September 25, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

Satanic Cult Training A Protege Assassin Provides Backdrop For Very Confusing Pivot by L.C. Barlow – Out 10/15

As many know, I make it a point not to read reviews before I write my own, in an effort not to taint my view beforehand. However,  when you come out having finished a book and have absolutely NO CLUE what you just read? You don’t know if it was good or bad … because you just don’t know what even just even happened there…  And Questions? I need this guy… but apparently…

See the truth is I read Pivot by L.C. Barlow– I don’t know? A month ago. Every time I kept trying to write this review, I kept doubting myself. I kept going back to different points in the book and thinking- no, it must be me.
So, in the end. I caved. I had no choice. I had to double check that I wasn’t completely out in left field. And what I found? Was that just about everyone was in the same exact boat.

  • Most didn’t sign-up for what they read.
  • And most? Once they realized what they were getting?
  • Were either:
    • completely blown away by it.
    • completely hated it
    • or as batshit confused as I was
    • or was the above and pretended they were really cool literary people who were just waiting for the next book because– ambiguity- like see below

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OH! I should also note that apparently, there are two completely different versions of this book. One that has been out since like 2013 and the revised version coming out on October, 15th. I, obviously have the ARC for 10/15.  I mention this because apparently there were whole characters left out of the revision and I can’t say what difference that made.
So- here’s the deal. And this isn’t even a matter of like suspending disbelief or any of that because for a while it was a really good, if not horrific grimnoir satanic book. But then? Then? I just got really, really confused.
Jack is basically taken in by a cult that is led by the devil (no, the actual devil) whose followers think he is the coming savior. And Cyrus (that’s the name the devil, who has taken human form, is going by these days) has convinced everyone that Christians don’t even really believe in God, just give them a hot minute and they will believe in Satan like really quick.

Thank you to Red Bird Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review

And while I think the part about turning to Satan is most definitely extreme. There are studies pointing to this generation holding the largest amount of atheists and agnostics to date- so there’s that.
On a much broader scale, we a lot on the idea of angels vs. demons (or fallen angels, even) – if you look at Dogma, The Library of the Unwritten, Good Omens etc… there is a lot of exploration of what is actually good vs. what is actually evil, and how either extreme can go too far and cause issues. Or, how they can, actually work together. But I digress (which is real easy to do when you aren’t sure what is happening to begin with).
So Cyrus takes a kid in, named Jack (I think he took him or bought him or just kidnapped him from his mom, who was an addict- not really clear on that point). Pivot is entirely told from Jack’s point of view. However, it jumps back and forth across timelines (before and after Cyrus). So it is jack as a kid and then Jack while he’s in college. And I’ve read books that take this structure before, so it isn’t something I’m not used to but I this is really where I started losing track of everything and felt like I needed an
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Because the dots weren’t connected. During the time as a kid, with Cyrus, he is being trained as an assassin, thief and basically learning all about what Cyrus is, and indoctrinated into the belief system,  and there is a mysterious box (that I still don’t completely understand but has some magical power beyond what is already outlined in Cyrus being… well the devil).
The other part is told from”post-Cyrus” when Jack is in college. And here is the part that really did me in. Because I’m not sure if it is like Jack blocked it all out, but he didn’t because he’s suffering from PTSD, I think because, even if he doesn’t know it, I think he’s showing all the signs of it. He has a drug problem, he’s partying constantly and just not healthy.

Some might consider the next paragraph a spoiler- it is a reveal – one shocking reveal that I’m going to mention- because I have to- but it isn’t the end but- skip it if you need- Restart after Yoda.

And then here is the real kicker– because– and again– this is really when I started looking at reviews because I didn’t want to start offending people by misrepresenting things I didn’t understand- but no- this is what it is. Like I don’t know 70%  into the book there is this big reveal that Jack is actually not a boy.  And not like he came out or is trans or identifies as… like he’s a woman but that is not what the plot has you believe. BUT I DON’T KNOW WHY. 
I don’t even mean I don’t know why for the character. I mean I don’t know why in the like the book- like what was the point. I would go back and reread to figure it out except- I’m not sure I would completely understand it even if I tried. Or then again- maybe I’m just an idiot and it was right there in plan site the whole time- and I just didn’t figure it out. I’m not really sure. Because if you haven’t noticed- I don’t know much of what I read at all. 
And the way it keeps jumping back and forth (and yeah looking back on all the sexual exposure Jack has as a child- ok maybe there were clues- but then was the devil trying to convince Jack he was a boy or should I have known)? Except it doesn’t help that the way they move from one timeline to the next is really jarring. Like whiplash jarring. So it didn’t help my skills of deduction?
And if is what Cyrus was trying to do… why not let the readers in on it- like- give us more back story or motivation or a plot device. Like still…
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And look, again, maybe I’m an idiot- I’m really willing to take this into consideration. Maybe this book was just like <insert literary figure here> that wrote this horror, satanic, cult, social experiment book that just went completely over my head.
I’m completely willing to accept that. If you read this book and you want to throw something at me and say … DID WE READ THE SAME BOOK? BECAUSE THIS IS GENIUS! THIS IS A COMMENTARY ON X, Y, AND Z (well outside of what I did compliment it for up front), I get it. No problem.
I’m willing to take that stance of, its me not the book, it is me on this one. OR even that it is the edition of the book I read.  And if it is a question of this edition being a chopped up, mess of the original- then please don’t come after me because I can’t help what happened there.
Last. Lord. The ending. I don’t even know. It’s like. Jack thinks about doing something. Is about to and then boom. Book ends. I know there is another book coming but still. I was like. But what because it is all ambiguous on what or whether and consequences of such actions if it happens?
So if you were wondering why I hadn’t posted this review a month after I read the book?Now you know why. It is near migraine inducing. If anyone does read it or has read it… I’d love to hear from you… because I’m just curious. Some people REALLY loved it. Seriously. Some people DNFd it. Some hated it. And then some read the old version. And I?
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