Cover Image: The Damage Done

The Damage Done

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QUICK TAKE: Very clever concept (what would happen if all the violence in the world just ended), but I struggled a bit with the execution. The story is told through the POV of several tangentially connected characters and how they deal with the fallout of a world without violence (spoiler: even without violence, people still find a way to harm each other), but the book left me with more questions than answers. Definitely thought-provoking and worth considering if you enjoyed THE VIOLENCE or THE MEASURE.
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Even when just reading the first few pages of this book I knew I had been absolutely correct in how interesting, moving, and excellent it would be. It sucked me right in and I was swept away by the compelling stories of the diverse characters and what not only happened to them on the day humans became incapable of physically harming one another, but also how each responded to those events and how they came out on the other side. 

This book is labeled as dystopian when it’s anything but. It’s also listed as thriller and/or mystery, and it’s neither of those either. This is pure speculative fiction with a hefty side dose of philosophy and terrific prose. It proposes a thought experiment and then lets stories unfold, almost as if the author had started out with these different characters and their origins and then let the chips fall where they may. Will the two immigrant children make it to America? Will dictator-led countries fall apart? What will happen to the brother of the last known victim of gun violence? 

But it also asks us, in the spirit of the book’s title: what about the damage already done? How does it feel to all of a sudden be free of a domestic abuser’s fists? How does a domestic terrorist come to terms with not being able to terrorize anymore? Who is already so broken down by violence worldwide that this new world seems not only confusing, but almost horrifying? Can we even still harm our fellow man anymore? Will those intent on doing harm find a way, somehow? 

The book is a page-turner with lovely writing and compelling scenarios, which keeps you wanting to read and read because there’s just another victim or perpetrator on the next page willing you to read their story. You just can’t help but read on and on, waiting to see how it all turns out at the end. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for early access to this title in exchange for a fair and honest review
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The Damage Done has such a unique premise- what happens when people simply no longer possess the ability to be violent? Talk about thought-provoking, right? The story is told from several points of view of people coming to the realization that violence is no longer an option. They are all from extremely different backgrounds and circumstances, but we soon see that some of their stories intersect.

Now, each character must navigate this new world in a new way. The lack of violence changes everyone's lives in one way or another, though some have more difficulty accepting it than others. And because humans are, well, humans, many people in this world try to find a way around the peacefulness.

I loved how the book brought issues that likely wouldn't have crossed my mind into play. Like what happens in prisons if there is no ability to truly intimidate people locked up? How do dictators terrify their citizens without the threat of bodily harm looming large? Bullies are far less intimidating when you know they cannot actually hurt you. And this list obviously goes on and on. But it's one thing to know this from a logical perspective, and another to adapt one's whole mental outlook so quickly.

Watching the characters come to terms with their new world is certainly the highlight of the story for me. Seeing how they will move forward, hopefully move better, was fabulous. I do wish we'd have had a little more time in the story, perhaps to see what some of the more long-term affects of the nonviolence was. And of course, I was curious as to why, though had I been in this world I'd probably be less focused on the reasons as well.

Bottom Line: So very thought provoking, I enjoyed learning about this world without violence right along with the characters and their often quite moving stories.
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The Damage Done is the most logical, ridiculous extrapolation of the high concept/magical realist apocalypse genre. You know the drill. "In a world where people can no longer (blank), society as we know it falls apart." Except in this case instead of falling apart, the world comes together?

Well, eventually.

Though at times the author seems to acknowledge the absurdity of his premise, the majority of the narrative is focused on how miserable people are both before and after they can no longer physically inflict harm on one another. Rather than imagine how this would alter day to day life (or for that matter, even allow the characters to imagine why this is happening), Landweber sidesteps the implications of such a phenomenon and instead retells the story of the day things changed over and over again through the perspectives of different characters whose lives will eventually intersect.

