A Review of Alan Glynn’s “Paradime”

“Paradime” Book Cover

Another book that was sent to me without being asked for by the publisher was this book, Alan Glynn’s Paradime. I’m now getting around to reviewing it after having just finally read it. It’s a pretty addictive read — I devoured it in mostly one sitting — but not one without some serious problems with it. The story is about a man named Danny Lynch who was a cook in Afghanistan who witnessed a horrific event. When he’s sent back home to New York City and his girlfriend, Kate, the defence contractor that employed him basically start putting the screws to him so he wouldn’t blow the whistle on what he saw. The contractor then changes its mind and goes to help Lynch by setting him up with another cooking job — again to make sure he doesn’t talk publicly about the event. There, one of the customers is a dead-ringer for him, and Lynch starts stalking him and finds out he runs a venture capital firm.

And the book just gets weirder from there.

While Paradime is a twisty thriller with all sorts of unexpected events, the main problem is that this novel really feels like two books in one — that Glynn decided to turn everything on its head and write another narrative altogether. The book does start out promisingly enough, and the rage against the corporate machine is palpable to anyone who is unemployed or underemployed in this economy. However, the book gets more and more far-fetched the deeper you move into it. The whole thing becomes a body swapping thriller, which has been done to death by Hollywood. Maybe Glynn was shooting for a film option?

It’s really hard to talk about Paradime without revealing what happens about one third of the way through the book. The suspense is largely driven by this event, so I’ll try to not spoil it for you. Still, it turns out that Lynch basically starts living a lie — blowing up from the little lies he initially told his girlfriend over who got him the cooking job, as she wants to fight the system (even if it is set up to crush people like her). It makes it really hard to sympathize with such a compulsive liar, no matter how good his intentions might be, So what happens at the end of the book is the kind of thing you can see coming a mile away, because, after all, no good deed goes unpunished.

Really, I don’t know how to feel about this novel. On one hand, I found it to be immensely enjoyable. It was fun. It moved at a brisk pace. Part of the suspense is fuelled by feeling embarrassed by what the main character is doing, so it’s a little like watching a car wreck unspool before you. However, I really did find that the whole book changes in tone from time to time on a, pardon the pun, dime. And there is a raft of unanswered questions at the novel’s end.

For instance, we know that the tech billionaire that Lynch changes identities with is trying to conceive a child with his girlfriend, but a young girl is send to Lynch-as-billionaire soon after the change is made. Does that mean that the billionaire is a pedophile, or was this just a way for Lynch’s handlers to buy him off? Or both? We don’t know. The question isn’t answered. (Though it would really make for an unsettling read if the billionaire did have a taste for young girls, because Lynch maybe would then have to somehow keep up the rouse in his private life.)

Basically, the whole “conspiracy” in a sense is so far-fetched because it relies on coincidence and essentially reading other people’s minds for it to work. It seems like a lot of effort gets expended to just make sure that the protagonist does what he does and for others to profit on his decisions. There’s that whole notion of Occam’s Razor, that people will generally do the least amount of work to get what they want. The whole convulsions presented here are so ridiculous that they seem to exist well beyond the realm of possibility.

It’s kind of too bad that the book goes this route, because what it initially sets up in terms of its scenario is a kind of The Firm-esque thriller about the lengths a corporation would go to to make sure its subjects stay in line. Sure, the rest of the book is about that, too, but the plot presupposes a few things that are stretch credibility to make it anything but a sub-par effort in the thriller genre. Oh, but I was thrilled, alright, once I shut off my mind and just went with the flow of the narrative. Again, the book is enjoyable in a peculiar kind of way.

Still, Paradime could have been so much more, and much more realistic. The dose of realism would have been nice to make the terror that much frightening and true. Instead, we get a body swap fantasy that shows us that life on the other side may not be as nice as we’d think it would be. Too bad. It would have been much more preferable if the book didn’t go down that route, instead being a book about how much a corporation would go to just to shut an individual up that felt true and realistic. In short, Paradime starts out smashingly well. It just veers into unexpected territory that doesn’t make for a whole lot of sense. And that’s the big disappointment in this book.

Read it if you’re looking for something fun and frothy to read at the beach this summer that doesn’t require you to expend that many brain cells. Just don’t come into the book expecting anything but a novel that’s light and breezy. There was an opportunity to make a deep statement about the prevalence of corporate culture on our lives, but, instead, what we get is pretty weightless. Paradime is enjoyable, in a kind of this is bad in a good kind of way, but it leaves you wanting oh so much more, and that’s where, alas, it falls distinctively short.

Alan Glynn’s Paradime was published by Picador on August 2, 2016.

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Book critic by night, technical writer by day. Follow me on Twitter @zachary_houle.

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Zachary Houle

Zachary Houle

Book critic by night, technical writer by day. Follow me on Twitter @zachary_houle.

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