February 18, 2015

It Runs in the Family: It's All in the Code

Macky is back with another review - and this time, he's helped me out by reading an unsolicited review book that came in the mail. I gave it to him because it sounded right up his alley, and it appears that it was indeed the case. See more of what he thought below!

The Cipher book cover
The Cipher by John C. Ford
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Source/Format: Publisher (Thanks!) || ARC
[This book was received from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]

Robert “Smiles” Smylie is not a genius. He feels like he’s surrounded by them, though, from his software mogul dad to his brainy girlfriend to his oddball neighbor Ben, a math prodigy. When Ben cracks an ancient, real-life riddle central to modern data encryption systems, he suddenly holds the power to unlock every electronic secret in the world—and Smiles finally has a chance to prove his own worth.

Smiles hatches a plan to protect Ben from the government agents who will stop at nothing to get their hands on his discovery. But as he races from a Connecticut casino to the streets of Boston, enlisting the help of an alluring girl, Smiles comes to realize the most explosive secrets don’t lie between the covers of Ben’s notebook—they’re buried in his own past.

So, here I am, starting this review for an ARC my lovely wife got in the mail. Upon a quick Google search, I find out that:

A: It's going to be released to the public in 2015 (February 24, for you John C. Ford fans), and
B: one of the first gleaming one-line reviews for The Cipher on Amazon is from David Baldacci.

I'm a closet David Baldacci fan, mostly because I'm a closet fan of the genre he writes in. I'm so far into the closet, I don't even really know what it's called. Thrillers? Suspense? The Approachable Assassins genre? (Yes, that's a genre... Like now, in my head.)

And what did Mr. Baldacci have to say about The Cipher? "Ford's The Cipher is a thrill-a-minute ride. A very cool read." I'll have to take his side on this. No, this is not in the "approachable assassins" genre, but it's suspense galore.

Plot goes along the lines of: Robert “Smiles” Smylie Jr., son of billionaire tech genius Robert Smyles, gets enmeshed in the chain reaction brought about by the secrets that built up his father’s fortune. 

The book is told mostly from Smiles’ point of view. The whole time I was reading, I was just as in the dark as he is. The way the writing keeps the narrative view tunneled as tightly as the main character sees it make has kept me incessantly wondering about the end game. 

I’m usually drawn to character. I don’t stick around for the rest of a book if there isn’t anything compelling me to stay. And though Smiles will not make it to my top 20 list of favorite book characters I wish I could meet, his story is compelling enough for me to break my usual genre comfort zone.

Some stories are just so good you need to know what happens next. And it takes more than just formula writing and text book pacing to really tell a good story. It’s gotta have heart. A quality that will resonate with people (as the great Stephen King mentions in his book On Writing). 

I mean to say, The Cipher isn’t my usual cup of tea, but I drained this cup dry reading it. So if you like a good suspense yarn that’s threaded through the trappings of a techno-surreal urban coming of age piece? This is a good book to have on the shelf. It was indeed a cool read, as Mr. Baldacci put it. 


  1. I love the phrase "techno-surreal urban coming of age story." I do like futuristic urban movies and also coming of age stories so maybe this is one I should try.
    PS Approachable Assassin? I need more recommendations of those books...

  2. Valeria@A Touch of Book MadnesFebruary 18, 2015 at 10:17 AM

    I love this feature! It's so fun to see reviews from a different perspective. I love how Macky reviews books because he has such a unique reviewing style. You're funny! And I almost think I'll give this book a try. I just wish I could get my boyfriend to read.

  3. Sometimes is good to read outside of your comfort zone. Great review!


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