I read this while stuck in bed with a head cold. It certainly worked for that purpose - I didn't have to concentrate too hard and the chapters were sh...moreI read this while stuck in bed with a head cold. It certainly worked for that purpose - I didn't have to concentrate too hard and the chapters were short. The writing is simple but very uneven - the point of view jumps around. Once I decided to read it like a folk tale, it went a whole lot smoother.(less)
An alternate-history detective story. The novel is set in 1949 in an England that negotiated a peace agreement with the Third Reich just 9 years previ...moreAn alternate-history detective story. The novel is set in 1949 in an England that negotiated a peace agreement with the Third Reich just 9 years previously. An aristocrat is murdered at the Farthing estate on the eve of an election and in the midst of social change in democratic Britain.
This was feeling like a 3-star book until the last handful of chapters. Also, this excellent review from BunWat gives me much more respect for the book and the setting.
It's pretty strange to pick up a series starting with the 8th book, especially one that hangs it's hat so heavily on the main character. I was really...moreIt's pretty strange to pick up a series starting with the 8th book, especially one that hangs it's hat so heavily on the main character. I was really surprised, however that Arnaldur does an excellent job initiating the new without alienating the existing fans. (By the way, I'm using the naming conventions that Icelanders themselves would use.)
Erlendur is a somewhat morose and withdrawn criminal detective in Reykjavik, Iceland. He has a talent and fondness for cold cases, however his personal life is never as straight forward as it should be for such a homebody. As the book opens, there is a dead body, but no obvious crime. While Erlendur is closing the apparent suicide of Maria, he discovers some small, hidden clues that things might not be so simple. As he digs deeper in this case and some very old cold cases, his personal life with his children get a bit more complicated.
This is an unpretentious mystery, but I wouldn't exactly call it a thriller. There are mysteries to be solved, clues to be discovered, but it's all very emotional and cerebral. There are no guns, immediate threats, hostages, or other high-adrenaline situations one usually finds in serial thrillers. It makes the book quite melancholy, just like the detective and the whole setting of Iceland in the autumn.(less)
It sure took me a long time to finish such a simple airport-bookstore-worthy book. It really wasn't very compelling. The "clues" were like a kick in t...moreIt sure took me a long time to finish such a simple airport-bookstore-worthy book. It really wasn't very compelling. The "clues" were like a kick in the head. Or like in Blue's Clues. I did get one or two little surprises - but the big mystery? Almost completely given away in the first few pages.
I think what was most irritating is that the writing is so simple that it reads more like a screenplay. It's not nuanced, it's packed with similes, metaphors and alpha-male grunt responses. I can forgive an obvious plot with some good, evocative writing. Likewise I can forgive un-nuanced writing with a killer plot. This just isn't it.
I'm thinking this book is best for people who love mystery-thrillers. When you're a huge fan of the genre you can forgive lots of defects. If you don't think too hard about the story-line or the writing, it's probably a compelling read. If you're looking for something stand-out, something special -- this probably isn't the book for you.(less)
Part of my March 2010 Hugo Award winner bonanza. ________________
Wow that was really a fun mash-up of historical fiction, time travel and humor! All lo...morePart of my March 2010 Hugo Award winner bonanza. ________________
Wow that was really a fun mash-up of historical fiction, time travel and humor! All lovers of time travel and its implications should give this a go. Certainly if you enjoy the zany humor of Douglas Adams, you should give this a go. I might even suggest that if you're a fan of Victorian England and its foibles, you should give this a go. And most certainly, definitely if you know what a penwiper is, you have no choice but to read this book. ________________
June 26, 2010:
I saw two interesting reviews about TSNOTD.
The first is the ever insightful Jo Walton at Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/06/acad... "To Say Nothing of the Dog takes place in Willis’ “Firewatch” universe, along with her earlier Doomsday Book and more recent Blackout (and much anticipated All Clear). In this universe, there’s time travel but it’s for academic research purposes only. It’s useful to historians who want to know what really happened, and experience the past, but otherwise useless because time protects itself and you can’t bring anything through the “net” that will have any effect. The thought of time tourists hasn’t occurred in this universe, or rather it has been firmly squelched—and just as well, considering the problems historians manage to create all on their own. Despite having time travel and time travel’s ability to give you more time, Willis’s historians seem to be like my family and live in a perpetual whirlwind of ongoing crisis where there’s never enough time for proper preparation."
The second is Suvudu's 25 Years of (Bantam) Spectra series, which has a short intro from Willis herself: http://www.suvudu.com/2010/06/25-year... "I’d also always wanted to write a Victorian novel. You know the sort, crammed with eccentric characters and an incredibly convoluted plot full of butlers and afternoon tea and ruffles and séances and Oxford dons and falling in the Thames. To say nothing of the dog. And time travel. " (less)
I'm wavering between 2 and 3 stars for this Crichton-esque brick of a sea-thriller.
On one hand you have whales, crabs, dolphins, sea worms, shoals, an...moreI'm wavering between 2 and 3 stars for this Crichton-esque brick of a sea-thriller.
On one hand you have whales, crabs, dolphins, sea worms, shoals, and sharks galore. All awesome. Oh and the top fru-fru Parisian restaurant infested with gooey lobsters. Right on. Also, there's some interesting thoughts on life-forms, consciousness, collectives and intelligence. I'll be thinking about those ideas for a while, even if they aren't anything new. The thriller and horror part of the story was plenty interesting to keep me turning the pages quickly.
On the other, much angrier sullied hand, you have obscene amounts of political, environmental and philosophical/religious pontification, aimed both directly at the reader and through the super-genius-beautiful-yet-one-dimensional cast of characters. Gah. I was so looking forward to a scientific thriller in translation that presented a multi-national cast and world view. The Swarm has this in spades, but also is incredibly one-sided in its vehement anti-US stance. The rest of the world is beautiful, intelligent, and rational. The US, however, is the source of all the world's woes, including inventing conspiracy theories?! I have lived for over 4 years in other countries, and it's dead easy to vilify the US. But the thing is all countries and their citizens have both bad and good virtues. No one is perfect, just like no country as a whole is pure evil. To portray the US as the latter is lazy characterization, an cheap shot and frankly just immature.
Finally, last gripe: the science is beyond sketchy. Schätzing clearly has done a ton of research (he packed every last detail of it in the book - that's why it's over 800 pages!). Yet he gets so much of the science wrong. Methane does not smell like rotten eggs - it's odorless.
I really like Jay's review that said that: The Swarm:Science :: Da Vinci Code:Religion