Hunt for the Troll by Mark Richardson

Let me just start off by saying that as a reader who mainly sticks to one genre at a time, I found myself pleasantly surprised with the well mixed cocktail Mark Richardson provided within his story. What I expected to be a tech centered mystery turned out to be a combination of mystery with added ingredients of pulp, modern fairytale, and urban fantasy with a steam punk edge. This novel certainly took me out my comfort zone and I’m more than grateful for the journey.

 

Hunt for the Troll is an assortment of the mystery, pulp and modern fairytale genre’s. It tells the story of a software programming genius who is visited in his sleep by a mysterious figure known only as “the troll’, who claims they will “change the world”. Together with a group of quirky characters comprised of a tech reporter, a computer generated Halfling, a one eared female gaming and programming temptress and a few venture capitalists added for good measure, they take on the task of uncovering the Troll’s whereabouts and true identity.

Our nameless main character is stated from the beginning to be a computer programming genius. After dropping out of Stanford with his close friend only known as “The Captain”, both men create a start up in the heart of the novels Silicon Valley. After a few years of developing a data mining application with hired helpers and continuous efforts, they are bought out by Google for a large sum of money and go their separate was. Our main character then uses his share to ‘loaf’ around Italy for an extended time, reading and exploring the sights and surroundings of Rome, until one day he receives an unexpected note from The Captain. The note is a short one, not disclosing too much detail to our main character, other than the fact that he is needed back in San Francisco to help The Captain with yet another great plan he has. Intrigued and longing to be back in the start- up game, our main character catches the first flight out of Italy, only to arrive in San Francisco with The Captain unable to be found anywhere.

It is after these events, our narrator finds himself plucked up by a new and rather complex cyber-gaming company, Center Terrain, to repair glitches and tears within the fabric of the game, from within the game itself. These programmers are known as sweepers who each have their own character that allows them to roam free within the game itself to look for tears and improvements to be made. It is here that he meets fellow Sweeper, Nika, who has ignored our main characters existence for most of his time at Center Terrain, until one morning during an encounter in the breakroom, she asks him out for dinner. After some time together, they both share their own encounters with the troll and our main character learns that he is not the first to be visited by the elusive prodigy.

Without giving away too much more of the plot, I will say this novel takes you on a mysterious journey that lets your imagination run wild. Very little clues as to the troll’s identity are given, but just enough questions are posed to leave you wanting more. As someone who isn’t the most tech-savvy person in the world, I worried that a lot of the plot may go right over my head, however I needn’t have worried as the author does a fine job of explaining any intricacies that arise within the story. I found the idea of the sweepers having a ‘neural processor’ grafted on their brains that allows them to work and process faster than the average person, absolutely fascinating. In all honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised if the gaming world moved in this direction at some point I the future.

Sometimes, a lot of authors trip themselves up with too much detail and description. Mark Richardson, however, avoids this. The descriptions that were given, created a perfect base picture within my mind, whilst the rest was left for me to fill in the blanks. The plot progresses at an even pace and whilst this novel might seem short, don’t be fooled. Each page is filled with new questions, answers and then more questions on top of interesting character introduction and development.

Hunt for the Troll makes for a fast paced and satisfying read that will both expand your mind and make you question some of the technology advancements going on in our own world today!

 

Goodreads Rating: 4.15

Amazon Rating: 4.3 stars

My Rating: 4/5

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