4 out of 4 stars
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In the novel The Expansion by Christoph Martin, the author foreshadows the events to take place later in the novel in his prologue. Herein, the author expertly paints a picture of a couple who are involved in controversial and lucrative real estate deals that drive them into suicide when the law catches up with them. Through the narration of this tragic event, the author captures my imagination early in my reading as I anticipate the unfolding events.
Max Burns and Godfredo Roco were close friends during their school days at Zuoz in the Swiss Alps. Losing his parents during his school years, Max grew to become an engineering academic at a London university. On the other hand, an opportunity to expand the Panama canal will see Godfredo looking for his long lost friend, as their family-owned company assembles a technical team, the British consortium, which will submit a bid for the project. Assembling a team is, however, the easy part as the real test will be in designing and submitting a successful bid. To put things in perspective, they will be competing against teams from other economically advanced countries like the US, China, Germany and Japan. So the bottom line really is: what are some of the behind-the-scene intrigues surrounding the bidding process? What will it take for a team to win the bid?
To his credit, the author has created relatable and realistic characters in his novel. I found myself able to empathise with young Max, for example, after losing his parents early in life. Consequently, life as he knew it changed overnight. He had to adjust from a life of luxury at their family estate in Sussex and London to living in a housing estate with his uncle. Max is presented to the audience as one who was so close to his father that he adopted some of his demeanour like "opening doors and pulling chairs out for everyone, not just women." On the contrary, Godfredo is portrayed often times as being in conflict with his father. In one instance, his father is quoted admonishing him for disrespecting him. On his positive traits, his friend Max has always known him to be reliable. For example, he organised the bidding team's accommodation and meals right up to the small details like "good wines and interesting local delicacies that appeared daily alongside clearly written-up agendas." Additionally, a later incident will prove him to be a decisive person who can stand up against his father who was clearly on the wrong.
The plot of the narrative is well built. I found it easy to follow the events depicted because of the well headlined chapters displaying the location and dates. The author was able to create a convincing plot because of the amount of expert knowledge he had on the workings of the various institutions mentioned in the novel. I was thrilled and impressed, for example, by the work done by the new Defense Clandestine Service (DCS) and its mission to bridge the shortcomings of both the CIA and FBI. Furthermore, the presence of teams from the economically endowed countries competing with each other for the opportunity to develop the strategically important strait is a key critical factor to the success of the conspiracy theory advanced by this novel. Other than this, the author also uses dialogue to advance the plot. A character like Godfredo's father, Paco Roco, is revealed more in what he says than does. For example, when his son meets his approval by a comment he makes, Paco complements him by saying "now you're thinking like a Roco." To his father and according to the context used, their family name personifies intelligence and skill in reading and taking advantage of situations even if for selfish gain.
Overall, I have nothing negative about the book. For starters, the novel appears professionally edited and formatted with only a few missing words. Additionally, the author has gone to great lengths to connect with his readers through vivid character and scenery description, use of red herring, American slang and Spanish words or phrases all meant to create a sense of interest and realism. In conclusion, because of the use of vulgar colloquial expressions, I recommend the novel to adult readers who are looking for a well-built and thought-out conspiracy story. I award the novel 4 out of 4 stars.
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