John Gone by Michael Kayatta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
John Gone(The Diaspora Trilogy)by Michael Kayatta
John is a simple teen living on an island in the Florida Keys. He finds a strange watch, with leather strap, and does what any level headed teen might do and tries it on. This is no ordinary watch and once it seats itself on his wrist it refuses to let go. Having no time to worry about it, because his mother has set him up for a summer job (think internship at a computer company-except the company is anti computer and would probably do everything by string phone if they could work that out; but as it is being the 411 of a wiki-pedia replacement for old folks is hard enough without that whole ball of string thing.) John’s new boss has bought him a motorized scooter from which he can facilitate house calls as their instant messenger; but is that a low enough reason for John to kill his boss. Before we discuss the demise of Virgil, John's boss; we'll discuss Molly, John’s girlfriend.
We see Molly quickly when she surprises John while he's leaving for his job and she comes to announce she and her father are here to pick him up for their three week anniversary-they've been together a whole three weeks. John is distracted by the obsessive clingy watch and his mothers coaxing to get ready for her to take him to his new job; and though it might look like John might have overlooked this anniversary he covers well by insisting that Molly wait for the surprise he has for her that evening at six. Molly agrees and does what any girlfriend of three weeks might do when she calls Johns mom 'Mom'.
Seriously though; I liked this book despite some elements of the beginning and the fact that warming up to John takes a long time because he's just a bit self-centered and somewhat clueless about a number of things that are just not right about his life before everything goes crazy on him. I would love to give it five stars but for now 4 is being generous and I'll try to explain.
When John arrives to his semi-non-tech job his new boss Virgil sweeps him up and gives him the grand tour including a corkboard display map that he refers to as Face-board. And the reader realizes things are likely to enter the strange when John immediately notices that the spot where his home should be has been marked as a cemetery: Priscilla’s Prestigious Plots. But to add to the insanity Virgil informs John that he gets the scooter but is not allowed to have his cell phone or other electronics because they have to keep up the image and...you guessed it...Virgil insists John take off the clingy watch. This starts to border on comic when Virgil become so adamant that he brings out some large cutters when he finds the watch to be overly resistant to his attempts to help John remove it. Fortunately for John and his limbs sake this causes the watch to retaliate by shocking John's boss; unfortunately it causes cardiac arrest at the same time it seems to activate another feature of the watch and John passes out only to awaken in a restroom in Tallahassee Florida. Twelve hours later John is on a buss(loaded with other people) on his way home when the watch strikes again and returns him to the scene of the first crime where John finds he's being sought for questioning and suspicion of his ex-bosses murder. Later, because the watch knocks out everyone within a specific radius around John, he's is being sought for questioning on the deaths of people who were on the bus that crashed when the driver passed out.
There are reasons for all of this that comprise the world building of the science involved in the watch that is the result of a long story that actually is a bit more interesting than Johns story; but in fairness we have to share so we get the two stories together. Getting the two stories to converge is a somewhat convoluted plot that in many ways makes a lot of sense; but also includes a lot of side trips with John shifting back and forth across the world every twelve hours with each jump going a longer distance and John has no control. This could go on forever except that the watch is using John like a battery and each time he jumps it draws more energy because the distance is longer and it will soon be critical. There's a way out of this but when John discovers it, it sounds like the cure is worse than the disease. And this is not to mentioning the strange goons that also have watches and are chasing John when he goes on his jumps.
There is murder and mayhem afoot and if I have one quibble about the novel its all the side trips John takes that take up a large portion of the narrative and don't always seem to add that much to the story. It might be that, since this is a trilogy, these trips will make sense and figure in down the road, but presently they just look like something to bulk up the real story; which, as I said, is the more interesting story of how the watch comes about and the rather insane group of people involved in the development. And even though John has fell prey to the madness of the scientists it is often difficult for this reader to feel sympathy for him based on his own attitude, which means the only redeemable character, is one who gets a smaller billing in the story. But I should leave that for other readers to find and judge for themselves.
This is a neat yarn with plenty of good pacing even though it lacks in some character development it still is an interesting Science Fiction novel once the initial silliness is left behind. John could use a heavier dose of growth but keep in mind there are still two more novels for that to pan out.
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