There it is, the main theme of the book - now, move on and go read The Alienist and The Angel of Dar...moreMundus vult decipi.
The world wants to be deceived.
There it is, the main theme of the book - now, move on and go read The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness.
I probably could stop my review right there, but because of my dedication to you, my goodreads friends, I won't. So, here it is, my (mostly) complete review of Caleb Carr's Killing Time.
Now, let's be clear about one thing: "Mundus vult decipi - the world wants to be decieved." If there's one thing the author wants you to take away from this novel, it's that: "the world wants to be deceived." By the end of the novel (if you can make it that far) your head will literally be covered in welts from the number of times the author bludgeons you with his main theme of: "the world wants to be deceived."
(If you were sick of reading "Mundus vult decipi - the world wants to be decieved." in that last paragraph, then just imagine 352 pages scattered with paragraphs that are almost as bad. #notahyperbolicstatement)
Anyway, despite Carr's heavy-handedness of the novel's main theme, there really are some interesting ideas to be found here. For example, I was impressed by the author's prophetic vision of the events that helped shape the timeline of Dr. Gideon Wolfe's world - as they closely mirror our modern history: A financial crash occurred in 2007; the United States is warring in Afghanistan; and a bacterial infection has caused 4% of the world's population to turn into amygdala-chomping cannibals (OK. OK. So I made the last one up. But mark my words: Ready yourselves for the zombie apocalypse. [PSA complete. Cue "The More You Know" animation]) Seriously though, I was genuinely intrigued by the author's eerily accurate "predictions" of our modern world, and it really helped make the history of Carr's future setting - the year 2023 - feel believable. (Full disclosure: At the time of the book's initial publication, which was in 1998, I wasn't really following world affairs, so maybe his ideas aren't as forward-thinking or as astute as I'm giving him credit for.)
I also found the machinations that Malcom Tressaillian and his crew concocted and surreptitiously funneled into the world's data stream, and therefore the collective consciousness of the world's population, to be quite fascinating - and some of them, quite believable. I won't go into any details about those, but let's just say that I was interested enough in one of them to do some research of my own. Which reminds me, I feel like Carr probably spent a fair bit of time during the outset of writing this novel to research and gather data on the plausibility of the conspiracies he had his characters use in the story, and for whatever reason, I find that impressive and respectable.
Finally, let me just say that I really wanted to like this novel. Really, I did. I thoroughly enjoyed The Alienist and I thought the The Angel of Darkness was okay. But this novel, despite a rather interesting mix of elements and a bevy of thought-provoking ideas was a total dud. And it's unfortunate, because this novel could have really shined, but the author's imprecise alchemy of one-dimensional characters, not-quite-believable technology, lackluster action sequences, and the leaden weight of an overbearing main theme made it nearly impossible to enjoy.
The Verdict Stay away from this one.
If you're still interested in reading any of Caleb Carr's books then go read The Alienist as it's actually quite good. (less)