Thomas Locke has done it again… which is a feat worth mentioning because he has done so by crossing genre lines. Trial Run fits into the genre of Thriller proper but can be further categorized as techno- and psychological making this only the second I’ve read of this exact kind (the other being Skin by Ted Dekker). But if you’re familiar with the movie Inception, you’re familiar with the genre of Locke’s latest book.
*This is an analytical review; for plot overview please read the book description or other reviews. My goal here is to help you understand in which ways you will be influenced by this book (in addition to offering a few suggestions at a literary level).
This book presents the world as one in which external forces will always attempt to divide & conquer the good, loving, and true… but of course the good, loving, and true is more powerful (if only they face the evil head on). Indeed, a purpose-filled fate pulls us forward and although we don’t exactly know what the purpose is…we can trust that the transcendent “fate” is one which has the good, loving, and true as its end. If fate is the main theme, its supporting themes are love, forgiveness, community (teamwork), and inevitability. I list inevitability as a distinct subtheme because there is only one instance in which the characters question fate and attempt their own path… in other words: not only is there a fate guiding circumstances, but the characters simply accept fate as inevitable… there is no libertarian questioning here. Readers might be surprised to find several cases of romantic tension in the book, but they will be happy to discover that it is never forced (and to my literary critic mind, happy to find that all things aren’t tied up tidy with bows).
The book takes place in a contemporary world in the collegiate, scientific, and government settings and introduces us to a wide array of characters. In fact it’s hard to determine who the “main” character is—which is something I am glad to struggle with! There is no primary character which allows us readers to hear the stories of individuals as they fit into the whole and to be an outside observer… seeing ourselves in parts of the individual and being able to evaluate them in relation to the whole; consequently allowing us to do the same with our own persons. The character profiles aren’t exactly stock, but some of their relationships are unfortunately. There is, in my opinion, a character who plays the Deus ex Machina (if I can say that at all when the book is nearly based on the motif!); but it’s done in such a way that I didn’t realize until the book was over. That, I believe, is an excellent use of the plot device. The plot itself is rather curious. There is no overtly noticeable plot structure, and yet I wanted to read and read more. The best way I can describe the plot is “filling in the blanks.” The book presents so many questions all the way through that you continually want to know. It does this through both assumption and introduction, or both dropping you in the middle of the story without the assumed facts to bolster your understanding and by presenting new events and ideas that are certain to play a role later (and maybe already have! If we only knew the answers).
I think that, literarily, Locke needs to work on variety of sentence structure. During one instance, we are supposed to feel the calm tranquility of love and communion, but his sentences are so short that I read it like a rushed tryst. It seemed like once he started a flow of sentences, most of them followed that pattern for paragraphs & pages at a time. Included in this, Lock often resorted to the construction: “Not so much _______________ as _______________” which became pretty annoying. I think the construction is a good one for giving nuance and for heightening the moment, but it was certainly overused.
This book is written for thriller/sci-fi fans, and I think it offers them purpose… even if the purpose itself is still unknown. There is a reason, and a good one, that this technology is extant. There is a reason, and a good one, that we as humans feel peril and want a resolution. In comparison to Locke’s first book Emissary, it is similarly well-written (using a few stock elements), but ultimately engaging. In comparison to Skin, I much preferred the ending of Trial Run, if ending it could be called since this is the first in a series to come, but the tension of Skin is more poignant than in Trial Run.
I offer this book 8/10 stars, or 4/5 and recommend it to fans of the movie Inception who appreciate a bit of romance along the way.
I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book from the Publisher for review; my thoughts are my own.
This review is crosslisted on Amazon and Goodreads.