It's not badly written, but the scenarios lack originality, and each new ripped from the headlines cruelty is resolved in such an arbitrary fashion that it's clear this premise was never entirely thought through. Sometimes people trip over themselves instead of hitting someone, sometimes their blows turn into soft pats. Sometimes bullets slow and stop in mid-air, and sometimes guns just won't fire at all. In one instance, a missile is allowed to launch and destroy an entire house, but stops just short of killing the people inside. Just what are the rules here?

But the most glaring issue is that all of this is hardly discussed. There are descriptions of people watching the news, but not what they're seeing or how they feel about it. Everyone's too busy being sad to have a conversation about this totally crazy thing that is happening all around them. You could argue that that's not the point, that the message of the book is how we're all connected in a Crash-like manner. But in execution, this is a magical realism apocalypse that deserves an extra descriptor: "In a world where people can no longer (blank) and no one wants to talk about it... eh, we're going to skip over the part of what happens next."

What's the point of a high concept elevator pitch if you don't want to get your hands dirty playing with it? Like most literary speculative fiction, The Damage Done comes with a perhaps inadvertent, but nevertheless scolding aftertaste. How dare you enjoy this science fiction dystopia/utopia? This book is serious business!
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An intriguing premise is the basis of Michael Landweber’s latest book, The Damage Done. Violence is no longer possible in the world and seven victims of previous violence struggle to adapt to this new reality. Told from seven different perspectives including a bullied middle schooler, a high school student, social worker, professor, writer, white supremacist and even a migrant crossing the border into America. What is their fate in this new reality or are there new perils to negotiate? Whilst not a regular reader of the science fiction genre, this was a most enjoyable read with a four-star rating. With thanks to Crooked Lane Books and the author, for an uncorrected advanced copy for review purposes. As always, the opinions herein are totally my own and freely given, with honesty.
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I really enjoyed this speculative fiction novel about what would happen if suddenly human beings were incapable of intentionally inflicting harm on others. It follows a number of characters and weaves their stories together throughout the book. I really felt that Landweber did a fantastic job of really making me care about each of the characters. Further, I was really impressed at his ability to write characters from vastly different backgrounds. The exploration of the varying reactions to this sudden loss of control was fascinating, particularly as we see violent and damaged characters try very hard to work around the new 'rules.'

Definitely worth a read.
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I received an advanced reader copy of The Damage Done by Michael Landweber in exchange for an honest review.

I was enthralled by the premise of the Damage Done: one day, inexplicably, violence no longer exists. It is impossible to hurt another human being. The book starts with this premise, and follows several characters experiencing the aftermath of this tumultuous change.

The book is told through multiple perspectives; every few chapters it switches to another point of view. There are a handful of characters they regularly return to, as well as one-off insight into figures like the pope and the president.

The book opens on the perspective of a pre-teen boy named Dabney. Dab is unsure about his sexuality, hasn’t even given it much thought; all he knows is that he can’t stop staring at Connor’s hair. Going into the book I had no expectations, and I was delighted to be welcomed into this world with a story of queer self-discovery. Sure, it wasn’t the happiest of scenarios, but the way it was told, and the feelings Landweber shared with us, filled me with so much joy. Dabney’s story was relatable and heartwarming. 

I also really liked the story of a character known as Empty Shell. In an unnamed country, implied to be North Korea, Empty Shell is a poet and activist who has just been imprisoned for his crimes against Dear Leader. His narrative was compelling and I loved reading about his experiences as the new world unfolded around him.

There was a plethora of complex characters to read about in this book, most of which were captivating. However, there was one I really did not like. I was uncomfortable being inside the mind of a neonazi shooting up a synagogue. Like, I get that the shooting incident was integral to the plot and influenced other characters’ actions, but the book could have been effectively written without hearing that man’s opinions of Jews and people of color. I think the book could have been even better had his perspective been omitted. Fortunately he gets his comeuppance, although I’m not particularly fond of disability as punishment. There was also an attempted r*pe scene, and that felt gratuitous and intense. It was really hard to read these parts, but they were the only blemishes in an otherwise stellar novel.

