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Book Review

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The Lost Puzzler


Author: Eyal Kless
Publisher: Harper Voyager
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 827230 2
Publication Date: 10 January 2019

Following the collapse, humanity continues to struggle to climb out of the ruins of the destroyed Tarakan Empire. The Empire has left behind many technological wonders, many of which are used by the survivors and rejected by others. Some even use salvaged material to make themselves into cyborgs. Not everyone is adept at using Tarakan technology, except for the numerous children who are born with strange tattoos, children like Rafik, whose gift is prized above all others, as he is a puzzler…

The Lost Puzzler (2019. 516 pages) is a post-apocalyptic novel, written by Eyal Kless, an international violinist. This is his first book and suffers the same fate as many a new novelist, sticking in too much too soon.

I’ll say, right off the bat that I liked and was intrigued by the world that Kless has created. The addition of the Tarakan Empire, with its futuristic technology was very old school science fiction. It is one of the book's central mysteries. The Empire fell so long ago that no one living really knows who they were. Kless cleverly distracts the reader with thoughts of aliens and is able to keep this sleight of hand up for the majority of the novel.

The novel has an interesting format. We first meet a historian from the city of towers, and our first POV character who has been charged to find the mercenary, Vincha, and learn all he can about the backstory and disappearance of Rafik. The bulk of the story is told as a flashback as Vincha recounts all she know about the boy and his subsequent disappearance.

When we switch to Rafik we get the story of his journey, from fleeing his village, those born with the mark are often feared and in some communities killed, to his eventual meeting with Vincha.

So, the biggest problem the book has is that having read the whole thing you realise that about a third of it could and should have been cut out. Large portions of Rafik’s journey felt like diversions, pleasurable ones admittedly, but there were lots that did not add to the overall plot, leaving the book feeling bloated.

Characterisation was also somewhat lacking. Though I liked Vincha, Rafik and the historian, many of the other characters, like Galinak the hired muscle, were one dimensional and often stereotypical. Galinak is the rogue type, just as happy to be downing a drink as he is to be killing any opposition; your average Han Solo.

There was nothing terribly wrong with any of the particular sections and in places Kless provides some truly original material, but this is a case of less is more.


Charles Packer

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