Novel: The Oracle Year by Charles Soule

Charles Soule’s bracing, noteworthy first novel is The Oracle Year (2018), an inventive, entertaining genre thriller. Its hero is Will Dando, a run-of-the-mill session musician who mysteriously wakes up one morning with a head full of predictions. With the help of his business-minded friend Hamza, Will takes advantage of his newfound foresight to build a website to publicize himself as “the Oracle,” an infallible predicting machine whose knowledge can be had—for a price. The value of his information turns out to be even greater than he anticipated, enabling him to amass a huge fortune, which he and Hamza secretly guard with advanced cybersecurity and supremely cautious offshore accounting. But as the Oracle’s legend grows, the cosmic mystery behind his power turns the world on its ear, and ultimately threatens Will and his friends. Even as the President of the United States launches a manhunt for the Oracle, and his persona develops powerful enemies, Will gradually starts to wrestle with the ethical responsibilities of his predictions—especially once it becomes clear that for all his newfound power, he may have less agency than he thinks he does.

I came to Soule’s fiction through his terrific comic book work on She-Hulk, and The Oracle Year has a similar breezy creativity. It’s a rich, multi-protagonist tale that examines its slick premise from numerous engaging angles. Soule’s prose is smooth and accessible, and while the pace flags from time to time, overall it clips along nicely. By and large, an entertaining, winning debut.

 

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