Sunday, 4 January 2015

Shane Kuhn's 'Kill Your Boss'

“If you’re reading this, you’re a new employee at Human Resources, Inc. Congratulations. And condolences. At the very least, you’re embarking on a career that you will never be able to describe as dull. You’ll go to interesting places. You’ll meet unique and stimulating people from all walks of life. And kill them. You’ll make a lot of money, but that will mean nothing to you after the first job. Assassination, no matter how easy it looks in the movies, is the most difficult, stressful, and lonely profession on the planet. From this point on, whenever you hear someone bitch about his job, it will take every fiber of your being to keep from laughing in his face. This work isn’t for everyone. Most of you are going to find that out the hard way because you’ll be dead by the end of the month. And that’s still just the training phase.” – Kuhn, page 8

‘Kill your boss’ is the debut novel from writer Shane Kuhn. From the excerpt above, hopefully you can see that the focus of this plot is about the assassin John Lago who disguises himself as an intern in order to kill his boss. As this book is published in the U.S. as ‘The intern’s handbook’, I don’t think I am giving too much away at this point.
The writing is solid. Kuhn has a background in writing in other forms, which helps strengthen the writing in this book. The narrative is interesting and broken up with different formats of writing and side stories to add fullness. The writing is also very set in the now (many pop culture references included) with a lovely side of sarcasm to keep me happy. I also enjoyed the fact that John Lago is speaking to us directly by using “you”, allowing me not just to imagine myself as a possible assassin in training, but also to engage more in the story as it becomes a more personable read.
Plot-wise, this is a very action-packed novel. I like the idea of the story and it is easy to follow. The set-up of Lago’s rules are also very interesting. However, if you want a book with a lot of depth, this isn’t for you. Kuhn is very good at writing twists for his characters so that you aren’t one hundred percent sure what actually is going to happen by the end. However, if you are someone like me who doesn’t often read this kind of genre and has no real understanding of weapons, martial arts or even law firms, you may or may not become too bogged down in trying to picture all these things. It does happen a bit, especially with all the gadgets Lago has created himself. I understand too little to really know how believable this is. But being fiction, it also makes it a smoother read for me as I can just accept whatever is written on the page. It’s not historical fiction after all. Oh, and there is a moment in the book where he recaps. This was unnecessary I thought in the book and did interrupt the plot slightly.
I found the characters fairly solid and entertaining. However, they may also be a little cliché for the form. I thought Alice might lack a little depth but that John has enough backstory to be understood in terms of motivations. On this comment, I don’t know whether or not Kuhn is writing his character as a narrator to be viewed as reliable or unreliable. I figure you can make your own minds up about that.
Overall it is definitely action-packed and entertaining. I would recommend this book to people who like action movies in book form and definitely anyone who likes the old-school alpha male characters that appear practically invincible. If blood turns you off in books, probably don’t pick this one up. But I enjoyed the read. I didn’t have to think too much about the concept and the humour was good.

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