Overview (No Spoilers):
In every book I’ve read by Peper I find his pacing to be a breath of fresh air. One that catches you up in a whirlwind of activity, leaving you mindlessly flip pages as quickly as possible. Veil doesn’t deviate from this fast paced mold, first established in Cumulus, Neon Fever Dream and the Analog Series, with the action and suspense keeping me ultimately glued. I can’t remember the last time I devouring a whole book in practically one sitting, but I lost hours while immersed in Veil. The literary Easter eggs sprinkled by Peper throughout Veil that subtly reference his previous works from Rachel, the CEO of the Commonwealth or the legendary reporter, Lynn Chevalier were fun flashbacks to familiar novels.
In my previous post, The Splendid and the Vile, I went on a bit of a tangent discussion regarding how book materials can overlap in surprising ways, like a complex, far fetched venn diagram. I’m continuing this thread here as, in How to Hide an Empire, the history behind the use in modern literature of the remote tropical island hideaway, where often a mastermind holds court, is traced back to the James Bond creator, Ian Fleming. The Vile and the Splendid references Fleming again, as well as the agent behind his Bond inspiration due to Churchill connections. In Veil, we see the aforementioned island base trope employed with a genius indeed pulling the strings. I found myself viewing this island base with more awareness than I might have prior to knowing some of the history established in How to Hide an Empire.
Back to the review at hand, throughout Veil Peper employs a wide cast of intriguing global characters from diverse backgrounds due to Zia’s school influence. The two that stood out were Zia and her father who were defined clearly by their emotional damage, which made them interesting, albeit not necessarily likable. I often find that the loss of a loved one in literature can glossed over or characters seem to move on quickly after the ‘appropriate’ amount of time has elapsed. In real life, not everyone mourns with that same cookie cutter timeline, and Peper explores this dynamic in Veil. I found Zia and her father’s pain to be a fascinating layer to their depth, especially as that lingering hurt colored their every interaction. Often these open wounds seemed to heighten their reactions to the point of insults, escalating their conflict, which seems out of character in the face of the looming hurdles they need to overcome, until you realize how raw their pain still simmers just under the surface.
One theme that has resonated throughout Peper’s novels has been the impact of future technologies on society, in addition to often alarming implications behind who wields the power behind such innovations. Veil continues in this mold but adds a most intriguing wrinkle by blurring the line of right and wrong, with regard to the correct course to take. This line is in fact so marred I think I conservatively changed my mind at least four different times. Even now, I’m not quite sure what the right answer should have been, though I loved the pretty bow that Veil managed to tie out of a mess that seemed beyond salvageable. Zia’s immediate, strong, and passionate convictions had me doubting my instinct to want to thoroughly explore both sides of the argument as I plodded along at a seemingly slow processing pace that contrasted sharply with the rapidly unfolding events. Perhaps this is where the emotional pain that only been merely bandaged comes into play by stirring strong opinions and reactions for everyone involved. Peper continues to hone his craft in Veil and he genuinely gets better with each subsequent novel especially with respect to character development. I can’t wait to see what new future technology he will have up his sleeve to next haunt my general musings. Overall, Veil is an edge of your seat roller coaster that will have you crying, laughing, and biting your nails with each turn of the page while offering much fodder for future pondering regarding the complicated implications of weather control and global warming.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- I really enjoyed the scientific component of Veil. Zia’s father discovers how to temporarily halt the effects of climate change and secretly implements his findings without knowledge of side effects both long term and short term. He most definitely saved lives, but probably cost lives as well with the drought over India. Also, his band-aid did not halter the climate change process, so even though the storms had temporary abated, the root cause was still raging full stream ahead. So good news, the heat waves and massive storms that kill millions were temporarily halted. Bad news, the earth was subjected to an untested science experiment with unknown long term consequences that has dire consequences. The concept is complicated, elegant, and offers plenty of material for pondering.
- Zia’s immediate and forceful decision on the course of action still makes me uncomfortable. This issue was multifaceted and would/could not have an easy solution. Her actions were a consequence of her complicated relationship with her father, but this didn’t change how uneasy I was in my bones about her rushing foreward instead of processing. That being said, the pacing certainly served to heighten the suspense.
- Galang was such a fun personality to read! Zia was so quick to want to trust him with revealing her father’s secret to the world, but I wasn’t so sure. Perhaps, Neon Fever Dream is too recent in my memory but could Zia have completely trusted him to frame the story appropriately?
- Can I steal Selai’s idea about posing Haribo bears around the world? My favorite gummy bears!
- I looked it up and there is actually a Zachary’s Pizza in Oakland, CA. Perhaps a favorite of Peper’s?
- And while we are mentioning favorites, I personally loved all the Hamilton references.
Vocabulary Builder: When reading it is common that I encounter words that I’m not privy to the exact definition, however it is easy to infer the meaning of the aforementioned word based on the context of the sentence and story. As such, relatively new to the Critiquing Chemist, you’ll find an additional section that includes vocabulary words that I encountered upon reading the book being reviewed and either had to look up the definition or it is a word in which I would like to add to my repertoire. This endeavor is easier when in the Kindle format, and potentially impossible with audiobooks, however I’m going to attempt to continue this section for all future book reviews. I’ll be using the definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Tessellated: having a checkered appearance
Zeitgeist: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era
Sequitur: the conclusion of an inference
Vim: robust energy and enthusiasm
Telenovela: a soap opera produced in and televised in or from many Latin American countries
Ineffable: incapable of being expressed in words
Verisimilitude: the quality or state of having the appearance of truth