Have you ever read one of those books that you wanted to like so much, that starts out great, but then becomes a major disappointment later on, and leaves you feeling hollow and unsatisfied, worse than it had started out bad?
I’m really sorry to say that Probability Angels by Joseph Devon was one of those books for me.
The first half of the book is really quite interesting. In Probability Angels people are sometimes given a choice when they die, a choice that will change destiny (or probability). If they make this choice they become a newbie. Matthew is one such newbie, having made the choice to die in place of his wife during a mugging. He has become a being made of energy, yet bound to this world, and can’t be seen unless he wants to be seen. Newbies cause most of the problems in the world, from people who start random brawls to inspiring people to cheat on their significant others, and they get money in return for their work. Well, it’s not really money. They receive energy which is represented by money. However, these newbies later get a second choice, when their first choice dies, If they choose to detach from their second choice, they become testers. Testers are responsible for all great achievements in history, as they “push” their targets to inspire them. Pushing is rough and can destroy a tester if done wrong or too hard, but the rewards are enormous amounts of energy. Epp is one such tester, who has been doing this for thousands of years, and is Matthew’s mentor.
Most of the book’s first half is spent setting up the world of the testers and how it works. The above is only a quick summary. We see the history of some of these characters, such as when Epp pushed Isaac Newton, which was, in my opinion, one of the most interesting parts of the book. It almost feels like it could have been an insightful story on the nature of death, inspiration, and the universe itself. In fact, the first half reminded me a lot of Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior.
Unfortunately, at about the halfway point, the book takes a hard turn, and not for the better. You see, some tester can’t make that second choice, and instead follow their choice to the grave, becoming too attached and lying on those graves, unable to remove themselves. They loose energy and essentially become zombies, needing to feed off the energy of other testers. And it’s at this halfway point that the book becomes little more than an afterlife-based zombie apocalypse novel, and not a terribly good one either.
That felt weird to write. It’s about the undead dead. Hmmm…
Here’s the problem: If the book had started out making it clear that it was going to be this way, I might have been able to handle it much better, or I’d at least have been more accepting. Instead, the author caused me to develop inflated expectations only to watch it crash and burn.
Another issue is that Matthew is clearly set up as the protagonist early on and we watch him as he learns about this world and the history of it. But upon the drastic switch in tone, we almost completely lose sight of Matthew and he’s rarely that significant during the second half, if he appears at all. It feels like the author forgot what and about who he was writing and just went for an all out brain dump. Or he got bored with Matthew and his exploration of the testers and started going off in a different, not to mention random, direction.
The ending was, frankly, terrible. It ends far too quickly and with little in the way of satisfaction or answers. I understand that Joseph Devon has written a sequel which many reviewers seem to like much more. I may give it a shot, but I have to judge this book on its own merits. It gets an extra star just because the first half of the book is interesting, but in the end, I can’t give this one a high score.
Probability Angels by Joseph Devon earns 2 pushes out of 5.
Note: A free copy of this book was sent to this reviewer through a Goodreads First Read giveaway. This did not affect this review in any way.