Plot: Effacement is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that flawlessly infuses complicated character relationships into a futuristic world grappling with rapidly growing technologies that threaten to drag society down the path of a cyberpunk-like surveillance state.
Prose: Hawkes’s prose is engaging, with character’s voices perfectly encapsulating them. The third-person viewpoint deftly switches between characters at pivotal moments, allowing insight into motives readers wouldn’t otherwise have been privy to.
Originality: The author is skilled at worldbuilding. Readers will be easily drawn into this sci-fi thriller chock-full of devious plots, unknown assassins, and increasingly dangerous and invasive technology.
Character/Execution: Characters in Hieronymus Hawkes’s Effacement are memorable and intriguing. Workaholic protagonist Cole Westbay is both likeable and complex, as he grapples with personal issues that quickly belie a much more sinister, wide-reaching plot. Meanwhile, antagonist Phillip Chestnut proves to be a classic villain.
Date Submitted: April 01, 2021
Although the story’s often technical, with passages detailing how the implanted chips work with the brain, the programming involved, and their interfacing with other technologies, Hawkes hits the right balance of explaining just enough to be clear while eschewing jargon that might put off those without tech backgrounds. When the government, through an insider at Vitasync, adds an assassination code to a software update that is so sloppy it accidentally kills many people, Hawkes quickly and clearly reveals what the characters investigating the code are finding while simultaneously ramping up the story’s suspense.
The plot’s sturdy if not surprising, but Hawkes’s inventions like the “lifelog”–a cloud-based record of everyone’s life that people often rely on more than their own memories–resonate. It’s Hawkes’s characters who set this thriller apart, offering a welcome change of pace for the genre. Highly intelligent, exceptionally strong women protagonists are pivotal to the storyline– lawyers, VP’s, engineering geniuses, and multi-dimensional leaders. Even characters who function as antagonists are fiercely intelligent and well-crafted. Hawkes fleshes out his cast with many layers, a strategy that will keep readers invested in getting to know them as Cole strives to reveal the truth.
Takeaway: Fans of tech-savvy science fiction will be drawn into the web of those fighting to save society from technology that has spiraled out of control.
Great for fans of: Neal Shusterman’s Scythe, Douglas E. Richards’s Mind’s Eye.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
This was a book that made you think about futuristic ways with a twist of excitement throughout! I had a hard time putting it down! I usually read more historical fiction type books, but this was anything but that and I enjoyed it tremendously!
Brilliant! The writer had me hooked immediately. This book will have you thinking, wow this could happen and soon. I enjoy a book that surprises me and this one did. Great read!
West Virginia author Hieronymus Hawkes earned his BS in Economics from the Air Force Academy and his MFA in writing poplar fiction from Seton Hill University. Retired from the Air Force and Air Force Reserves as an expert pilot with thirty-two years experience, he now turns his attention to writing fiction and poetry. EFFACEMENT is his debut novel publication. His stories are also available in the anthology THE SECRETS OF HARROWGATE VALLEY.
Hawkes sets the tone of his new novel with his artwork on the books cover – trying to make sense of the aspects of science that invade our psyches is a fine visual ping to arrest our interest! And a brief note in the book’s opening prologue stirs our interest: ‘The Director of Intelligence had handpicked Phil to execute the assassination plan. Discretion went without saying. Now that things were going off the rails, something had to be done. The question was, could they keep the profile low enough to prevent it form blowing up in their faces? The way Phil saw it they had two choices – quietly fix the code or burn it all down and distance themselves from the fallout. Spending millions of dollars didn’t qualify as doing it quietly in his mind. He made a decision…’ This degree of suspense follows every page of this engrossing new novel – science fiction far too proximate to reality!
The story is engrossing and entertaining while producing a sense of terrifying possibility as to the probability of the concepts Hawkes presents is this futuristic drama. While all of us note the increasing evidence of social media, bitcoin, artificial intelligence, the use of robotic techniques in surgery, and all the other tough to understand ‘advances’ that distance us from one-on-one human interaction, the author pushes the possibilities of chip control from our cell phones and computers into an even greater degrees of proximity and control.
The story outline suggests the drama: ‘In the future, serious crime has all but disappeared. With the advent of BioNarratus's Vitasync neurochip, recording every aspect of your life has become the law. Without it you can't get a bank account, medical insurance, or a job. Unbeknownst to Cole Westbay, a government agency is bent on using the neurolink tools he helped develop to target and kill potential enemies. Before he can act, he wakes with his neurochip destroyed and his recent memory wiped. In a fight against the clock, a renegade caretaker and an enigmatic attorney become his new allies. With their help he tries to discover why he's being targeted by a single-minded government agent and stop to more innocents from being murdered, before they shut him up permanently.’
In a non-top speeding manner Hawkes delivers his story with the ease and facility of experienced writers. This book demands our attention and posits the arrival of a genuinely gifted author. Very highly recommended. Grady Harp, March 21
The pseudonymous Hawkes’ debut novel is an adrenaline-fueled near-future science fiction thriller that revolves around a revolutionary neurochip that has become so popular, it’s illegal not to have an implant. The chip does a variety of things, including manipulating hormones (who wouldn’t love a regular rush of endorphins?) and logging every moment of a person’s existence onto a lifelog. But when people start dying after a chip upgrade, Cole Westbay—who was influential in the development of the chip—is attacked and has his neurochip forcibly removed. When he regains consciousness, he can’t remember his last few days—and he is officially a fugitive from justice since he is no longer connected to the chip’s network. As more people continue to die Westbay investigates the circumstances behind his assault, only to uncover a massive conspiracy.
There’s a lot to like here. Hawkes used tension very well throughout, using the multiple layers of tension to power the narrative forward. The character development is solid as well—Westbay’s character is complicated by a tenuous relationship with an indecisive fiancée, who may or may not be involved in his troubles.
But the real power here is in the novel’s theme—humanity’s increasing hyperconnectivity, and the unforeseen consequences of that persistent connection. One excerpt from the novel speaks volumes: “Oh, I don’t blame them. I blame us. We created this environment. Have you ever sat in a restaurant full of young people? It’s freakishly quiet. Even in a group setting, they don’t talk to each other like we’re doing now. They just sit there, staring into space. It’s like eating in a restaurant full of zombies.”
Readers who like cerebral thrillers like those by Michael Crichton should check out this impressive debut.
It's always a fun ride when you start a book that grabs you from the get-go and doesn't let up until the end. Throw in some funny and engaging characters with a sexy game of Scrabble and I'm ready for book #2! H. Hawkes has written a fast-paced, technology-driven, futuristic, thriller. For a first novel, this is excellent pickings! Imagine a world where social media is not only all-encompassing - but required by law. This is the world where we find Cole Westbay, an engineer who developed the Vitasync chip that connects humans directly to the internet, on the run from the law, a murderous douchebag, and a rather unpleasant fiancé. The story unfolds as we see the aftermath from the rather violent forced removal of his chip - which places him in the unfortunate state of being a law-breaker. In his quest to figure out what happened we meet some snarky women, shady dudes, and root for comeuppance of certain people. This is my kind of story with characters I relate to in a future that isn't hard to imagine.