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Prodigious Savant Paperback – September 23, 2014
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Gavin is injured in an explosion which kills two other people, the one who caused it and an innocent bystander. For thirty days Gavin is in a coma but he awakens to a different world, one of colour and fame. Having been set for the future as a sportsman, he is bemused to find that his talents now lie in mathematical equations, art, classical music and chess! Life is looking up, especially for his ambitious father who sees financial possibilities in his son's changes. As Gavin's life deteriorates, the reader soon becomes aware that someone has been paid to put an end to him and all he holds dear. The reason behind the attempts on Gavin's life become apparent toward the twist at the end when a master manipulator reveals himself.
Sometimes readers and certainly people who fancy themselves as art critics, try to put their own spin on the writer or artist's motivations. In this case, it would seem to me that the author asks the reader to examine whether fame and fortune is all it's cracked up to be and is it what we really want? Could we handle the responsibility that comes with fame and fortune?
The ending leaves the option to continue the story - but does not leave the reader up in the air.
With the exception of Gavin, the characters do not come across as sympathetic, and nor should they. Sharon, who comes into contact with Gavin's dark side, can be forgiven for not wanting to repeat the experience. Gavin's increasing paranoia and decreasing control over his own destiny are and cleverly drawn. The writing flows articulately.
I agreed to review this book - I do not know the author and have never read anything by him previously - but I will definitely read another of his works if given the opportunity.
Overall, Prodigious Savant is a worthwhile read, for any avid book reader and especially for the thriller lover. I highly recommend it.
Black Opal Books, Sep 23 2014, $12.99
While JFK occupies the White House, in Burlington, Vermont, high school friends Steve Simpson and Gavin Weaver chat by the nearby I89 construction site. Steve fires at what he assumes is a skunk; but seemingly minor events started by an errant toss of a banana peel before his shot leads to a massive explosion. Steve is decapitated, Gavin suffers a head injury and Dennis Daley far from the explosion dies from falling debris. The crater becomes the most popular tourist attraction in the state.
Dr. Adams performs emergency surgery on Gavin. After weeks in a coma, Gavin begins to recognize visitors through color patterns before finally awakening. Gavin's knowledge of the previous few days surprises Adams; as does his obsessive need to bring order to things. Brain trauma expert Dr. Weir tests Gavin and concludes the teen is a unique high-functioning savant with expertise at chess, speed reading, math, copying classic paintings and playing the piano like a maestro. However, while Gavin becomes the media darling "Whiz Kid", he also struggles with a violent side as his sister Judy and his new girlfriend Sharon Bennett learn first-hand.
This is an enthralling 1960s medical thriller in which J.J. White deftly uses real events (for instance, the interstate highway construction) and societal acceptable norms (i.e., Dr. Adams smoking in Gavin's hospital room) to set the era. Gavin's adjustment struggles make for a taut character-driven drama though the edginess somewhat abates late in the plot when Prodigious Savant veers towards a more typical suspense; even with magnificent late Texas and WWII spins. This is an enjoyable read.
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