Page Numbers: 120 pages
Publication date: February 5th, 2013
When I first read the synopsis of The Participant, I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect from this short novel. Well that was totally thrown out of the window once I got through the first few chapters. This novel is full of surprises and is so much more than just what the synopsis reveals. Despite the complete contradiction of my presumed thoughts, this book was a very pleasant surprise and it was so fast paced that it did not fail in maintaining my attention. Not only due to the fact that this such a quick read, but also because it was a bundle of non stop excitement, I flew through the pages and finished the book in no time.
The novel starts out with Zack Vernon, a very interesting and unpredictable character. He is an Observer, placed in the world by the Creator. Observers do not know who or what the Creator is, they solely know that it is their job to Observe humans and the world they live in. Zack's task is to look at how humans experience certain thing ( feelings, reactions, experiences, moods, etc) in conjunction with the type of world they live in. Once an Observer's duty is done the 'Sky will Open' and bring them to their creator, or place them in another type of world where they will need to continue Observing. This task and rule to only Observe is supposedly embedded into the brains of Observers. They are given fake memories, background stories and civilization statuses which they will have to adhere to with while Observing. Despite the fact that this is supposed to be innate for each Observer, Zack is different as he cannot stand an eternal life where he is only allowed to Observe and not Participate.
Reluctant to solely Observing, he confronts a dangerous situation at his work where two armed men decide to rob his gas station store. He undoubtedly knows that this can mean the end of his life, which is what he actually hopes for so that he will finally remain dead and be released from his immortal life as an Observer. When Zack confronts and provokes the robbers, he is shot directly in his head which is not gone unnoticed by his co-workers and the National News. This in turn lands him into a vicious cycle of unthinkable, merciless, and horrendous consequences where other Observers want to punish him for his ignorant acts of exposing himself.
The story is written in such a unique way. Each chapter switches a point of view between Zack and Elza, another immortal Observer, who we get to know quickly in the beginning of the book. We start in the 'present', reading through Zack's eyes and experiences, and in the following chapter the reader is pulled back into the past and starts developing a story on how Zack began as an Observer and how he came to meet Elza. Not only do we get to see the development of their relationship, but the reader also slowly connects the dots between the present and the past.
Each character is so distinct from one other. Their characterization is so well formed that it is impossible to not understand or imagine what kind of person they are. I could not help but feel pity but also love for Zack. He wants to break free from his role as an Observer, and instead of standing by and letting horrible things happen to humans, he decides to Participate in the humans' lives in order to bring change and help them.
Elza is a complete different character on her own. She is also an Observer, who primarily shares completely different values and perceptions than Zack about the role of being an immortal Observer. She praised the Creator and found it sinful to go against the Creator's rules. But slowly throughout the story she cannot help but draw herself into seeing the world through Zack's eyes. They evolve into couple which defines love on a whole other level. Each of their life time can last hundreds of years, and the moment the 'Sky Opens' to engulf them into a new world, they are placed in different bodies in different locations. But despite this inevitability, they never give up on trying to find each other in the next life time and in the new world created by the Creator (can't get more romantic than that, huh??)!
This book was a extremely original in its concept and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire story, its development, and all the characters (may they be brutally evil, or heart warming good).
I must warn you, if you are squeamish to violence and thorough depictions of horror and torture scenes, then please be aware that this book does contain some violent and Rated R parts!