Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Review: Mortal Chaos by Matt Dickinson

Some will live. Many will die. All are connected.

'The Butterfly Effect ': the scientific theory that a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever. When a butterfly startles a young rabbit, and the rabbit makes a horse rear, it starts a chain of events, over the course of one day, that will change people's lives . . . and end people's lives. From a climber on Everest to a boy in Malawi . . . from a commercial pilot to an American psycho . . . the chaos knows no bounds.

Some time ago I was fortunate to be invited to an event for bloggers held by the good people at OUP. The purpose of the event was to introduce us to two of their authors, Joss Stirling and Dave Cousins. During the event we were each given a copy of another of their 2012 releases, Mortal Chaos by Matt Dickinson. They spoke about this book with great excitement, assuring me it would be like no other book I had ever read. I finally got around to reading it two nights ago, and I have to admit that they weren't wrong.

This is Matt Dickinson's first book for the YA market, although I gather that he is the author of several action/adventure book for adults. I'm not sure what I expected from Mortal Chaos, perhaps some kind of hi-octane action story, but what I got was something very different indeed. In fact, I am struggling to think of how I can describe it.

The premise of Mortal Chaos centres around an aspect of chaos theory known as the butterfly effect. This concept suggests that a small, seemingly minor incident can result in a major incident elsewhere. The usual example given is that of how the fluttering of a butterfly's wings could create ripples that eventually lead to a hurricane forming somewhere in the world. Matt Dickinson's story starts off with this infamous butterfly, but the consequences in this case have little to do with a hurricane, but are potentially as destructive as far as the lives of a number of disparate characters are concerned.

The characters in question range from a pair of boys bunking off school to go hunting in the local woods, to a female airline pilot, to a six year old African boy, to a teenage climbing prodigy on an ascent of Everest, to an american guy with his heart set on mass-murder. On the face of things their lives have absolutely nothing in common, and on any normal day their destinies would be completely unconnected. However, that darn butterfly changes this state of affairs with extreme consequences for some of them.

This book is only 286 pages long, and the sometimes only half-a-page chapters jump between the multitude of different characters as the day-in-their-life unfolds. It hooked me from the first few pages; so much so that before I knew it I was more than half way through and then just couldn't go to sleep before I had finished it. With so many characters gradually being introduced I initially thought that I would struggle to develop empathy for any of them, but the author manages to make you care about their various fates without you even realising he is doing it. The publisher's blurb states that "Some will live. Many will die. All are connected" and part of the appeal, and the moments of extreme tension I felt whilst reading it, was in trying to work out just who would or would not survive by the end of the book.

I will definitely be ordering this one for the school library as I think many boys will find its short chapters and fast paced stories as addictive as I did. I assumed that this book was a one-off, but in searching for the blurb to include at the beginning of this post I have discovered that Matt Dickinson has another book scheduled for publication in July. It does not appear to be a sequel as such, more a brand new series of stories based on the same butterfly effect theory. The details of Mortal Chaos: Deep Oblivion read as follows:

Hannah, homeless and on the run. Gwen and Tehpoe, kidnapped by violent rebels. Todd and Isabella, threatened by piranha attack. Wai Yan, hunted by a cruel dictator. Stian Olberg, fighting to save his vessel from imminent destruction. For them, and many others, things will never be the same again. Some will live. Many will die. All are connected.

Something worth waiting for I feel, if its predecessor is anything to go by.


  1. Brilliant - adding it to the library wish-list

  2. Great review. I think I'll enjoy this one. The Butterfly Effect in itself is fascinating and then when you add that to an action story - well, I'm sold!

  3. Good job. Wants more relevant post. Thanks.