The cause of the world turning nonviolent is never explained, and I was okay with that. I did have a few questions though, not as a critique but more as a curiosity. Are humans the only ones affected by this change, or are animals impacted, too? Is there no longer a meat industry? What happens to wild animals- are they no longer able to catch prey? Will they all starve? Really interested in how this one change would influence the rest of the world. The book doesn’t go much into that, but it didn’t need to; it was just fun to contemplate.

I really loved the way Landweber ends this novel, getting to see the longterm effects of this change. I’m particularly pleased that while they cycle through all of our protagonists, the fascist didn’t get a conclusion. Good. It’s what he deserves. This book’s conclusion brought me the same warm feels as the opening chapter, so it really ended on a high. 

Overall, apart from those couple grievances, I thought the Damage Done was an excellent read and I’m very glad to have read it. Thank you NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the advance reader copy.
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I wish I had a better review for this book because the premise is totally fascinating! It was just ok for me. Unfortunately the writing style and I didn't mesh. I found it to be a bit of a chore to get through the areas between the action. I hope this book finds its true audience, as I think there are people that really like third person POV and a more stark writing style than I am used to.
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An interesting and hopeful theory- that there is no more physical violence.  This is more a philosophical exploration of what happens next than a novel.  Framed by the intertwined stories of seven very different people, it''s thought provoking but less than satisfying.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
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Thankyou to NetGalley and Crooked Lane books for this arc. Sadly this is a DNF for me. I read the first 2 chapters and I’m just not interested at all despite the interesting concept. I think that this could work for a lot of people from what I’ve seen of the reviews, there’s just other things I’d personally rather read. The F slur was also chucked around a lot in the first two chapters which which felt a bit unnecessary for 6th graders to be saying, this plus the writing style wasn’t Intriguing enough for me to continue.
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I’ve often wondered what I world without violence would look like. Michael Landweber paints a thought-provoking, speculative offering of what this world might look like.

As a concept, I found this book to be intriguing, and was no surprised to see humans trying to find a way through this new constraint on their lives. Just look at how much people have pushed back against the pandemic protections these past few years. It's  just one shitty part of our species.

As a story, I found it a little tricky to follow with so many characters. I found it difficult to connect with any of them. For me, I think it split too much of what is a really fascinating idea and could have been explored deeper if there were fewer voices vying for attention.

Many thanks to Michael Landweber, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I tried several times to try and connect with this book, but I just couldn't get into it .I loved the sound of it, and usually like a book that is a bit different and thinks outside of the box, so I feel really disappointed that this book was just not for me.
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It's well-written, well-paced, and immersive. I found the dystopian world interesting and clearly pictured and the characters relatable. While it doesn't reinvent the subgenre, the writing is strong enough to capture the reader's attention and imagination. Worth a read.
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The story was intriguing and thought-provoking. Imagine a world without violence. The setting is well-described. The characters and their backstories are well written and well developed. The story was captivating from beginning to end. 

Narrated in multiple POVs, this was an enjoyable read. It gives you a detailed description of how the absence of violence affected the future lives of the characters and the rest of the world.

I'm thankful to the author, the publisher, and Netgalley for allowing me to read and review a copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with this advanced reader copy to review.

Imagine that you wake up one day and there is no violence. Guns will not fire, punches cannot be thrown, knives bend upon impact with skin as if they were made of foam. There is no rape, no murder, no gang violence, no domestic abuse or police brutality. Would this change the world as we know it for the better, or would humanity find a way to ensure the suffering of others regardless of physical limitations?

The Damage Done addresses this very question in a book that is less a story, and more a collection of possible viewpoints that addresses a number of people in different positions around the world. All of them are connected to one another in some way, some more than others. This isn't quite what I initially expected but it certainly didn't disappoint and I'm keen to check out some of Landweber's other works as it seems he likes to write about these big hypotheses.

