4 out of 4 stars
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The Expansion is a collaboration between entrepreneur Christoph Martin and novelist Libby O’Loghlin. The novel transports the reader to the tropical world of Panama, where engineer Max Burns and his team work on the world-changing expansion of the Panama Canal. Soon enough, he finds himself caught between countries battling for power on a global scale. The Expansion is not just a detailed look into the thrilling world of international espionage, but also an exploration into the cost of personal relationships weighed against professional aspiration.
It is clear that an incredible amount of research went into the creation of this novel. This delivers the reader into the world of international politics and develops the suspension of disbelief that we need later in the novel. We feel well-informed of the facts of the case presented before the novel takes a more action-packed turn.
On the other hand, the first two parts of the novel focus on compounding the importance of the Panama Canal Expansion project. This is difficult to get through because there is a lot of technical jargon and business interests. We are pulled through by the novel’s probe into the characters’ relationships.
There are many relationships woven into the story, and most of them are engagingly presented. The relationship between Max and his uncle is very genuine, which sets the novel a step above dimestore thrillers. I was disappointed that we lose this relationship as the novel becomes more invested in secret agents and political schemes.
I enjoyed the female perspective in the novel. While they are not extremely involved, the moments that we delve into the women’s thoughts feel personal and significant. Fisher, in particular, is an interesting and complicated character. I enjoyed reading her personal and professional assessment of the female lead. Another character, Sofia, presents an odd stereotype of latinx prostitutes that feels uncomfortable to read. At the same time, the authors attempt to add depth to Sofia’s character by making her sympathetic to other women and giving her personal aspirations.
There was one small, but consistent, flaw that I noticed throughout the novel. During several conversations, dialogue tags seem to be attached to the wrong quotations. This makes some parts confusing to follow but is not a major distraction.
I rate The Expansion 4 out of 4 stars due to its in-depth narrative on all fronts and its professional editing. This is a dramatic thriller that would be best for adults and fans of John Grisham novels looking for something more intricate. The book may not hold the attention of younger audiences because of the mature understanding of historic international relations that it requires.
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