R. Frederick Hamilton’s Should Have Killed the Kid evokes distinct shades of Abraham and Isaac, as both stories are about sacrificing a child to avoid the wrath of an other-worldly and seemingly irrational power. In this case, however, the protagonist, Dave Thomas, fails to make even a token gesture toward killing the kid in question, and the result is Armageddon. The only solution? Another stab at infanticide.
Despite its bleak subject matter, Should Have Killed the Kid is an engaging and entertaining novel, a curious mix of Douglas Adams and Philip K. Dick. The characters are strong and well-rounded, the humor dry and subtle. Additionally, while Hamilton has many talents on display in his latest outing, the strongest among them is his ability to conjure a believable — and palpably oppressive — universe. The highrise office building that serves as the last bastion of humanity comes across as fittingly claustrophobic as it is self-contained, and the rundown resort where the hero first meets the man who appears to be the devil incarnate feels like a cross between the Bates Motel and the Overlook Hotel.
If I have a complaint at all, it’s that the book could have used a stronger copy-edit. Granted, books that come my way are usually marked with a disclaimer warning that I’m about to read an uncorrected proof and should bear that in mind when I come across any and all typos, but this book didn’t come with such a disclaimer. My best guess, then, is that I was reading a corrected copy and that a large number of typos made it through the editorial process — a fact that caused some degree of distraction while reading the novel. Overall, though, the narrative is strong, and Hamilton is certainly a novelist worth watching.