The character's that we meet throughout the book are well crafted, the writing simple but emotive and the question raised very compelling, touching on important sociological and political themes. I do think that it would have done well to be longer, to have given us more of the long term aftermath or to have extended some of the POVs a little because there were quite a few of them and the bulk only cover the first few days of the change, but it didn't detract too much overall.
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What would it be like to live in a world where violence was no longer efficient, where punches turned into caresses and light touches, and bullets no longer hit their targets? That’s the main idea of The Damage Done, by Michael Landweber. Interweaving stories from different points of view, the book showcases how people react to discovering weapons can’t hurt anymore.

When I decided to request this book to read and review I was really interested in what the experience would be. This utopic/dystopic work differentiates from pretty much any other publication of the same genre, going against the grain when it describes a world without violence. But, sadly, this won’t be the good review I was hoping to write.

The first five characters presented in the book have really something in common, making it easier to follow where the story was going and what could come of it. But, at some point the author decided to make the book about only reactions to the new order of the world, never diving deeper into any of the stories first presented, which were really great and had so much potential.

Then, after spending so much time in storylines that lead nowhere, including here one short excerpt that wasn’t linked to anything and contributed nothing to the greater picture, the book gets us to what feels like a desperate attempt at trying to get hold of the original idea but which doesn’t work out well. Every page from the middle of the book onward felt like a waste of time, not getting the reader anywhere and not adding anything of value to the story itself.

Sadly, this was my first literary disappointment of the year and I really wished this to be a great reading.
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This is an alternate history story, of what happens when all people cannot harm other people. Told from many characters points of views, some the bullied or the abused or even the witnesses and some of the aggressor’s when one day as they are harming or being harmed seems to suddenly cease.

This book poses many interesting questions of what happens to these people, especially the aggressors. When one cannot harm the way we traditionally think of harming what does occur to them.

This was a really interesting, thought provoking read. While it all seems amazing what is happening in the beginning, might not be so satisfying in the end.

I did enjoy this book a lot. My one complaint is how many characters are written. It took a while to cycle through them, so it was difficult at times to remember what there place was in this story. This is a highly discussable book that raises many, many questions of morality. This is definitely worth reading.

Thank you NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Loved the premise of this book! In a world full of violence, what happens when it’s no longer possible? Fists no longer punch, guns fire but bullets make no contact, any form of harm aimed at another is thwarted before it can happen.

This story follows several different characters, each on a path wrought with violence. We see how the victims become the strength, and the bullies become a shell of themselves, confused and at a loss without their outlet.

Well written story with compelling characters. I would’ve liked a little more of the aftermath, years down the track, but it was still enjoyable to see where it went and how far people were willing to go.
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This was a decent book! Really thought-provoking. I just think there were too many character stories to focus on. I think that number needed to be edited down a bit. Marcus/Malcolm were the most compelling plot.
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THE DAMAGE DONE, by Michael Landweber, is a thought provoking look at what our world would be like without violence.  Violence is part of the fabric of our world and without it, the dynamic of our entire societal structure changes.  While removing violence initially and morally seems good, Landweber contemplates if there is anything bad about removing violence.  Using several different people's lives to contemplate this removal, it quickly becomes clear in the book that society, with a good amount of revaluation, can thrive in world where violence is a relic of the past.
  Landweber follows several different characters whose lives are forever changed after violence has been removed from the world.  The removal is abrupt and part of the joy of the book is watching the characters realize and process what has happened.  Some have trouble accepting it, while others instantly embrace it like a warm blanket and immediately alter their approach to their entire lives.  After we meet all of the major characters and experience their moments of realization, Landweber reveals how all of the individual are intertwined and the reader is rewarded with a touching conclusion of what our world might be without violence.
  Unique in design and heavy in the study of what if, THE DAMAGE DONE creates a hypothesis of something that cold happen and then plays out different scenarios of the result of that possibility. That playing out of different scenarios is what makes this novel such a compelling read.
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