Face Blind by Lance Hawvermale

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Grade B

Do a quick Google search for face blindness and right away you’ll come upon some very interesting facts; Oliver Sacks was face blind, for instance, Chuck Close, too—which is even more fascinating when you think of the facial mosaic paintings that are his signature. More interesting, or unnerving, is the image search. Visuals abound of how a face blind person sees the world, jarring simulations that are almost impossible to imagine, easier perhaps to grasp total blindness than being blind to just one feature. Lance Hawvermale’s Face Blind is a mystery/thriller whose protagonist is afflicted with the titular condition, Prosopagnosia as it was officially coined in the 1950s, and it certainly makes for a clever premise for a novel—after all, cinema has played with the trope of blind protagonists being terrorized in thrillers since Wait Until Dark through this year’s Don’t Breathe, but the face blind protagonist is an inventive twist in a book full of them. To wit, setting a thriller in the remote Chilean desert near an astronomer outpost with an ensemble that ranges from a washed up black sci-fi writer and his paraplegic scientist brother to a pair of twins, one who has Down syndrome and may have psychic abilities, to Gabe, the face blind astronomy grad student, to a menacing Chilean police force, and throwing them into a violent blender—apt, when one considers some of the more gruesome touches throughout the story—with some of Pinochet’s old torture hench men (maybe) in pursuit is not a run of the mill narrative, but then Prospopagnosia isn’t a run of the mill condition, either. As thrilling and often jaw-droppingly icky as Face Blind can be (wagons and backpacks, folks…) , it’s more a character study than a horror novel, and it goes much deeper than it may appear on first glance. Recommended for readers who won’t—or can’t—judge a book by its cover.

Face Blind: A Mystery available now.

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