In Review: The Oracle Year

A fantastic debut that has me needing to read more from Soule.

The Oracle Year by Charles Soule, published on April 3, 2018

Published by Harper Collins, April 3, 2018. Hardcover of 408 pages at $21.99. Ebook also available. 

The cover: In the center of the book is a massive eye, whose iris is composed of a red dot that resembles some subatomic particle. Red lines are shooting out of this red dot. The eye’s shape is repeated outwardly in black lines on a white background, giving it a hypnotic effect. The top of the book carries a blurb from Publishers Weekly, the title appears below that, and the author’s name is under the eye. This cover design and illustration is by James Iacobelli. A trippy image that definitely draws a potential reader to this book. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the inside front cover, “Knowledge is power. So when an unassuming Manhattan bassist named Will Dando awakens from a dream one morning with 108 predictions about the future in his head, he rapidly finds himself the most powerful man in the world. Protecting his anonymity by calling himself the Oracle, he sets up a heavily guarded website with the help of his friend Hamza to dole out his revelations. In no time, global corporations are offering him millions for exclusive access, eager to profit from his prophecies. He’s also making a lot of high-powered enemies, from the president of the United States and a nationally prominent televangelist to a warlord with a nuclear missile and an assassin grandmother. Legions of cyber spies are unleashed to hack the Site — as it’s come to be called — and the best manhunters money can buy are deployed not only to unmask the Oracle but also to take him out of the game entirely. With only a handful of people he can trust — including a beautiful journalist — it’s all Will can do to survive, elude exposure, and protect those he loves long enough to use his knowledge to save the world.” I don’t read the inside front cover or the back cover of a book until I’m done reading it because these summaries can often give away too much of the plot. That’s the case here: some of this information spoils some of the book. There’s nothing major given away, but just enough to give away a few things. The book can still be enjoyed after reading this premise, though I wish it had held back some details. Overall grade: B 

The characters: Will Dando, aka The Oracle, is the last person in the world who thought he would amount to much. He likes to play bass, but work isn’t happening enough. Then he receives the 108 predictions, he tests the first one, and his life begins to change dramatically. Telling his friend Hamza Sheikh about his revelations, Hamza realizes that money could made off the premonitions. The pair make one deal and they become millionaires. Hamza is fine about making money, but Will begins to question what he’s doing, morally and to the world. His opinion of the predictions change considerably as the book progresses, resulting in him trying to hide from everyone, but wondering if his predictions will come true if he doesn’t publish them. Hamza swears to keep Dando’s identity to himself, but being married to Miko, who questions where the money is coming from, gets her drawn into circle of trust. Chasing down the identity of the Oracle is reporter Leigh Shore, a young woman trying to work her way up the ladder at work and stumbling upon something that catches someone’s eye. The White House chief of staff is Anthony Leuchten and he’s one devious son of a gun. He wants the Oracle found to protect the country, with his actions creating issues. Another antagonist is the Revered Hosiah Branson who is wholly devoted to exposing and shutting down the Oracle as his existence is resulting in members leaving congregations around the world. The best antagonist of the book is the Coach. Everything about this character is fantastic and I won’t reveal anything about this individual to keep the surprises fresh. There is a wild card character on another continent, whom I also won’t discuss, but is fantastic. That’s what all the characters were in this book — fantastic. Overall grade: A+

The settings: Given that the Oracle’s predictions effect all corners of the world, the novel moves about often, though it does have three main settings. New York City receives the most time in the book, as it’s where Will is from. Writer Soule has got a good handle on this city, expertly describing its buildings and people strongly. I was really impressed with the descriptions of  the rally sequence. I’ve only been to New York City twice in my life and Soule nailed it. Uruguay becomes a key locale in the middle of the book as several characters converge there. I enjoyed this setting, with many glamorous and expensive locations. An original creation of the author is Quandustan. No spoilers, but it’s an important place and Soule makes it real. Overall grade: A+

The action: I love novels that build slowly and then explode into chaos. That’s exactly what this does. The characters begin to question what they’re doing, others begin the impossible search to find the Oracle, and then countries begin the drumbeat to go to war. I was impressed by Coach and the unbelievable action allowed to find the Oracle. That was an incredible moment, but the action doesn’t let up after that. Mob justice begins and it’s frightening and completely believable. The book’s premise got me interested, but the building action kept me turning pages. Overall grade: A+ 

The conclusion: I took a long exhale when I finished the book. I was gasping until the final pages. It’s a solid surprise of an ending that could end in salvation or total destruction. It’s fitting and satisfying. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Charles Soule needs to write more books! An outstanding premise that fully delivers thrills and chills with plenty of action. The characters are real and entertaining, with the reader finding sympathy with both the protagonists and the villains. A fantastic debut that has me needing to read more from Soule. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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