Thursday, September 1, 2022

Number One Fan by Meg Elison


I read The Pill by Meg Elison when it was nominated for the Hugo Award last year -it was one of the best stories I have read in years and it still haunts me to this day. In the third year of a global pandemic that most people, including our public health experts, seem to want to ignore despite nothing changing medically, makes it feel all too real. So when I saw a novel by Ms. Elison on NetGalley, I happily requested an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This book is not SF exactly, but is definitely SF adjacent. In this novel, a popular fantasy author is kidnapped and tortured, and the story invokes some thinly veiled versions of fannish awards and controversies to add to the backstory of the rapey incel who is the antagonist. This was a hard book to read. It is obviously leaning heavily on Misery by Steven King, as the title would suggest, but the torture was visceral and painful to endure even as a reader. 

The author undercut the tension early in the novel when she cut away to the victim’s assistant and later to an FBI agent instead of keeping the perspective close on the victim. Also, those side characters felt less fleshed out than I would’ve expected. 

The book really made me want to throw it against a wall, through, when dealing with the law enforcement aspects of the plot (and later, the trial part also).  The author took pains in parts of the book to have her protagonist mention that the protagonist was an author who met with and learned from real police detectives in order to be able to authentically write about police investigations. This makes it all the more irritating (and ironic, I guess?) that the actual investigation into the kidnapping in this novel was so unbelievably bad. In the real world, the investigators would’ve gotten the victim’s historical cell site data which would’ve let them know where her phone had been taken. They also would probably have tried to get real time cell site location data once the kidnapper started answering the victim’s phone and posting from it on social media. In addition, the trial part drove me up a wall. No judge worth their robes would have allowed the type of questioning that the defense attorney got away with in the novel. And it was s criminal trial, so the prosecutor is NOT the victim’s lawyer, a mistake Ms. Elison made more than once. 

Those problems aside, the book did have enjoyable parts and kept me reading to find out what happened. It wasn’t for me, but it might be for you. 

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