Task Lyst by Scott Hylbert. I rated it 1 star, “did not like it”, on Goodreads and shelved it there as fiction & novel. You can click the linked title to read the synopsis.
Task Lyst caught my eye when it was featured as the work of a Nashville resident on the home page of my awesome Nashville Public Library.
This review contains spoilers.
As late as four-fifths of my way through Task Lyst, I was planning to rate it 2 stars in consideration of Hylbert’s not only writing his first novel but of getting it published, both of which take a great deal of time and effort. But the book has far too many flaws to allow me to rate it anything more than 1 star with a clear conscience.
Task Lyst is marketed as a thriller, but it is not. There’s nothing thrilling in it. Yes, there’s some suspense, plenty of intrigue, and a little mystery, but there is very little action. No car chases, no foot pursuits, no gunfights. All but one of the few violent acts committed in the novel are peripheral to the narrative, are carried out by non-characters, and are presented as media reports. Through the first three-fourths of the novel, the pacing is accomplished largely through use of short chapters, many of which occupy a page or less, and alternating from chapter to chapter between the perspectives of the 3 main characters: Alice, Elliott, and Tim.
Hylbert succeeds somewhat in differentiating his characters, but they frequently come across as different aspects of one character rather than as 3 separate and distinct individuals. Their motivations, beliefs, thoughts, and goals are very similar, so it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between them.
Hylbert tells far more than he shows, mainly by way of Tim’s, Alice’s, and Elliott’s copious internal monologues, which more often than not reveal them to be petty, greedy, selfish, judgmental, and morally ambiguous. Alice comes closest to being altruistic and likable. Tim and Elliott have few redeeming qualities, making it hard to see them as sympathetic characters.
Errors in spelling, punctuation, and mechanics are scattered throughout the book, though they aren’t so numerous as to earn it a low rating by themselves. In fact, the writing isn’t too bad for most of the book, but about three-fourths of the way through, the errors start to come more frequently, and the quality of the writing decreases. A savvy reader will feel the point at which Hylbert seems to have become tired of writing or at least wanting to hurry and be finished.
And at the very end, the story jumps completely off the rails. I can’t offer any passages from the book to show what I mean because the title page features a prohibition against reproducing or transmitting the book or any part thereof. So I’ll simply describe it. On page 352, Alice, Tim, Elliott, and a minor character named Simon are standing in a bazaar in Fez, Morocco. After Alice & Tim regale their companions with the travails of their journey to Fez, Elliott gives Tim a joint. Tim takes a hit off the joint then hands it back to Elliott. Literally 5 lines later, Elliott asks Alice why she decided to come alone, and Alice tells him that Tim couldn’t make it. A few paragraphs after that, on page 253, Tim is in Iceland, and Elliott, in Fez, nods at him and thanks the absent stranger. Tim nods back and makes eye contact before pulling away. Prior to the scene, no mention has been made of anyone pulling out a phone or any kind of communication device to place a call between the two parties. If any of you read or have read Task Lyst and can explain to me what’s going on there, please do, because I am perplexed.
I commend Scott Hylbert for the effort he put into writing and publishing this book; it’s certainly more than I’ve been able to accomplish to date. But he has a whole lot to learn about good writing, and I wish him luck if he decides to write another. I may even read it if he does.
I could probably talk myself into forgiving most of the preceding complaints and awarding Task Lyst 2 stars if it weren’t for the fact that there are very few redeeming qualities in the main characters and, with the exception of Alice, very little to like about them. All three are motivated almost entirely by personal greed and self-interest; all three knowingly, willingly, and eagerly commit numerous unethical and illegal actions. None of them suffer any harmful consequences; in fact, all three are richly rewarded. That offends my sense of justice and fairness and makes me regret having spent so much of my time reading this book. I’m glad I borrowed it from my awesome Nashville Public Library instead of wasting my money on it.