I just finished reading a great modern science fiction novel called Mad Skills. Written by Walter Greatshell, it’s the story of a young woman with a brain injury who is given an experimental treatment to restore normal function. The result is that she becomes super-MacGyver, reading at a rate so fast she accidentally rips pages from books, rewriting how efficient cars should be built.
Maddy Grant is a great protagonist and Greatshell writes her well. The way she adjusts to living normal life after her procedure not only demonstrates the incredible power of her mind, but also typical teenage girl, thrown into a situation she can’t understand. The seeming contradiction makes the first hundred pages a great read and sets up a lot of the endgame. The nice thing about the book is the way clues are set in place, relying on Maddy’s (and the reader’s) intelligence to sort out.
I initially felt thrown off by the ending and the lack of resolution and cohesion to the prologue, but I looked through those first pages again and realized there’s a massive significance to what Maddy is doing and where she is. I won’t spoil it here, but I will say there are shades of the Berserk anime in the structure of this novel. Backstory is provided when it’s needed, not a moment before or after. As I said before, clues are sprinkled throughout and Mad Skills is a smarter read than you might think it is at first.
As I read and enjoyed the bulk of the book, I thought I would give it a B letter grade. There’s a lot of veiled political commentary starting out and action that’s totally dependent on character interaction and dynamics–though the helicopter sequence halfway through the book is a lot of fun. Toward the end, there are a lot of Kurtzweilian notions that come up and a few plot twists that are carefully seeded in the opening chapters, seeded in such a way, I was shocked and thrilled when I read it.
You’ll be guessing about things up until the end. When you get there, I hope you give this book the A I’m giving it.