Hello! I sure hope you checked out last week’s vlog so that you could see my announcement. I’ve recently partnered with Niwot, Colorado’s own Inkberry Books. So, going forward, once per month I’ll be receiving a book from them to review and you’ll also be able to see it in the Left Hand Valley Courier!
Here’s the companion vlog to this week’s piece.
So, let’s begin. For the month of February, I was recommended the book NoLab by Richard Roth. It was pitched as a “thriller/artworld spoof” and not only do I agree with that, I also think it was an overall really good read. Roth has a lot going for him in this book–he can get attention from artists, people who like crime books, those who want more representation of underappreciated voices… and all within a relatively short story.
This book primarily focuses on Ray Lawson, an artist/teacher who gets thrown into a situation way over his head: some former students of his have gone missing and one student’s father asks him for help to find the group. Lawson recruits fellow artist/teacher Victor Florian, a former Vietnam vet on their quest, and what an adventure it becomes! Along the way, the duo make new friendships, a new partnership, learn more about each other, and ultimately find the student-group: NoLab. However, they also find that NoLab is planning a dramatic and arguably foolish stunt that they are calling art. It’s honestly a little difficult to describe here, so you’ll definitely have to check out Roth’s book for the full picture.
Additionally, it is set during autumn into winter 2016, so it was really interesting to see all the cultural references made throughout the book. However, be aware that some of the characters appear to lean more liberal, especially when referencing the 2016 presidential election, so if politics are a sensitive subject for you, please remember that this is a fiction book and .
This story is also great, however, while it’s about adventure and mystery, it’s also about humanity. For example, Florian has a son with Autism who eventually becomes central to the whole story, and the theme of loss is there as well (I’m not going to spoil who dies, read the book)! So, in just over 200 pages, Roth tackles normal novel issues like plot, but also addresses more serious, real world problems like ethics, friendship, death, and othering.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I thought it was well written and for being so short, had a lot of detail and depth to the characters. I do wish that there was slightly more complexity to the ending–I thought that it was tied up quite nicely, albeit somewhat quickly–just because there was so much going on throughout the book, the last chapter wasn’t as fulfilling as I’d hoped it would be.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes art and mystery. I say “art” first because even though art itself is sort of pushed aside so as to focus on the thriller-aspect of the book, it’s such an important and underlying theme, it can’t be ignored. In fact, one of my particularly favorite parts of the book does come at the end, where a scholar shares her theories on art through the ages and the different artistic movements over time. I also really enjoyed the commentary on what counts or doesn’t count as “art,” there were a few discussions around “conceptual art,” which focuses on the idea of the work rather than its quality or genre, that I think were both interesting and illuminating because it gave a new perspective on the matter.
I would also recommend the book simply because of the characterization, all the characters were somewhat simple, but undoubtedly developed–they were given enough backstory so as to provide context, but not so much that it was distracting. There were a few characters who were introduced and then practically nonexistent, which was slightly annoying, but easy to overlook.
That’s all I’ve got for now, thanks so much for reading (and hopefully watching)! Be sure to keep an eye out for next week’s posts on