Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Prediction by Darren Sugrue

Title: The Prediction
Author: Darren Sugrue
You can find this book here: Amazon (Kindle Edition), Smashwords and Darren Sugrue's site (free e-copy).

Author's description:

Nobody knows the day they’ll die… until now. 

Mathematical genius Daniel Geller has developed a formula to predict a person’s date of death only to have it rejected by the faculty at Trinity College. Totally devastated, he turns his back on the world he once loved. 

Twelve years on, Daniel’s old professor, John Redmond, and his wife are coming to terms with the death of their ten-year-old son. Could Daniel's formula have predicted his death? Revisiting the thesis, the professor makes an astonishing discovery: out of the five fellow students whom Daniel used the formula on, one of them died on the exact date predicted by Daniel. 

One more is due to die in six days: Daniel’s ex-lover, Grace. 

The professor draws Daniel back into the world of mathematics where he is suddenly faced with the dilemma of allowing someone he once loved to die, to be one step closer to proving his thesis and enjoying a prestige he once dreamed of… 

Set in the vibrant cities of Dublin and Amsterdam, The Prediction is a powerful story about coping with shattered dreams, the loss of a loved one, and an illustration of just how unpredictable the human heart can be.

Don't start reading this novel, if you don't have time to finish it! It gets you hooked from the first paragraphs, and it asks to be read in one sitting.

My official review:

Title & Genre
The title, "The Prediction", pretty much sums up the starting point of the novel: the formula to predict people's date of death. After reading the blurb and taking a look at the cover, I feared that the book would be filled with mathematical equations or something of the sort, but it is nothing like that. It is a thriller – crime – mystery novel with elements of a detective story. Filled with suspense, peppered with a bit of romance and softened by tragedy, it is one of the best crime novels I have ever read.

Theme & Plot
It is difficult to pinpoint one theme in the novel, because the plot (or plots) is constructed on so many levels, each with the same degree of importance. There are three main storylines that intersect: First, the story of Daniel Geller's life and career plays around the theme of hope and the loss of it. He has abandoned his doctoral thesis and his dreams of becoming a world-known mathematician, and he has come to terms with having a simple life and a menial job, only so that his hope is rekindled after twelve years. Second, John and Claire Redmond's tale is built around the destruction of family life, after the loss of a child. It is the darkest part of the novel, emotionally engaging and, sometimes, distressing. Third, Grace Visser lives her own tragedy due to her abusive husband. Her decision to leave him seems to create more problems than solutions. This third storyline focuses on character destruction and rebuilding.
Accidents play a defining role in the story. They offer major plot twists and an amazing ending.
Until the curtain falls, all the plots are resolved, one way or another, and the end of the book is both puzzling and rewarding.

Point of view
The multitude of points of view is another novelty that Darren Sugrue has to offer to the world of writing. We are used to seeing two or three points of view in a story, but here we encounter eight different ones! Each of the main characters and some of the secondary ones are given the chance to tell part of the story as seen from their side. The point of view usually changes from one chapter to another, as the story jumps among plots and characters.

After noticing the multiple plots and points of view, the number of the main characters is not surprising anymore: Daniel Geller, the mathematician; John Redmond, the professor; Claire, John's wife; and Grace Visser, Daniel's long lost love. Surprising is the part given to Zoe, Daniel's wife; she appears seldom in the novel, but plays a decisive role in the story. There is also a number of notable secondary characters: Otto, Grace's abusive husband; Rik, Grace's friend; Janssen, the detective; and my favorite, Edward, an episodic character who plays the role of the sage, the wise elder.
The author seems to love all his characters, paying the same attention to both primary and secondary ones, showing empathy towards all of them. They seem to come to life from the pages of the book, they change and develop through the story, and I am sure that any reader can find at least one character to relate to.  What surprised me was that among all these characters, there is only one villain. Don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean that all the others are linearly good. They are complex, deeply flawed, with their strengths and weaknesses, yet sympathetically portrayed, which is what makes them so "real".

The setting is secondary to the plot. The action moves between Amsterdam and Dublin. There is little description of the surroundings, but it is not missed. The parts that deal with the setting are full of humorous observations, such as the modes of transportation used by the police in Amsterdam or the bicycle lanes in Dublin: "Daniel suspected that Dublin Corporation had employed magicians to plan and construct the bicycle lanes. One would be cycling on them when all of a sudden, poof! They’d vanish."

Darren Sugrue writes in short, clear, sometimes fragmented sentences that have the fluency of modern poetry. It feels like the author just gives in to his train of thought. A great example is Chapter 58, a hospital scene. The details and the onomatopoeic vocabulary make you feel like you are there, in that hospital hallway. It is my favorite scene in the novel.
Attention to detail is noticeable throughout the book, in the way the author describes how a loose bike chain is reattached, how a woman applies varnish to her nails, or how the drops of rain bounce off the street.
The Prologue is a flashforward, giving you an insight on how the story will end, and getting you hooked within minutes.
Humor is subtle and scattered throughout, balancing the gloomy atmosphere that floods other scenes in the book.
Dialogue prevails and plays a major role in depicting the characters and the course of action. Inner thought is also present to characterize and give depth to the "actors".

You will not hear this from me very often: this is a must-read! Readers of all genres, unite! You have a crime, a thriller, a good detective story, romance and mystery all in one. It is funny; it is sad; it is good!

My Twist:

Favorite character: Edward, the old man whom Claire meets in the supermarket, and who helps her realize that she can get through her loss. It might be the most unbelievable character in the book – I mean, who goes for a smoothie with a total stranger they have just met while shopping? – but I like his role, his empathy, and the fact that his words are made important without making him an important (read "main") character.
Favorite quote: "There was no need to lock it [the door of the crane] after him. If a thief was willing to risk his life climbing all the way up to steal a Rubik’s cube, Daniel didn’t want to disappoint him." – one of the many quotes that I loved. I could probably quote the entire 58th Chapter to make my point, but the copyright prohibits it.
Favorite name: Claire – meaning "bright" or "clear", this name is attributed to a person who is going through the darkest moments in her life.

Least favorite character: Otto, Grace's abusive husband, the drunkard, the villain – no one could like him.
Least favorite quote: "'File for a divorce. Move in with me,' he blurted out." – guys really don't get it, do they? Like it's that simple!
Least favorite name: Darth Vader – I've never liked this one.

Aspirin of the book: 

"We all labour against our own cure, for death is the cure of all diseases." - Sir Thomas Browne


  1. I love this reveiw because it gives good insight into this unusual story but still leaves me with unanswered questions. To have so many point of view is unique. I like the sound of it. And I like Edward already, your (Anka's) favourite character.

    Congrats Darren!

    My best wishes,

    1. I'm glad to see that I've accomplished what I was trying to do: give enough details, but without spoiling the story; and hopefully, make you want to read it.
      Thank you for your comment!

  2. Excellent review. I like the format and details,both. I wonder if you like to read/review sci-fi? Let me know, Anka!
    Best to you,

    1. Thanks, Sally!
      As of recently, I am reading Sci-Fi too.
      Unfortunately, I have a very long "to read" list right now, but I will let you know as soon as I catch a breath of air.

  3. Great review, I especially like that even the POV is mentioned--and 8 is very unique! Going on my TBR list, thanks!

    1. Thank you for your words, Lisa.
      I am happy that my review made you want to read the book. It's definitely worth it!