2 out of 4 stars
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If you are looking for a political commentary, while also reading a work of fiction, Van Fleisher’s novel, Final Notice, is for you. Fleisher weaves many storylines together from people all across the country, and even some blurbs from other countries, that paint a scary picture of a society that could be confused with reality. He even leaves a note to remind you that it is fiction because it so closely resembles our current climate in this country. The novel begins in Pasadena, where we meet Vince and Trudi Fuller. Their storyline is the throughline of the novel. The Fullers are a retired couple who, even at their mature age, are trying to find where they fit into society. They become very troubled by the use of guns when they see continual news reports of shootings across the country. Many of these shootings seem connected by a strange device.
The FBI brings in Special Agent Brouet to investigate. She finds that the shooters all have a watch made by a company called Vitaltech. The creator of the watch, Vijay Patel, wanted to make a device that could predict death. This watch can be set to notify you 30, 20, or 10 days out from your death based on readings of your vitals and blood. They call this message the Final Notice, hence the title of the novel. Agent Brouet starts to hypothesize that the shooters got their Final Notice, and made their decisions to enact violence because of to it. The crazy thing about it though is this is only a test group; you will have to read to see what happens as more of the watches are released!
Something that immediately jumped out at me was Fleisher’s unique style of writing. Many of the elements were extremely distracting to me. I read the book a second time, trying to ignore the fact I would be writing a review, to see if that would help me enjoy reading it more. This did help some, but I still found myself a bit distracted. Some of the devices implemented that were most obvious were the use of ellipses and parentheses. I found myself often wishing that Fleisher had written this as a play instead of a novel because I feel that fits his skill set better. Most of the content in the parentheses would have worked great in a play as either asides or stage direction. The exposition for new characters seemed a bit stiff, but I think that was because he had to get to the point quickly based on the sheer number of characters. Another product of so many characters is that every chapter jumps around between them. It helps with the building of events, but can be a bit like one of those rides that jerks you one direction and then quickly jerks you in another. It is fun, but a bit uncomfortable. I also had some complaints, in my first read through, about how information was introduced because it often felt like a Google search. On my second read through, I absolutely loved this fact because it seemed to tie into how Vince was finding information, both on his computer and the evening news.
Another topic I find worth discussing, is how names are used, whether it be for people or corporations. For obvious libel dodging legal reasons, many of the names are changed. I had no problem with that. What I did dislike though, is that they were so close to the real thing. It seemed like weak writing to me that Fleisher had to rely on your preconceived notions about companies or politicians, instead of creating fully fleshed out characters of his own. The only redeeming quality about this, for me, was that I could see how he was trying to present it in such a way that the reader could compare it to reality. Fleisher does use the real names of a few brands though, most notably Apple, Prius, and Starbucks. The content connected to these felt a bit like product placement, but I actually came to like that, in my second read through. I think that this reflected how age affects the way that we perceive things, and aging is definitely a theme the book deals with.
I know that my reaction will sound a bit negative, but there were some things I really did enjoy about the book. I loved Vince and Trudi’s relationship. I have not been married nearly as long as them, but so many things they did were very relatable. I also enjoyed the topic of immigration that was presented, both through discussion as well as the representation of characters that were immigrants. To be honest, most of the views that Fleisher seems to have, I agree with, I just felt that he was coming on a bit too strong about them. I think toning it down just a bit, would have appealed to the audience that most needs this book. That being said I discussed the book with many other readers and so many of them loved it. Things that bothered me did not bother countless others. I think that the discussion that the book inspired speaks volumes.
I had a really hard time rating this book. On one hand, I disliked quite a lot about it, but on the other hand, it had some really good qualities and I loved the discussion that ensued between readers. I weighed all of this, and that paired with the grammatical errors, is why I chose to rate it a 2 out of 4 stars. I still find myself wishing it was a play because I think if it had been, elements I disliked would have vanished and I would have rated it much higher.
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