3 out of 4 stars
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What would you do if you discovered that you had unknowingly fathered a daughter? Would you go to the ends of the Earth to find her? Now imagine that you are the president of the United States. An already complicated situation has now become even more difficult to handle without jeopardizing your reputation and other duties. This is the predicament President Elliot finds himself in. Luckily for him, he has a tech-savvy friend from high school that he can call on for help: Richard Braddock. Richard is tasked with covertly finding the president’s daughter, a woman named Thi Thom. This mission sends Richard on a journey to Vietnam, but soon, he finds out more than he bargained for. On top of this, how does a mysterious power outage factor in? Find out in Encoded, an exhilarating novel written by Richard Nedbal.
Richard is not your standard lead. Usually in this genre, the main character is a suave, muscle-bound man pushing 30. With Richard, he is a snarky retiree who relies on his brain and mouth rather than brawn. I also found it refreshing that Richard was not afraid to recruit help for his mission. While Richard is an expert with finding information, he solicits the aid of his old friends and contacts when he encounters trouble or needs an extra set of hands. I found this to be more realistic than the typical novel that features a lone wolf that magically handles everything on their own. Another one of Encoded’s strong points was its cautionary message about technology. It seems like every day brings another fantastical invention that brings us deeper into the technological era. While there is nothing inherently wrong with using and enjoying technology, our reliance on it makes us vulnerable. This is illustrated by the widespread power outage that occurred in the prologue. Nedbal shows how even the gas stations have become electronically automated and vulnerable to attack. I was not aware of this prior to reading the novel, so I found myself considering the implications of such an event.
In terms of flaws, I wish that Nedbal had developed his female characters more. The perfect example of this is Lara, Richard’s partner. We only see snippets of Lara, but she is portrayed as a flawless character who never objects to Richard’s travels and missions. She only appears to provide support and affirmation when Richard is unsure or broadsided by another challenge. Having Lara dissent or take a more active role in the plot would have helped with adding depth to the novel. Additionally, I found myself overwhelmed by some of the technical terms employed to describe the software and electronics used by Richard and the cast. I do not consider myself to be technologically illiterate, so I think that most readers would find themselves a little lost. Cutting down on some of the technical terms would have helped with my understanding.
While they did not seriously detract from my enjoyment, I noticed errors while reading Encoded. The errors were mostly minor mistakes, but there were enough of them to indicate that the novel needs to undergo another round of editing. For example, there was an instance where “who’s” was used instead of “whose.” I am sure that one more round will bring this book to the next level.
I rate Encoded 3 out of 4 stars. The novel had a valuable message about our overreliance on technology. I found Richard to be a relatable and enjoyable character. However, the editing issues and portrayal of the female characters prevent me from giving it a higher rating. Readers who have a background in technology would find this book especially interesting. The average person should not despair! Laypeople still will find themselves immersed in the plot and rooting for Richard to be successful.
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