2 out of 4 stars
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Van Fleisher’s technological thriller Final Notice begs the question, “What would you do if you knew - for certain - that you had 10 days to live?” This provocative question is answered through the lens of the issues of gun violence, technological advances, and racism throughout this unique story. The plot centers around the development of a new health and fitness watch called the VT2. This watch has a feature that can tell the owner how many days they have left to live. In light of this information, some of the watch testers decide to commit gun crimes before their time is up. With the FBI investigating the link between the murders and the VT2, the lives of main characters Vince and Trudi begin to spiral downward with health issues, violence, and racism in their small circle of friends. That is, until they decide to get a gun and possibly take the law into their own hands.
I liked how Fleisher attempted to explore the issues of technological advances, gun violence, and racism in American society today. Fleisher wove these issues into the structure of the story by allowing the technology of the VT2 watch to get the better of certain characters. As a result, these characters commit gun violence against friends, family, and even minority groups, thus bringing in the other issues. Technological advances have their pros and cons and are frequent enough that the concept of the VT2 watch is not out of the realm of possibility in the near future. The idea of a piece of wearable technology giving the wearer information about their impending death can be a bit jarring, impersonal, and even cold. It is not difficult to imagine someone not taking this news well, and committing violence as a result.
Although I loved the story, there were many aspects of this novel that did not land for me. The biggest issue I had in reading was the repetitive nature of some of the scenes and insignificant details that seemed to be dwelled upon that did not move the story forward. For example, several of the scenes with Vijay and the VitalTech business seem to detail the same conversation with multiple characters; first between colleagues, and then with the FBI, and finally with Matt the reporter. An example of the details that did not move the story forward was when after Vince and Miles were attacked by a pitbull, Fleisher spent a few pages on Vince and Trudi bringing Miles home from the vet and the fact that Vince’s bandaged hand made it hard for him to use his computer. These are important character-building details, but they were focused on for so long that I thought they were major plot devices and they were not.
I liked the characters of Vince and Trudi, but their character arcs seemed to fall flat. At the beginning of the novel, Vince and Trudi are two happy and healthy seniors that are fully against guns and gun violence. It is not until violence and racism begin to enter their lives does the reader begin to see hints of change regarding these characters. However, Vince and Trudi’s views never really change, and by the end, their original inclinations and beliefs are still intact. Vince and Trudi’s character arcs never really arced. They did not change in any significant way, nor did the VT2 watch touch their lives in any significant way. They may have become emboldened by certain events enough to step out of character, but these instances were temporary and brief.
Overall, I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. Although the story itself was interesting, it could have been written better. I wanted more suspense, a fast pace, and interesting characters. What I felt I received was lukewarm suspense, repetitive scenes that dragged, and characters that did not change throughout the novel. In addition, there were several grammatical errors, so the writing could have done with a more thorough edit. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the consequences of technological advances or dystopian future novels. However, if you are looking for a fast-paced read with multifaceted characters, this book may not be for you.
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