REVIEW: Duplicity by N. K. Traver

Duplicity

Title: Duplicity
Author: N. K. Traver (and narrated by MacLeod Andrews)
Format: Audiobook, 6 hours 46 minutes
Publication: March 17th 2015 by Audible Studios
Source: Author (thank you, N. K. Traver!)
Genre: Fiction—Cyber Thriller, Science Fiction
Other classifications: Young Adult

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Synopsis

A computer-hacking teen. The girl who wants to save him. And a rogue mirror reflection that might be the death of them both.

In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts just for the thrill of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he’s worked hard to maintain the façade. With inattentive parents who move constantly from city to city, he’s learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he’ll just keep living like a machine, all gears and wires.

Then two things shatter his carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, stubborn girl who insists on looking beneath the surface – and the small matter of a reflection that starts moving by itself. Not only does Brandon’s reflection have a mind of its own, but it seems to be grooming him for something—washing the dye from his hair, yanking out his piercings, swapping his black shirts for … pastels. Then it tells him: it thinks it can live his life better, and it’s preparing to trade places.

And when it pulls Brandon through the looking-glass, not only will he need all his ill-gotten hacking skills to escape, but he’s going to have to face some hard truths about who he’s become. Otherwise he’ll be stuck in a digital hell until he’s old and gray, and no one will even know he’s gone.

Review

I received a review copy from the author which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

Duplicity asks the reader to suspend quite a few disbelief in exchange of an intriguing, fast-paced cyber thriller with a normal, flawed guy at the center.

The book follows Brandon Eriks—tattooed bad boy by day, deft hacker at night—and the series of bizarre occurrences after his computer seems to have gotten hacked. His reflection appears to operate on its own volition; his multiple piercings start disappearing; the dye in his hair gets washed off; and his wardrobe undergoes a makeover. It doesn’t help that his ex, who doesn’t believe any of it, wants to get back together and Emma, who refuses to buy the devil-may-care attitude, is making him question his carefully built façade. Equally unhelpful is his barely present parents. And then he gets pulled through a mirror and, well, he’s gonna need all his hacking skills to fight his way out. Here’s the thing. Do not attempt to make sense out of the concept of this novel; it doesn’t work that way.

“”Maybe that’s the problem,” I say. “That everyone does what’s easiest.””

The plot could’ve worked out fantastically—except for the part where some codes don’t add up. I listened to the audiobook—Andrews captures the little pockets of humor in Duplicity particularly well—and I had to pause several times, taking in details, processing information. I paused and rewound. And this could’ve easily been attributed to the fact that the descriptive nature of the book consistently sends my imagination off, rendering the narrator a white noise. But ’til I realized the best way to enjoy the story is to turn off the critical thinker in me, I was going back and forth over scenes. I was positive I missed passages.

“You don’t know how to block what you can’t see, do you? You’re too visual. Typical guy problem.”

It’s easy to dismiss Duplicity as a ridiculous YA thriller with certain elements too improbable for its own good. But it bears pointing out that where the narrative shines is on the characterization of Brandon Eriks. Misunderstood baddy, sure, that has appeal to a specific set of readers. But I’m talking flaws in character. Brandon has trust issues; he has his reasons for not letting people in. But he’s also self-absorbed and I like that the author doesn’t try to excuse him. Some of the parts that stood out to me are ones where we witness Brandon struggling with the realization of this. On the contrary, some of the parts that scarcely registered to me are those involving Emma. She is a love interest at best, a plot device at worst. She had potentials, especially in the scene where we discover she has a personal agenda. But I wish she had more agency. Although, props to Traver for sidestepping a convenient literary trap. Emma doesn’t save Brandon. Love doesn’t fix everything. Then there’s Seb. You can’t discuss Seb without stumbling upon a collective data of spoilers, so I’ll curtail. Brandon meets Seb in the mirror and the latter probably brings about the most humor and character development from the former. Seb also makes our MC uncomfortable, which makes for good entertainment.

“I sigh because it’s literally hurting me to think of nice things to say.”

In a way, Duplicity is a hero’s journey. One that doesn’t end with the hero learning all his lessons, neat bows and all.

3.0 out of 5

Author

N. K. Traver

As a freshman at the University of Colorado, N. K. Traver decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said “no one could make a living” with an English degree. It wasn’t too many years later Traver realized it didn’t matter what the job paid—nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped.

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