Saturday 25 March 2023

Book Review: The Death I Gave Him by Em X. Liu (Sci-Fi Thriller)

Title: The Death I Gave Him
Author: Em X. Liu
Publisher: Rebellion Publishing
Publication Date: 12 September 2023
Pages: 336
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller
Source: ARC via NetGalley

A lyrical, queer sci-fi retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet as a locked-room thriller

A Twenty-First Century Hamlet.

Hayden Lichfield’s life is ripped apart when he finds his father murdered in their lab, and the camera logs erased. The killer can only have been after one thing: the Sisyphus Formula the two of them developed together, which might one day reverse death itself. Hoping to lure the killer into the open, Hayden steals the research. In the process, he uncovers a recording his father made in the days before his death, and a dying wish: Avenge me…

With the lab on lockdown, Hayden is trapped with four other people—his uncle Charles, lab technician Gabriel Rasmussen, research intern Felicia Xia and their head of security, Felicia’s father Paul—one of whom must be the killer. His only sure ally is the lab’s resident artificial intelligence, Horatio, who has been his dear friend and companion since its creation. With his world collapsing, Hayden must navigate the building’s secrets, uncover his father’s lies, and push the boundaries of sanity in the pursuit of revenge.


The Death I Gave Him offers an interesting new take on Hamlet that overall worked very well. The characters and storyline are highly trimmed, but that helps to avoid it feeling like a simple transplantation of the tale and rather a new work. I am no science expert, but the science espoused in the piece certainly felt well researched and believable. The locked-room-mystery approach to the story was also highly effective, as was the character of Horatio and his relationship with Hayden. The book covered some interesting themes and topics, such as the idea of immortality and striving to attain it. There was a point at the three-quarter mark where my attention wavered a little, but then I was caught up in the action again before the end. Recommended to fans of quirky Shakespeare retellings. It gets a solid four stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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