Review: “The Conduit,” Evan Bollinger

Pros: Some interesting concepts
Cons: Not the book I thought I’d be reading
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

I’m having trouble starting my review of Evan Bollinger’s The Conduit. I’m really not entirely sure how to explain it, or how to explain my reaction to it. I’ll do the best I can.

Mase and Leinold are high school sophomores, and they decide to go looking for traces of their missing schoolmate, Suzie. Instead, they find the conduit. Suzie–or someone who looks like her–offers the kids a claim, something like a wish, that lasts one day, until the person’s ‘eyes open’ again, so, the effect lasts until the person has slept. The claim must be self-referential (no making a claim to affect someone else), it must be within the human realm of possibility, and it will have a ‘reclaim’–a sort of counter-balancing effect.

A couple of the characters try out claims of course, with varying results. The reclaim results got short shrift, in my mind. The ones depicted were obvious. I definitely wanted more depth to this side of things, and felt like it could have led to better plot details. There was also at least one claim for which we weren’t presented with a reclaim, as far as I could tell. There were other things I would have liked more detail on, too: Suzie seems to age noticeably every time they see her.

I don’t want to get into the metaphysics of how the conduit (or node) works, because that’s what much of the later part of the book is all about. It gets all high-concept, which can be interesting, but it didn’t work for me. It felt like some stuff didn’t get addressed, and some stuff didn’t feel like it meshed all that well with the start of the story. In general I enjoy mixed-genre work, but The Conduit started as mild horror and then switched to high-concept SF. It was jarring, and the two aspects weren’t integrated well.

I wanted to like The Conduit, but ultimately it just kind of stymied me.

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