When The Unknowns is described on websites such as Goodreads and Amazon, the words “humour” and “romance” are commonly used. While the book is indeed about an introverted man’s quest to solve women, I wouldn’t necessarily class The Unknowns as humour. Sure, there are situations in the book that will raise a smile or two, but not much more than with your standard novel. For that reason, I feel it’s important to go into this book without the expectation of reading a rom-com.
With that aside, The Unknowns raises some interesting scenarios that I feel are often unexplored. The name of the book is one that will throw you off until you truly understand the reasoning behind it. Its something I cannot express in this review, as it would be giving away the book’s best trick.
The book follows Eric Muller, a young millionaire who hit it big when selling off some software he developed with a friend. Throughout Eric’s entire life, he’s been trying to figure out the opposite sex; but it typically always goes wrong.
Eric meets a reporter named Maya through a mutual friend and quickly falls for her. But after she reveals a sensitive secret about her past (relating to her father), Eric develops some curiosity about the subject and decides to do some digging.
The Unknowns has smart and snappy dialogue; but the narration is somewhat dry. Flashback scenes that go back to Eric’s childhood take up half of the story. This often leads to boring moments that could have been summarised.
For a book that’s around 220 pages, it felt as though it dragged at parts. Thankfully, it picked up again in the last few chapters; when the final plot twist begins unfolding.
It’s clear that Gabriel Roth has some great ideas and I would like to see him write something more ambitious. The Unknowns is a story about a hopeless romantic that hinges itself on a climax full of irony. At best, this book would make a great holiday read or something to fit in between tomes. As a writer, Gabriel Roth is also a senior editor at SLATE, and he has many articles of interest to check out here.