Mortal Chaos (Mortal Chaos, #1)by Published 02 Feb 2012
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The Butterfly Effect: the scientific theory that a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever.
When a butterfly startles a young rabbit, and the rabbit makes a horse rear, it starts a chain of events, over the course of one day, that will change people's lives . . . and end people's lives.
From a climber on Everest to a boy in Malawi . . . from a commercial pilot to an American psycho . . . the chaos knows no bounds.
This heart-stopping adventure by writer, film maker and climber Matt Dickinson will leave readers breathless. It's the book Jack Bauer would have read as a teenager!
Mortal Chaos (Mortal Chaos, #1) Reviews
"It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world."
This was confusing, shocking and exciting. If you enjoy chaos theories, books about catastrophes and loads of small stories becoming one big, you will certainly enjoy this. But it's just not my kind of book.
This book is amazing! It's really 'high concept' (chaos theory in novel form) and yet nobody could accuse it of being too 'commercial' (you know, that way people say it to mean poor quality or 'dumbed down'). Mortal Chaos is on the longlist for the Carnegie this year, which is what prompted me to shunt it up the TBR pile, after languishing on my Kindle.
The novel starts with a butterfly hatching, which startles a race horse in its training. This means that our focus shifts from the butterfly to the trainers working with the race horses. The whole novel is told in really short sections (most were just over a page on my Kindle), shifting focus from person to person using tiny links between them. One of the pleasures of this book is figuring out how different characters and stories may be linked, as it isn't always immediately apparent. As per the title, many of these plot threads are high octane and concerned with life and death scenarios: a climber on Mount Everest, a man setting off to bomb his ex-wife, boys in the woods with Daddy's shotgun.
The novel's pace is another strong point of interest. Who would have thought that a novel including a dozen or so different plot strands, with only tiny links between them, could be pacy? And yet it is. The snapshot chapters/sections help with this of course, as we effectively only see a single scene from each interlinked story before shifting focus again. This also helps to ensure (I think) that we don't get so bogged down in one angle that we forget the others. Again, I might have expected to find it challenging to keep up with so many different characters/plot threads, but it really isn't.
Just in case you're not sure, I'm strongly recommending this one. It does things that should make it difficult, and yet the experience of reading it wasn't that at all. I was absolutely hooked and disappointed when it all finished (but not disappointed with the ending). There is already another Mortal Chaos book out and there will be another next year. I will definitely be reading them.
Once I realised what this book was about, I was excited! I am absolutely fascinated by the Butterfly Effect, and I can vividly remember reading the short story 'A Sound of Thunder' by Ray Bradbury at secondary school. It is definitely one of those stories that makes you think.
Matt Dickinson has taken the theory behind the Butterfly Effect and shown how one tiny event where a butterfly startles a young rabbit can set off a chain of events that lead to mortality and chaos. This isn't just confined to the UK, the chain reaction of this one event effects people all over the world, creating a mind boggling and thought provoking thriller.
The way Matt Dickinson writes, creates the film environment in your own home. His use of language and description portrays a situation that appears to be happening in real time. As you begin reading, you are confused as to why all these snippets of unrelated events are appearing in the book, yet as it progresses you begin to see the fine lines that weave all the seemingly unconnected situations together. I actually felt like a fly on the wall observing all the events as they happened.
I can definitely see this book being made into a film. It is all there readily prepared for a producer to pick it up and just add the dialogue. A tornado of a story that starts out as a gentle breeze!
The book is composed of short one page events and you find yourself so engrossed in the book, that before you know you have read it all in one sitting.
There were a couple of threads which I couldn't see were related until I actually sat down and thought about it carefully, allowing me to join the dots.
Next time you step on a fly or swat a wasp out of the way, you may hesitate and consider what effect, your quick reactions have on the rest of the world!
This is a fast and furious read. Initially it felt like a quick read ideal for the start of the holidays - something to plow through to help me limber up for something more weighty - but I changed my mind as I read on. Yes the writing seems cliched in places and yes the action seems to matter more than the ideas, but the final chapters are gripping and the plot structure really is interesting and original. It's well worth a read - a fast and furious one at that.
The holistic nature of all things. Chaos theory. All that good interconnectedness shit. In tribute to the dominant paradigm of chaos theory (a butterfly flapping its wings in the rainforest, creating currents that start a knock-on chain of events...culminating in a devastating hurricane on the other side of the globe), Mortal Chaos begins with a butterfly. After emerging from its cocoon, the butterfly in question takes flight in Chaunchy Wood, Wiltshire, England. The insect's flapping startles a young rabbit, which dashes out of the woods and onto a racecourse. Spooked by the bunny, a racehorse throws its rider. Kuni Hideaki, a talented eighteen-year-old Japanese climber, begins a solo ascent of Everest's North Face. In rural Wiltshire, airline pilot Tina Curtis leaves for work later than usual and drives narrow country roads at breakneck speed in her Audi TT, hoping to reach Heathrow Airport on time. Elsewhere in Wiltshire, two young boys play truant from school, heading into nearby woods with a gun to have some fun. In Glasgow, a Japanese businessman boards a flight for Heathrow. Happy to be six, birthday girl Sophie opens her presents in Southwark, London. Sophie's father - an avid gambler - decides which horse to bet on in that day's Newbury races. A deer grazes happily in Sauncy Wood. On the shores of Lake Malawi, East Africa, a six-year-old boy named Bakili guards his family's corn crops from invading baboons; terrified and armed with only a stick, Bakili tries to scare away the savage beasts which, desperate for food, are rapidly losing their fear of humans. Video editor Kev Grupper assembles a news report in Washington DC. In the Champlain suburb of DC, Shelton Marriner prepares a bomb to blow his ex-wife and two children to Kingdom Come. Flight operations manager Ross Hawker juggles some flight times at Heathrow Airport. Maria Coster and her film crew suffer a puncture while driving towards the Malawian village of Chinchewe. Trainee astronaut Calder Lawton peers out over the city of London as his flight from Chicago descends to land. Airport thief Mick Vines surveys Terminal One of Heathrow, looking for a suitable victim. In Chinchewe Village, pilot Tina Curtis's husband Martin - a doctor at an Africa Frontline Care clinic - treats a child with an unusual injury.
The characters and incidents above represent just the beginning; each of these mini-plots twists and soars on its own, yet - like a literary alchemist - Matt Dickinson blends them all together in a masterful way...eventually. The chapters are super-short, so much so that each one could be a piece of flash fiction in its own right. The combination of brief chapters, perfect pacing and tight plot kept me gripped throughout. Over 200 pages in, I couldn’t help wondering how Dickinson was going to tie the myriad story strands together into a coherent conclusion. A few pages later, literary Tourette's kicked in and I found myself shouting (in the style of Scotty from Star Trek), "He'll never dae it cap'n! It cannae be done! There jist arenae enough pages left tae tie aw thae wee stories thegither!" But - somehow - Dickinson managed to connect the diverse story arcs into an ending that is not only satisfying and plausible, but also intricate and eloquent. The depth of interconnectedness in Mortal Chaos isn't on a par with that in, for example, Midnight's Children and it doesn't have the socio-cultural significance of Rushdie's masterpiece, but Dickinson's book isn't intended to be a multi-faceted social statement wrapped in a story of ages, plus it's aimed at a slightly younger market. Mortal Chaos is pure, visceral story...and a damn good one too. I rattled through the book in one sitting, unwilling to put it down. That's always a good sign. Dickinson has no literary pretensions; he sticks to active voice, clipped sentences and short chapters, but tells his tale with an inspired confidence. Very, very impressive.