Cover Image: Denial

Denial

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Jon Raymond has gifted us with a climate change novel with a new twist. The year is 2052 and the predicted environmental calamities have come to pass.  The major perpetrators have been held accountable as environmental criminals.  Robert Cave was one of the worst offenders but disappeared before he could be brought to justice. 

Jack Henry  is a journalist who is given information about Cave's whereabouts during the same time he is given a potentially deadly diagnosis.  He  travels to find him.  By, chance, Cave befriends him and we learn that doing the right thing is not as clear as we thought.  

So who was in denial of the consequences of choices made?  It appears we all were.  Denial reminded me that no matter how much we may wish otherwise, the past always haunts the present.  It also gave me hope and we can always use more hope.
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I tried with this book, I really did. But at about the 60% mark, I had to start skimming. I just couldn’t wait for it to end (not in a good way).

My opinion is probably no fault of the book itself; there is definitely an audience for this book, it’s just not me. I like post-apocalyptic books a lot, but this was pure science fiction that just happens to be set in the far-away future.

I think this made me realize that I also prefer near-future post-apocalyptic more. I thought this would have a thriller aspect, but I was incorrect. Yes, the world was experiencing crazy climate problems as I was excited to see, but it was all like a throwaway. I wanted more of that.

I’m giving it 2.5 stars because I saw it through and while the story was decent in some aspects, overall I didn’t like much about it (the writing wasn’t even that great) but if you are a true sci-fi purist, this one’s for you!

(Thank you to Simon & Schuster, Jon Raymond, and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my review.)
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I went into this with such high hopes as I normally love futuristic/dystopian novels. The synopsis really hooked me but ultimately the book didn’t feel very futuristic or dystopian which left me a little disappointed. 

The premise of it all was good… bringing those who don’t care about the planet to justice? Yes, please! But, overall I felt like the storyline lacked direction. The different elements of unmasking Cave, Jack’s diagnosis, and his new relationship did not flow together. They were pretty much written as separate chapters without much to tie them together and it became a little hard to read. Then, we get to the ended and it all just ends? There wasn’t much in the way of drama, action, or a conclusion to what happens next. It’s not necessarily a cliff hanger but it left me wanting more. 

Overall, not my favorite but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it! It was good in it’s own sense and it could very well be one you love!
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This was a fascinating read. I found the premise compelling, the characters well drawn and the story itself intriguing.
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I was drawn in by the precise and fluid writing style as well as the fully developed characters. I never really felt bored, even when some of the detailed writing got a little heavy handed. I felt immersed in this future world with its questions about personal responsibility, guilt, and consequences for your actions. At first, I thought the ending was a little unsatisfying, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like it continued the exploration of the themes of the novel without being too obvious about it. This was a slow burn, right down to the last paragraph.
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Published by Simon & Schuster on July 26, 2022

What an interesting and unpredictable story Denial tells. The novel takes place about 30 years in the future. A climate catastrophe brought people and nations together. They placed 33 corporate executives on trial for profiting from the planet’s destruction. Eight of the executives fled before trial, making new lives with new identities. They were tried in absentia.

Jack Henry, a reporter, tells the story from his first-person perspective. A friend tells Jack that he saw Robert Cave in a museum coffee shop in Guadalajara. Cave was one of the defendants convicted in absentia. Outing him would be a big scoop. Henry hopes to find him, confirm his identity, and then confront him on camera, a confrontation he calls “the Donaldson” after a technique perfected by Sam Donaldson.

Jack stakes out the coffee shop. He reads Huckleberry Finn to pass the time. After a few days, Cave enters the shop. Jake gets behind him in line, hoping to strike up a conversation so he can record the man’s voice. Cave notices Jake’s book and pulls out a copy of Tom Sawyer. They bond over books, the old-fashioned kind made out of paper. Cave seems eager for American company. Jack spins a cover story before he leaves. After another “coincidental” meeting in the coffee shop, the two men appear to be working toward a friendship.

Jack’s editor reviews the recordings and surreptitious videos. She confirms Cave’s true identity. To Jack and likely to the reader, Cave seems like a decent man. Unless he is putting on an act, he has accepted that climate change caused a crisis and that profit-seeking corporations were largely responsible for it. The novel suggests that people are capable of changing and encourages the reader to wonder about the fairness of taking freedom away from a man who is living a new and harmless life. A cameraman notes that other people who have faced the Donaldson also turned out to be friendly, likeable people. The same can be said of most criminals — we often like the ones we know and despise the ones we never meet. At the same time, Cave avoided the punishment that was imposed on the other executives, and it isn’t fair to let him escape responsibility for his actions.

This might be the stuff of a dramatic moment as Jack decides whether to ruin Cave’s life, but Jon Raymond eschews obvious drama to tell a smaller story. Denial does not explore climate change in any depth. Nor does it explore the wisdom of placing a few corporate executives on trial, although it recognizes that culpability extends far beyond those executives. Every person who chooses not to reduce a carbon footprint, every politician who votes against clean energy, every sham scientist and TV talking head who denies global warming shares fault for the destruction that climate change is already causing.

The story builds tension indirectly. Jack’s relationship with his girlfriend seems troubled when he brings her to Mexico to witness a solar eclipse. Jack becomes ill during that quick vacation, perhaps too ill to execute the Donaldson. The real drama comes from Cave when he realizes that his new life might be coming to an end. Raymond doesn’t overplay the scene. Cave’s reaction is surprising for its understatement. It seems all the more real and sad for its lack of drama.

Perhaps Denial could have been a bigger, more powerful book, but it isn’t fair to criticize an author for not writing a different book. Denial tells a simple, very personal story. I enjoyed it for what it is, even if it could have been more.

RECOMMENDED
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Raymond is a good story=teller. This is engaging, imaginative, and probably memorable (time will tell). Recommended.

Thanks very much for the free ARC for review!!
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