SKINNER Doesn’t Let Up

Skinner by Charlie Huston
Reviewed by Andrew

Skinner, the new novel by Charlie Huston, is a fast paced thriller that doesn’t let up. Each chapter in Skinner alternates view points between characters, giving the reader windows into how each character thinks and what their motivations are.

The main character, Skinner, is named after a skinner box in which a test subject is taught to respond to certain stimuli to condition an action (like a rat seeing a light and then pushing a lever). Skinner, in the book, grew up in a skinner box as an experiment by his parents. It’s an interesting idea that adds to the uniqueness of the main character.

Huston employs the present tense to keep the action fast-paced and constantly moving. Initially, this technique can take a little getting used to, but as the novel progresses it keeps readers on the edge of their seats knowing that each word happens exactly as it is read. Its style won me over in the end.

Huston takes us through a small village in India to the air conditioned battlegrounds of government buildings and keeps the reader’s interest with characters ranging from children whose prized possession is a ball, a former hit man turned “asset” protection (a bodyguard), and quirky, drug using roboticists who are the best at their jobs. Heck, there’s even a love story.

With the controversy over the NSA and Edward Snowden in the news, Skinner’s release date could not have been timed any better. The bulk of the novel focuses on how global conflict is increasingly being fought in cyberspace and will be great reaping grounds for novelists to come. Skinner is a quick and fun read that takes many twists and turns and is hard put down once it really gets moving.

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Charlie Huston speaks about and signs Skinner here at BookPeople this Wednesday, July 24 at 7pm. The event is free and open to the public.

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