Alright, I’ll admit it. The Themis Files series has been gazing at me from my to-be-read shelf for over a year now. I’ve heard Sylvain Neuvel’s praises sung endlessly by friends and fellow reviewers, but I still haven’t made it to his debut novel, Sleeping Giants. I was thrilled at the announcement of The Test, his first novella, something for me to fly through quickly on a late night. The biggest takeaway for me: wow, I’ve been missing out.
I think this is one of those books you’re better of diving into yourself with as little foreknowledge as possible, so I’ll keep this brief. In order to become a citizen of Britain, you must first pass the twenty-five question British Citizenship Test. Idir Jalil, an Iranian immigrant hoping to secure his family’s future in this country they’ve come to know, will pass this test or he and his family will be deported immediately. The stakes are high enough before the day goes awry, forcing Idir to make decisions of life or death.
The Test flies by at breakneck speed. I like, many other readers, tore through this in a single sitting. Neuvel does not mince words. He quickly sets the stage as he introduces Idir, and just as promptly turns the world on it’s side less than twenty pages in. This is a masterfully written story that explores the value of a human life, and it rocked me to my core with each twist and turn as the plot unfolded.