"Pivot" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Rare Bird Books

pivot l c barlow poster large

Written by L.C. Barlow
2019, 235 pages, Fiction
Released on 15th October, 2019


There is no better time to dive into L.C. Barlow’s highly impressive debut Pivot than right now; this is a terrific page turner to devour in a couple of days, but the news gets better, with the sequel Perish being released in October. I enjoyed Pivot so much, when L.C. (Lindsey) offered me an ARC of part two, I could have bitten her hand off with gratitude! Normally, I would read two or three other novels before starting a sequel creating some distance, but on this occasion the pull was just too strong, and I dived straight in. I am delighted to say Perish did not disappoint and seamlessly develops the events of its predecessor.

Pivot has a fascinating history and was originally self-published way back in 2013 and featured on the Preliminary Ballot of the Bram Stoker Award, had two BookBub adverts and ultimately moved a highly impressive 65,000 copies. Perhaps surprisingly, Barlow did not even attempt to find a publisher, taking inspiration from the likes of Hugh Howey’s Wool series, which was originally given away for free on the internet and later becoming an international hit. However, further down the line and with professional help Pivot went through substantial revisions and Lindsey noted, “Pivot, by that point in time, was 95% different than the original, and it is much better for it in my opinion. The original self-published version was a mess (even though it still struck many people as being enjoyable). It was maybe a well-written mess.” The new version was bought by California Coldblood Books, an imprint of Rare Bird Books.

Novels frequently have curious journeys into print and although there are plenty of similar stories to Pivot, it highlights the importance of seeking professional help in the editing part of the publishing process. This new version of Pivot is so seamlessly slick, it is obvious considerable thought had gone into the pacing, particularly the way breadcrumbs are dropped at regular intervals, leading the reader by the nose deeper into the plot. I have read few novels that perform this better, and at certain stages I expected the bubble to burst or to come across something which I found disappointing, but it never happened. This is a very easy story to read and just when you think you have it all figured out, the plot throws another curveball and I would never in a million years think its origins lie in the world of self-publishing.

Pivot is told in three sections, when the main character Jack Harper is aged seven, eleven and seventeen and who narrates the story in the first person. This style of narrative is perfect for this story, as Jack is a member of a cult, but because she knows nothing of the rest of the world, is completely unaware of what this group truly is. In fact, I do not think the world ‘cult’ is ever used within the story and the plot is seen entirely from within the workings of the cult from Jack’s limited and childlike perspective. Jack has been adopted by the leader Cyrus Harper, who ensures she receives a full education of maths, English, and other normal subjects and takes a keen interest in her development. However, Cyrus ensures that Jack is also taught a peculiar extra-curricular subject: that of assassination. Cyrus has talent spotted Jack and has big plans for her.

This makes Pivot an even more peculiar story, as our engaging and very likable main character is a mass murderer who repeatedly kills for Cyrus, particularly in the third segment of the story when she is seventeen. Jack commits her first murder when she is seven, which is brilliantly introduced in the opening pages, setting an incredibly bleak tone which permeates throughout the novel. Roland James lies comatose on a table and Cyrus shows Jack how to pierce a vein in his neck, which will result in certain death due to rapid blood loss. Distraught, Jack goes through with it, made worse by the fact that Roland has previously been very kind to the little girl. However, after the killing, something very strange happens; Roland comes back to life. This happens very early in the action, so do not read this as a spoiler.

Due to this surprise resurrection, the reader realises there is most definitely something supernatural going on in these early stages. Cyrus Harper seemingly has the power to bring people back from the dead and once Jack realises this, she kills Roland repeatedly over a very long period of time, practicing the art of different types of murder on a man who is constantly esurrected. After you have killed the same person hundreds of times, surprise, surprise, she gets rather good at it.

These revelations are dropped in the early stages of the novel and to say much more about the plot would spoil the numerous unpredictable twists, but overall, everything hangs together beautifully. Throw into the mix an imprisoned creature, which is caged in the basement, and a red velvet box with even stranger powers, you have an intoxicating level of weirdness. Pivot is also a very cruel novel, which in a very matter of fact manner has children routinely brainwashed and murdered, but as Jack is our narrator, she barely bats an eyelid at such killings.

The million-dollar question revolves around how Cyrus Harper has the ability of bringing Roland back to life and a lot of fun is to be had finding out the reason. Pivot asks a lot of questions and answers a good few of them, whilst wisely saving a few for the sequel Perish.  Jack is an enigmatic character and it is easy to forget she is female, especially when she is seventeen and is one of the strange consequences of being raised in a cult. Can you intentionally create a psychopath? This is one of the many questions you may ask yourself in relation to this fabulous character.

Although the story’s many threads are brought together nicely with a satisfying ending, you could argue it deserves a bigger finish, however, book two does start exactly where this story finishes. If you fancy a journey into a labyrinth of weirdness, then Pivot is essential reading.


Overall: 5 Star Rating Cover
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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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