Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Big Door Prize by M.O. Walsh

It's been too long since I posted about an adult book, and just for fun. I recently read The Big Door Prize by M.O. Walsh and had to share some thoughts.

First off, the premise is what hooked me. A machine is installed in a grocery store in the small town of Deerfield, Louisiana. This machine reads your DNA and gives you a printout telling you what you're capable of in this life. Sit down, feed it $2, swab your cheek with a Q-tip, and get instant results. The whole town lines up to see their potential.

Of course, some people don't buy what the machine is selling, but even those few are tempted to give it a try. Wouldn't you be? Some people find out that they're doing exactly what they were destined to do. Some people realize they're on the wrong path, and they quit their jobs and go in a whole new direction. The book itself follows Douglas Hubbard, his wife Cherilyn, high school student Jacob, and the Catholic school's priest, Father Pete. Since it's set in a small town, there are a lot of other secondary characters that shine in their roles and round out the whole story. 

Also, the "twist" of the story is so slick, so slight, so hidden in the last little bit of the book, that I read it, kept on, then stopped in my (reading) tracks. It's so good. SO good. Seriously. I'd say the slow parts of the book are worth it JUST for the twist. The overall resolution to the book is good too, but wow, that twist...

I "accidentally" read a 1- or 2-star review of this when I added it to my "Currently Reading" shelf on GoodReads. The reviewer said the book had a lot of potential but was pretty slow and didn't dive as deep as it could have into the story. I was kind of bummed about that, but since the premise itself really interested me, I stuck with it. It did get a little slow in some parts, but I kind of liked that it was more about the lives in the small town and how they were affected by this machine, than the machine and how that played out for individuals. It was funny enough to just hear about how people turned their lives upside down and went a little crazy based on their DNA reading; I actually think focusing more on this would have been boring because it would read more like a short story collection of everyone's options.

In fact, there is a short story collection with a similar premise! If you like the idea of a machine telling you something and changing your whole life, check out This Is How You Die

THIS IS HOW YOU DIE is a new short fiction anthology, filled with stories and comics about a world in which a machine can predict how you die.

It just takes a drop of blood from a finger. Then it spits out a sliver of paper upon which are printed, in careful block letters, the words “DROWNED” or “CANCER” or “OLD AGE” or “CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN.”

Nothing else. No dates, no details. And it’s always — always — correct.

 Anyway, all of this is to say that if the premise of a machine determining your future interests you, read BOTH of these books!

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