Book Review: Idolon by Mark Budz

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I’m going to be entirely honest about this particular book. It was a battle to get through for me. The story is muddled, almost lost in the endless number of POV characters. It’s like reading a text book only to find out that half of the information is scrambled in other textbooks and you have to go looking for it. That’s the only way I can describe the reading experience for this.
The basic story is not really all that basic. In fact, I can’t even tell you exactly what the story is about because the book left me so lost and confused in the end that I still haven’t a clue what to think. It’s a futuristic world where people can wear specialized ‘skins’ so that they can look like whoever they want. People can basically look like the celebrities of the past. Something is happening, though, that makes a new type of illegal skin some sort of big deal among people. I still don’t get what the big hubub was about it.
So, the book opens with Dijk, a detective. He’s at a crime scene where a woman has been found dead. She’s wearing some sort of abnormal skin that isn’t registered and then we don’t hear from Dijk for a while. Now, my thoughts are, if you open up with this character, he really should play a bigger role. Then we learn about Nadice, who suddenly becomes pregnant, but because the laws state that her employer for some reason can tell her whether or not to have an abortion, she tries to smuggle herself out of the country. This is where Mateus comes in who gives her the opportunity provided that she carries something inside her. Now, in this world illegal skins or ripped skins (like ripped music) are the new cocaine. It turns out that this whole immaculate birth thing is happening all over. Pelayo is yet another character, who is looking for information about his lost sister or cousin, I’m not sure which, and his cousin Marta, another POV, both take the spotlight. Marta is the woman that helps Nadice, but we won’t get into that. Now, something about this strange skin that is going around has certain folks a little antsy. It’s supposed to be so revolutionary that it’s, scary. But it’s not scary. In fact, there’s nothing really bone gripping about this. Those aren’t even all the characters–there’s Al-Fayoumi, Atherton, Uri, and a bunch of others. I mean there are so many damn characters in this it’s hard to even keep track of what the hell is going on. The concepts he’s dealing with are so complex that with all those characters the poor reader is sitting by going “what?”. Even in the end I was thinking “what the hell happened?”. Somehow this strange skin that Nadice is carrying attaches itself to her baby and connects her to Marta, and together they are like a symbiot of some sort and the baby must survive so that it can bring the new skin into the world or something of that nature. I mean, just that alone is so mind boggling to think of that you would have hoped Budz would have stuck with just 2 character viewpoints.
My vote on this is that it is a very poorly written book. The concepts are too deep for a book of so many characters. This is an example of why too many POV’s is a horribly bad thing. You can’t do it. Too much happens in the story to afford the change of POV all over the place. Even in the end the story jumps back and forth, back and forth. And by the time you reach the end you’re so thoroughly lost that you feel like your brain is actually dying.
I really tried on this book, but it was so difficult to read and so mind boggling to just accept that I couldn’t even bring myself to believe in what was going on. There was too much. It’s like a soap opera crammed into 450 pages. Budz tries so hard to bring human-like life to all the characters, but that just isn’t enough room to make the characters important enough. I can’t concentrate emotionally on so many characters. Nobody human can.
I think this is the first book on my Awards List that I actually truly disliked.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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