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Live Wire: Kyle Toucher – a book review

This novel could never be described as a slow burn. The combination of dark magic, technology and a ferocious storm is a very clever way to ensure that neither the group of protagonists nor the reader has even momentary respite from the horror.

In the New Mexico desert strange things are happening. The air feels too hot for the blinding rainstorm and the brutal wind ensures no sane person would drive away from the dubious shelter of (Otis) Thompson’s Kwik Gas.

Meanwhile tech geniuses analyse data at the Very Large Array while their senior colleagues make blood sacrifices in a nearby tent, but what on Earth are they looking for?

“Thunder announced that sentence had been passed, the dungeons had been pulled open, and the shadowless nomads that starved there for generations—bound by laws of dimension and the lawlessness of superstition—were set to prepare the way. The Gate. Science and Sacrifice fused in an unpredictable union, and this night was theirs for the taking.”

As the action ramps up, the enemies become crazier, and the stakes rise ever higher. Gigantic electricity pylons march along Route 60 like the impossible soldiers of a Cosmic army. But it is the evil that worms itself into human minds, dredging up old trauma and guilt while feeding anger and rage, that may be the most potent weapon of all.

“[T]he tower was too close for comfort. It stood a hundred and fifty feet tall, its breadth easily the length of Ken’s big rig, buzzing like a colossal yellowjacket with meat on its mind. A bolt of wind screamed through the cage, and its message was clear: things had changed, there was a new sheriff in town,”

Toucher crafts a narrative reminiscent of World War Z, inserting interview transcripts between chapters of third-person narration. It’s a truly American novel where slang and vernacular hold their own alongside Standard American English. Although the prose sections are narrated in numerous and rapidly shifting POVs, the distinct voices help the reader keep track of whose head we currently inhabit.

“Pale’s old metal fillings injected aluminum foil misery into his skull. Otis’ artificial hip became a ball of agony. Ken suddenly thought Oklahoma twisters weren’t all that bad after all. Caleb wondered if there was a basement.”

It might be an editor’s nightmare, but it works well most of the time. If it fails, it does so in the interview transcript sections where the exchange of insults detracts from the action without the benefit of offering breathing space to process the manic prose we recently gorged upon and are still attempting to digest.  In my opinion at least, the book would have been more powerful without the interviews.

Live Wire would make an amazing movie. This action-dominated and highly visual tale could induce a box-office stampede. More questions than answers are provided at the end, allowing an opportunity for a sequel while also challenging readers to provide coherent responses to the age-old question—what the hell did I just read?

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