Imagine you suddenly learn you have the ability to tell if someone is a murderer simply by looking into that person’s eyes. A cool premise for a book, right? Couple that with a male author who inexplicably understands the fear and constant threat of violence that women live with, and you get dialog like this:
“Haven’t you ever looked into a man’s eyes and known that if given the chance and if he could be reasonably sure he could get away with it, he would rape you?”
AJ frowned as she stared. “No.”
“Oh. I thought everyone could tell that.”
And so goes Nest, the new sci-fi thriller from Terry Goodkind, the author of the 17-novels-and-counting Sword of Truth fantasy saga. What Goodkind’s fantasy books offer in escapism is what his new novel offers in horrific reality.
The book tells the story of Kate Bishop, a quiet loner who is also a successful career gal. Her world radically changes when she learns of her strange new gift. Her orderly life is wracked in violent upheaval. Fortunately, she meets Jack Raines, a sexy hunk of man who is an expert in seemingly everything, including teaching her how to become a badass.
“Rules are for people who lose fights. If you want to live, then you have to live by new rules— your own rules.”
But this is about more than the story: it’s a character journey and instruction manual on the dark side of humanity and how technology is helping this darkness grow. What sets this novel apart is that it does not scold us for becoming a technology-dependent culture.
Either I’m hallucinating, or a male author chose to write a book from a woman’s perspective. Huh? She’s in control of the story; not just along for the ride. The author knows things about the female experience that I assumed men didn’t think of. His empathy borders on frighteningly intrusive.
There’s even more fun to be had along the way. Here are some of the topics Goodkind covers: the Vikings, the origin of the species, Zionism, the genetics of altruism and violence, trolling on Amazon, superpredators and the (opposite-of-light)net. Also, why you should never, ever type or speak the word for that part of the internet into any electronic device.
Here’s what some critics will say about the book, and why they’re wrong:
— Whole lotta mansplaining going on – Much of the book is Jack explaining things to Kate, who at times seems like she’s been living in a bubble. But Kate is our surrogate in this story, so what’s really happening is that Goodkind makes sure that everyone (even those who aren’t like us geeks) can follow along.
If you’re reading this, my fellow Slice of SciFi fan, then like me, you probably have tape over your webcam and you change your IP address whenever it suits your fancy. It’s easy to forget that most other humans can’t adjust the aspect ratio on their TV’s, much less hold their phones sideways to record a video. When covering tech topics for the masses, Goodkind needs to assume that the reader knows nothing, then to teach from there. I will humbly admit that I learned a thing or two (but no more than that!).
Also, the explainer is a guy, and the explainee is a lady. But we can’t have it all. I’m grateful for a lead character who fights her way (literally and figuratively), making the story her own. And yes, the roles could have been reversed, but I’m tired of the “hot girl who’s secretly a genius and likes to have sex” trope.
— The world isn’t that dangerous – If you believe this is true, then you are a) a healthy man; or b) in denial; or c) both.
— Jerk move – At one point in the book, Jack does something only a total jerk would do, and Kate understands his logic. I didn’t like that, because if I had been Kate, I would have dumped my new boy toy at that very moment. Then I realized – I’m not Kate. This is a character someone else created, in a situation I can only imagine being in. Not only do I have no idea how I’d respond under the same circumstances, but the book is also not about me. That shows how relatable the character is, that I had put myself so much in her shoes that I felt I was her.
Nest is a dark, terrifying tale that is deliciously impossible to put down. It made my view of the world less rosy, and I believe it’s left me with a stronger awareness of the dangers that face us all, especially women. Any book that makes me rethink the nature and truth of my reality is, by default, a good one.
I close this review by giving Nest my highest praise, and by leaving you with my favorite line from the book –
“Your best defense is to be polite, be professional, and have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”
Kate Bishop thought she was an ordinary woman living and working in Chicago. But when she unexpectedly finds herself in the middle of a police investigation into a brutal murder, Kate makes a shocking discovery: she has the ability to identify killers just by looking into their eyes.
Trying to grasp the implications of this revelation, Kate is drawn deep into a world of terror. She is tracked down by Jack Raines, a mysterious author with shadowy connections to those who share her ability. He tells Kate that her unique vision also makes her a target, and only he can help her.
Now, hot on Jack and Kate’s heels are a force of super-predators, vicious and bloodthirsty killers who will stop at nothing until Kate is dead. But even as she fights for her life, Kate still isn’t sure if Jack is really her salvation, or another killer coming to slaughter her.
Nest by Terry Goodkind
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (November 15, 2016)