Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fair Coin by E.C. Myers

Fair Coin by E.C. Myers
Publisher:  Pyr
Publish Date:  March 6, 2012
ISBN:  978-1616146092
Pages:  250

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

A 'fair coin' is a term from probability theory and statistics.  Basically it means that you have the probability of getting 50% heads, 50% tails on any flip.  Unless the coin has been tampered with, in which case you can tell by the non-randomness of the flips.

Ephraim Scott is 16 years old.  His dad left and his mom's a drunk.  It's up to Ephraim to make sure she gets to work on time or to call in for her when she's too drunk.  One day he comes home late to find his mother has attempted suicide.  That kicks off a crazy series of events that forever change Ephraim.

See, his mom attempts suicide because she had to identify Ephraim's dead body.  But Ephraim found her, right?  Right.  So he figures the dead guy just looks extremely similar to him.  His mom has the guy's belongings, so he goes through them.  The guy even has a library card with Ephraim's name on it.  Then there's the coin.  It's a state quarter, only it has Puerto Rico on it and Puerto Rico has never been a state.  Oh yeah, and Washington's head is turned the wrong way.  How does he know this right away?  He collects coins. 

Then he finds a note in his locker that tells him to make a wish and flip the coin.  It's in his best friends handwriting, but Nathan claims he didn't write it.  He uses the coin a couple of times before he shares the knowledge of what it does with Nathan, but Nathan becomes obsessed with it. 

The wishes begin innocently enough, he wishes his mom was okay.  Then she is...but she doesn't remember ever NOT being okay and neither does anyone else.  since the whole thing went well, he starts making wishes that you'd expect from a teenage boy.  Like wishing his crush into liking him.  Things start to go wrong with the wishes and Ephraim decides that every time he makes a self-centered wish, the coin lands 'tails' up.  He's convinced it's magic.  It takes Ephraim quite awhile to figure out that more is going wrong than he thinks, he isn't paying enough attention to the effects of his wishes on everyone and everything around him. 

The story really shows how anyone can become a victim of power of any kind and how they're always sure that they can 'fix' things by one...more act...until it's too late to fix anything.  It's a great debut novel with twists and turns, a little romance and a little violence.  A true sci/fi story and one of the best I've read in the last few years.

The characters:
Ephraim - basically a good kid, but he wishes his life were better.  Don't we all?

Nathan - Ephraim's best friend, they're fun and close until the coin.

Jena - the girl Ephraim crushes on.  She's smart, funny and responsible.

Mary & Shelley - Jena's best friends. 

Even the minor characters are fleshed out and interesting.  I haven't read many books where no matter how minor the character, that you felt like you knew something about them.

A bit on the author:

E.C. Myers grew up in New York, graduated from Columbia University, worked in software development on Wall Street, worked in programming for cable tv and is currently a development writer for a children's well as being an author.  This guy is great!  Let's see, what else?  He's been published in quite a few magazines and anthologies, as well as winning several contests - including being a finalist in L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future contest.  You can hear him do live workshop critiques on WBAI 99.5FM (if you can get that channel).  He also blogs on for Star Trek Re-watch reviews.  Oh yeah, and he moderates on the Yahoo Group GothamLit.   I don't know about you, but he sounds like a lot of young people I know right now. 

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