Devil’s Plaything by Matt Richtel – Book review by ROz

Devil’s Plaything by Matt Richtel 2011

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The thriller ‘Devil’s Plaything’ starts with a confusing, yet intriguing transcript from something called ‘The Human Memory Crusade’.  A letter of thanks for participating in the recording of our most treasured, and dwindling, source of history – your grandparents.

 

Nathaniel Idle loves his grandmother.  Richtel writes their interaction in a whimsical fashion, like secrets between the best of friends, soul mates almost.  But right from the beginning you get the sense that Nathaniel takes visiting his grandmother in the nursing home for granted, becoming that younger family member who is forced into the care-taking role, not by choice, but because of locale.  Grandmother Lane Idle is suffering from dementia, but something isn’t quite right.  Her decent into the dark and empty world of stolen memories is much quicker than Nathaniel, medical school graduate, but medical blogger journalist by choice, knows is possible.  Something is very clearly wrong.

 

He gets to this conclusion when people start shooting at him.

 

‘Devil’s plaything’ is well written, merging the world of technology with the thrill of a good story of survival.  Grandma Lane is the key to something that comes in the form of an encrypted memory stick, urging him to find the secrets and unlock the information stored on the anonymously given item.  One by one, Nat is besieged by killers, people trying to help him, people he doesn’t want to help him, and secrets he doesn’t realize he knew all along.  Grandmother Lane is just trying to deal with what she knows she remembers incorrectly, what she cannot remember, and what she does not want to remember.  Is Lane’s rapid memory loss part of answers that are chasing after Nathaniel or is it because of them?

 

It does get a little drawn out with seemingly the same information revealed, just in different points of view and angles, but ultimately the book’s twist is a good one.  Matt Ritchel has a way with dialogue, one that I find hilarious and Nathaniel’s character development is endearing – watching him struggle with his inability to commit, to realizing that being ‘free’ isn’t as powerful as being important to someone.  Questions are posed as to whether or not we’re allowing technology to rob us of what makes us unique, instead of efficient.  If I asked you what your home phone number was, could you tell me?  Hell, I don’t even know my own home number – cell # sure, but land line?  I remember being a high school freshman and being able to ramble off every single phone number of the huge gaggle of friends I had.  Now?  I can barely remember what the area code for Colorado Springs is without looking it up.

 

Are we what we remember or the potential of what we could know?  If someone not only erased your memories, would your mind fight to remember?  Would you even notice if maybe they were changed…just a little?  Questions like this and more are weaved into Nathaniel’s path to find the truth out the Grandmother he borderline neglects emotionally as he tries to live his mundane life, fighting to be part of something bigger than he is.  A very weird, wild ride and I highly recommend it.

 

Mr. Richtel is a Pulitzer Prize winner and NYTimes best selling author and NYT Journalist.

Matt Richtel twitter and website

 

Rosalind Hartmanntwitter and facebook

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