Every once in a while, a novel will stay with you long after you have read the final page. While most of these books have a positive impact or serve as inspiration, some creep into the darkest corners of the psyche where your deepest fears dwell.
Such is the case with The String, written by Caleb Breakey. Disturbing and disconcerting, this novel pulls readers in, kicking and screaming.
The antagonist calls himself the Conductor, an ingenious sociopath who orchestrates a series of calamities which will crescendo in a fiendish finale. Just as musicians in a symphony must follow the conductor’s lead, the participants, although unwilling, must do as they are told or suffer the maestro’s ire. While playing the wrong notes will sour a song, in the case of The String, those who do not play as they are instructed will perish.
The tempo of The String is incredibly fast-paced. There is no slow build-up before the antagonist is introduced. Instead, we are forced to see through the Conductor’s sinister eyes, starting with the first chapter’s first lines:
The branding iron pulsed orangish-red in the corner fireplace.
It was time.
After I finished this book, I felt overwhelmed and wrung-out. I wondered: Did I like this book? I couldn’t say. Yes, I was drawn to this story like a moth to a flame, but did I like it?
Perhaps I could not “get into” this novel because I found the subject matter distasteful and the antagonist absolutely evil? Hmm… But like a gruesome crash that passing drivers strain to see, I just couldn’t stop myself from reading the next chapter to see what sickening scene would show up next.
Although I found the premise of this book captivating and I appreciated the intricate way the characters’ storylines were interwoven and how the author delved into the mind of a maniac, after each page, I felt more morbid and morally bereft than I had the page before. So, no I did not like this book, but I do respect it.