to have written this." High Praise.
Oh, but I'm going to throw a little spoilery warning down there because I feel it may be necessary. Look for these: **
Read it before it becomes a movie. Starring a 30-something hot British guy.
* Jason Bourne, James Bond, Jack Ryan. Although, if you don't know who those guys are - this might not be your genre.
The action scenes are well-choreographed and fun to read. But there's a scene with a deranged lunatic involving a scalpel and some poor guy's man-parts. No one will think less of you if you skim/skip those pages. I didn't, but I don't have man-parts so I wasn't feeling it like some of you might.
This bad boy took me MONTHS to read. Seriously. Because it is dense and awesome. That's subtitle doesn't lie: conception to kindergarten in 460 pages. It's not set up chronologically, though, which would have been mind-boggling. More mind-boggling, that is. Instead, Eliot had structured her text based on the parts of the brain; ie: language, vision, fine and gross motor skills. It is comprehensive (I assume) and accessible. Yes, it is dense, but so is your brain and so is what goes on in there (haha), but it doesn't read like stereo instructions and the language is suitable for those of us who watch doctors on TV but never had any desire to actually be one.
I learned SO MUCH reading this. I feel much smarter now.
And because I enjoyed it so much the last time we did this, I'm going to open to a random page or two and share some nuggets of wisdom with you:
"...researchers suspect speed as a primary difference separating 'brighter' from 'duller' individuals. Though infants in general process information many times more slowly than adults, it seems that some babies are already a little faster than others, and that this difference persists all the way to adulthood." (p. 419)
"The ability to taste begins in utero...Matthews first taste buds emerged just eight weeks after his conception. By thirteen weeks, taste buds had formed throughout his mouth, and they were already communicating with their invading nerves." (p. 174)
The last chapter is entitled "How to Raise a Smarter Child" - but if you flip straight to it you miss the fact that the answer to the question is actually spread throughout the book. Yes, Nature plays a key role in just how smart you can be, but the environment has an equal amount of influence. And the knowledge that Eliot imparts enhances ones ability to parent wholly...if only because finally you can understand what's actually going on in there (at least, a little bit.)