The History Book Review
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When Kat and Suzy Polinski’s parents died, the two sisters reacted in very different ways. Suzy, a lawyer, changed her name and moved to England, while Kat traded in their posh Washington, D. C. neighborhood for a rough part of town, where her talents as a hacker attracted the government’s attention—and she eventually ends up working undercover jobs for the government to keep herself out of jail.

One night, after Kat narrowly escapes death during a mission at the Kazakh embassy, she returns home to find a strange email from Suzy. But when she tries to call Suzy to ask her what it means, Kat finds out that Suzy’s been killed.

Kat races to London to try to figure out who killed her sister—and all the clues point, somehow, toward Project Peace, an international security agreement that’s supposed to be signed in a matter of days. But as she tries to figure out how Project Peace is connected to her sister’s death, Kat begins to realize that there’s no way of knowing who’s really on her side and who’s out to make sure that she ends up dead, just like the rest of her family.

The History Book takes place in the near future, in a time when everyone is constantly monitored through security checkpoints and retina scans and cell phone tracking and ID cards. It’s an unsettling environment, but, frighteningly enough, it’s also a believable one. It doesn’t feel like some highly imaginative work of science fiction; it feels like it’s an entirely possible scenario. And that makes the story all the more haunting.

Unfortunately, though, Humphrey’s style makes for slow reading. His first-person, present-tense prose feels clunky and awkward, and it often distracts from the story at hand. And while I found the premise intriguing, I just couldn’t seem to get into the story itself. I never felt connected to the characters, and I had a hard time really caring about them.

While the story is well constructed, filled with frighteningly detailed images (perhaps sometimes even too detailed), it just isn’t well executed. Even the novel’s most action-packed moments seem to move slowly, lacking in emotion and excitement. As a result, the action fizzles—and even through all the twists and turns that the story takes, it barely held my interest.

In theory, The History Book is a great book. It’s built on all kinds of fantastic ideas—from the setting to the numerous surprises along the way. But, in the end, it just isn’t as fast-paced and thrilling as it should have been, and that makes it a rather lackluster read.

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