The Euthanist by Alex Dolan
I downloaded Alex Dolan’s debut novel, The Euthanist, some months ago now but was initially reluctant to read it. It seemed a little too similar to the premise of my own debut, These Unnatural Men, and as I am in the midst of writing it I felt I wasn’t quite ready for the potential discovery of a book that’s like mine…only better. The synopsis intimidated but intrigued me, and eventually I plucked up the courage to start it. Thankfully, although The Euthanist begins in a similar fashion to my novel, the path it takes after the opening scene is quite different, becoming more of a psychological thriller than sci-fi.
The story’s narrator is a young woman named Kali, an illegal euthanist prepared to put her liberty at risk in order to help those in need of euthanasia. Her job is difficult, but it becomes even more so when one of her clients turns out to be Leland Moon, an FBI agent masquerading as a terminally ill patient. He doesn’t want to arrest her because he desperately needs her help, but if she can’t deliver what he needs he’s prepared to put her in a high security prison cell and throw away the key. Will she put aside her morals and help him just to remain free?
I love Dolan’s writing style. I found myself guzzling chapter after chapter as his descriptions were short yet evocative and the revelations of the story were set out with perfect timing. Before I knew it I was halfway through the book and thoroughly nauseous with jealousy.
However, as the story progressed I felt the characters were not as well-developed as I first thought. They began to reveal themselves as rather bland and faceless, their motives more and more tenuous as the plot unfolded.
The world Dolan built is also quite fragile and I soon began picking holes in it. I believe picking holes in plots is a sign of boredom or lack of immersion, an issue I blame entirely on Kali.
I was glad to finish the novel as I had guessed most of the twists and turns long before the final few chapters. I was also keen to take a break from Kali, a character I found irritating and nothing more than a modern version of the pixie dream girl. I greatly admire Dolan’s talent as a writer, but I feel The Euthanist could have been a third of the size it was and many of the subplots abandoned. It needed to focus more on the devastating topic of euthanasia, but instead it spread itself thin by embracing too many controversial subjects.