G. Brailey’s debut novel can be described in one word: brilliant. Deathloop captivates and through a series of twists and turns, it will keep you on the edge of your seat. Zack Fortune is successful, charismatic, and gorgeous. He’s also a bastard of the first order and makes no apologies for it. In fact, he’s the first to agree that he’s one. Sam, his best friend, once said he was a romantic bastard. You know the type, will wine and dine you and in many ways romance you the old fashioned way, then out of nowhere dump you. One night Zack reluctantly agrees to participate in a past life regression and is given clear instructions “no matter what you see do not come out.” His regression is terrifying and nothing goes as planned. Afterwards people begin to die and he has to shake off a persistent series of legal woes. What ensues is beautiful journey of self discovery and about life and death.
There are a lot of complex relationships in Deathloop. Zack’s friendship with Sam is thoroughly explored and the way Sam depends on Zack is heartbreaking. Although Brailey depicts the friendship as one sided, it’s Zack that gives meaning to Sam’s life; it’s clear that Zack needs Sam just as much. Sam is married to Clarissa and even she realizes early on that there’s no coming between Sam and Zack. Some people even suspect there’s more to Sam and Zack’s friendship, which would no doubt make Zack laugh in their faces if he knew what was said. Others believe there’s something between Zack and Clarissa. Then we have Susan, Zack’s ex-girlfriend who doesn’t understand their relationship is over. At times you feel for Susan because she’s the victim of Zack’s callous use and yet you wish someone would sit down with her and give her a good shaking. Brailey also introduces Zack’s new girlfriend, Veronica, and it’s interesting to see how different he is with her versus Susan. Finally we have to make sense of Jason and how he’s connected to Zack. Every person in Deathloop is broken in some way, but isn’t that true of our regular lives? Each and every one of us has a past that makes us who we are and affects our relationships in varying degrees. How often do we ignore the warnings others give us? When we do, do we it do it because it was suppose to be that way?
While we have a lot of characters and subplots, at times I felt didn’t need to know what each secondary character was thinking. In hindsight, I realize they are strategically placed. All characters play a central role and at the end, it all becomes clear. One of the criticisms of Deathloop is “a lot of things happen,” and indeed they do, however; everything Brailey sets up is for a reason. Our journey is to help Zack figure out how he got to this moment in time. It’s difficult to feel any empathy for Zack, and yet you can’t help feel sorry for him now and then. Here is a man use to being in command and when his life begins to spiral out of control, he struggles. Zack attempts on numerous occasions to decipher what is real and what’s imagined. Everyone he speaks to cannot offer any explanation as to why complete strangers are dying exclusively in front of him and most just assume his past drug use has caught up to him. When he does have the opportunity to meet with people who can provide the answers, they don’t. Here is where the plot picks up steam. Do these people fail to give him a way out because they don’t know how to help or are afraid to get involved and mess with what’s preordained?
If I could touch upon one small item to note: there are a lot of Britishisms and if you aren’t familiar with British culture or slang you might feel overwhelmed. Please don’t let this stop you from reading the book or giving up. Go and research the phrase that stumps you. Even if you think you are well versed, you might be caught by surprise.
I’m not going to touch upon the ending for fear of spoiling it, but it left me emotionally drained. It made me question my own beliefs regarding life, death, and even the idea of reincarnation. I also wondered about one’s predestined role (if you believe in that). If Clarissa had not dabbled in past life regression, what would Zack’s destiny be? Was Zack meant to see a past life in order to fulfill his purpose in the present? It’s clear that everyone has a role to play in Deathloop, even the Angel of Death cannot escape what’s predestined. It’s said the only thing we can be guaranteed in life is death and taxes. No matter how rich, famous, or beautiful a person is, we all the share the same ending: death.