What would you do if you woke up one day and knew 108 things that would come true over the next year? That’s the question that Will Dando has to ask himself in Charles Soule’s debut novel, The Oracle Year, and it’s one to which there probably isn’t a good answer especially when you don’t know the rules. Are these predictions set in stone or can you change the future?
Like any millennial probably would, Will settles on releasing some of the predictions into the world and then uses the others to make some money… a lot of money actually. It’s hard to blame him for wanting to make some cash and honestly, it’s likely the best option in an impossible situation. Unfortunately, nothing exists in a vacuum and both Will and his best friend Hamza soon find themselves in the middle of an international mess along with a journalist, a TV minister, and some very high ranking government officials that takes them on a journey they definitely didn’t expect and honestly, probably could have done without.
One would hardly guess that this was Soule’s first time writing a prose novel. The Oracle Year is smartly written and engaging. It moves along at a reasonably brisk pace without dragging. About halfway through the novel, I found it impossible to put down as I just had to know how it ended.
The Oracle Year features a large and reasonably diverse cast, which is always a nice thing, although all of the characters are a little hard to keep track of at first. Without a doubt, Miko was my favorite. She’s the wife of Will’s best friend Hamza and she’s the person who is, without a doubt, the most reasonable and the most logical about everything. Honestly, Will and Hamza probably would have ended up in slightly less trouble if they’d brought her in on the scheme in the first place. Will goes through an interesting character arc as he tries to come to terms with not only having all of these predictions but then the consequences of his actions, while Hamza is desperately trying to keep him on track with their plan. Even the journalist, Leigh Shore, and the enigmatic Coach caught and kept my attention. The only character I didn’t care for was the Reverend, which isn’t surprising since you’re not supposed to like him.
Soule doesn’t let the story get bogged down with how or why the catalyst happened but instead focuses on his characters. It’s always far more important how Will handles the situation that the Site has put him in than how he even got the knowledge to build it or where it came from. It’s a somewhat bold decision to make in storytelling in an age where people call deliberately unanswered questions in films plot holes. At first, not knowing where the predictions came from was something that nagged at me as a reader but somewhere along the way, I found myself caring more about who these people were and what was going to happen to them which is, funnily enough, the point.
In the publisher’s note in front of my copy, the editor notes that the novel defies easy characterization and specifically calls it out as being part-parable. She’s not wrong. The Oracle Year is partially social commentary on how quickly something can go viral in our modern world where we have the internet in the palm of our hands and how obsessive we can become about something like this, yet the narrative is never condescending. If anything, it reads more as a very probable scenario if someone were to receive predictions but simultaneously, it is a cautionary tale because it’s all too easy to imagine our world today falling into that sort of obsessive mindset.
Like much of what Soule has done with his work in comics, The Oracle Year is a story that can’t be neatly placed into a box. It’s a tale that’ll keep you guessing as you wonder just how all of these plot lines are going to come together right up to the end. It’s a great debut novel that you should absolutely pick up when it’s released on April 3rd, 2018.
Thank you to Harper Collins for providing an advance reader’s copy of the book for review purposes