the Little Red Reviewer

Unbreakable, by Will McIntosh

Posted on: July 12, 2017

Unbreakable by Will McIntosh

published June 27th, 2017

where I got it: received ARC from the author

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Celia makes it look easy, but she’s been training so long to break records that to her, all the training has begun to feel hum-drum.  She figured out the trick to conditioning her body years ago: all she has to do is suffer, and the hardest part of breaking a record is the unceasing boredom. Most minutes holding your breath under water, longest time being buried alive, most number of hours spent without sleeping, she’s done it all and she knows it’s 99% sitting around waiting.

 

She’s lived in Record City for as long as she can remember, and for nearly as long she’s lived with her adoptive parents and a few house mates. They eat together, train together, cheer each other on, and help each other recover. When the team breaks a challenging record, it’s cash rewards all around and better housing.  Losing out to another team means having to move to a dingier apartment with fewer windows.  It might sound weird to you and I, but to Celia this is what family and love and friendship means.  When you’re surrounded by people who live their lives the same way you do, there isn’t anything to tell you that this is all very weird.

 

Part Hunger Games, part Lost, and part other things I can’t mention because I don’t want to wreck the twist, Will McIntosh’s new novel Unbreakable will grab you by the neck and won’t let go. Longer than a novella, but shorter than a novel, McIntosh self published this very strange, ultra fast-paced, narrowly focused, and addictively readable novel.  It is currently available as an e-book or paperback on Amazon.

 

As a friend lies dying, Celia escapes Record City on a quest to find a life saving medicine she’s heard about on television. And what she finds are . . .  more walled cities full of single minded citizens who shush her every time she tries to ask questions.  Even in Record City, the rule was “follow the rules sand shut up”, and the TV and movie characters who inspire Celia to  be curious about the world were bound to get her into trouble eventually.

Celia thought this would be easy. She thought she’d get outside, and there would be drugstores and doctors, and hospitals, and people who could help her, just like on the TV shows she watches on her phone. But it’s just empty land, forests, roads, and walled city after walled city. Soon, she is travelling with Anand, who knows more about what’s going on than he’s willing to tell her, and Chuckles the Clown.  Yes, Chuckles the Clown, who works at a circus. More Pennywise than Bozo, Chuckles is violently angry, psychotic, and sorta even funny. Not the kind of person you want along with you on your quest, but he keeps threatening to shiv Celia and Anand, so they do their best to keep him from getting too angry. And the super disturbing thing is that Chuckles isn’t wearing make up, and when he takes his oversize floppy shoes off, the shoes are the exact same shape as his feet. Erm. . .  what the hell is he??

 

When the three of them learn what’s going on, and what all the walled cities are about, it was one hundred percent, no, one thousand percent not what I was expecting.  At first I thought the twist came out of left field, and then I realized McIntosh had been dropping little hints the whole time, I just didn’t want to see them.  That’s something that McIntosh is the master of: making the reader so comfortable that you don’t want to see all the horribleness that he is dangling right in front of you.

 

Good thing Celia eats horribleness and suffering for breakfast.  Actually, for her, being surrounded by strangers is a good thing. The more people she can talk to, the more likely she is to find a doctor who can save her friend’s life. Yeah, remember that? The whole reason she left Records City was to save her friend’s life. She didn’t leave because it sounded like something fun to do.

 

She doesn’t find a doctor, but she does find more answers. All that training she did? All those records she broke by conditioning her body to be able to withstand anything? None of that could have prepared her for this.

 

The twists at the end of Unbreakable are damaging and disturbing. It’s all happening to Celia and her friends, but there is a point in Unbreakable where it stops being about Celia, and it starts being about the denizens of the outside world who know exactly what is going on, and revel in it. These people who know what’s going on,  they aren’t horrible people, are they?  Part of me wants to say yes, they are horrible people, but a larger part of me sees a lot of myself in them. And I don’t want to be a horrible person.   Ok, so those last few sentences didn’t make any sense.  Go read Unbreakable, and they will make perfect sense.

 

And that’s another thing McIntosh has mastered: you read his books and you see yourself in the good guys. You also see yourself in the bad guys.

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3 Responses to "Unbreakable, by Will McIntosh"

This was a very intriguing review. Thank you!

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Ooh this sounds just crazy enough to work. I’m intrigued:-)

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I love Will McIntosh. Glad to hear he’s got a new book coming out.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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