Dr. Arianna Drake, a fertility specialist, is researching a cure for her own debilitating and progressive multiple scleroris using fetal stem cells. T...moreDr. Arianna Drake, a fertility specialist, is researching a cure for her own debilitating and progressive multiple scleroris using fetal stem cells. The year is 2027 and stem cell research is a felony. Dr. Drake's nemesis appears in the form of Gideon Dopp, Director of the Department of Embryonic Preservation and former Catholic priest. Dopp appoints junior agent Trent to pose as an admiring suitor and woo Dr. Drake into trusting him so she will spill the secrets of her lawbreaking research, ensuring Dopp a high-profile prosecution and conviction.
As intriguing as the premise sounded when I picked up this debut novel, for this reader it did not live up to expectations. Nearly all of the characters are one dimensional hardliners, whether adhering to the tenets of science or religion. Dopp reflect the worst stereotypes of dedicated Christians, and Dr. Drake's smug intellectualism leaves little room for spiritual reflection. Let's face it - very few human beings are quite so black-and-white in their thinking. The only character with a hint of self-doubt and introspection is Trent, but, sadly, he is too quick to give up his long-standing religious beliefs in the face of Dr. Drake's sophistry.
I gave the book three stars because, despite its flaws, it really was an entertaining story. The suspense and climax were well-rendered. Maybe I'm just not accustomed to my sci fi (published by Tor, no less!) being peppered with scripture.(less)
On November 9, 2001, Christian fundamentalists from the Evangelical Republic of Texas hijacked four airplanes with plans to crash them into Baghdad, R...moreOn November 9, 2001, Christian fundamentalists from the Evangelical Republic of Texas hijacked four airplanes with plans to crash them into Baghdad, Riyadh, and Mecca. Three of the planes hit their target, while one crashes into a field after the terrorists are overpowered by some passengers. The United Arab States, a world superpower, retaliates swiftly, declaring a War on Terror and occupying Washington, D.C., as their base of operations. In Ruff's imagination, Osama Bin Laden is a senator from the UA state of Saudi Arabia; Saddam Hussein and Moammar Ghaddafi are underworld crime lords; and the Christian States of America (CSA) have been led for four decades by Lyndon Baines Johnson, now a nonagenarian.
Artifacts begin showing up on the online auction site eBazaar that hint at a different interpretation of the events of 2001; this version of events is confirmed by an imprisoned suicide bomber under interrogation. Arab Homeland Security agents are dispatched to get to the bottom of "The Mirage", a world in which Islamic terrorists allegedly attacked the United States on 9/11/01. But as earnestly as they search for the truth, subversive elements are working just as diligently to suppress it.
Matt Ruff has created an alternate universe in which he superimposes American politics and popular culture onto the Middle East with a result that is in equal measure creepy and hilarious. The chapters are interspersed with relevant excerpts from the Library of Alexandria, a user-edited reference source, which provide both context and humor. Ruff seems far more of a Islamic scholar than most casual CNN-surfers, and for me the political reversals and subterfuge got a bit murky in the middle parts. But it is clear Ruff had great fun concoting this clever alternative history and it was just as much fun to read. (I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.) (less)
What happened to the ending? Did it too get caught up the Sudden Departure like the loved ones of the five depressing survivors in this novel? The mom...moreWhat happened to the ending? Did it too get caught up the Sudden Departure like the loved ones of the five depressing survivors in this novel? The moment I finished the 8th CD I searched the box for number 9, because I was certain there had to be more to the story. Perrotta nearly left the reader hanging mid-sentence. The character development was well done and I had really started to care about them: Kevin Garvey, father and de facto mayor of Mapleton, trying to maintain some semblance of pre-Rapture normality; his teen daughter, Jill, former straight-A-student-turned-tramp who shaves her head and ditches high school to smoke weed; his son Tom, who drops out of Syracuse University to follow a self-proclaimed spiritual leader named Holy Wayne and his harem of young Asian girls he calls his "spiritual wives"; wife Lori, who takes a vow of silence when she joins a cult called the Guilty Remnant whose members only wear white and chain smoke; and Nora Durst, a middle aged housewife who lost her entire family in the Sudden Departure and seeks increasingly eccentric ways to reinvent her life. What a disappointment after hours of listening to never know what happens to any of them. For the interesting characters I gave it 2.5 stars (rounded up).(less)
This is formula Jodi Picoult - a heartwrenching moral dilemma that tears a family asunder, following by a protracted courtroom battle. Add more than a...moreThis is formula Jodi Picoult - a heartwrenching moral dilemma that tears a family asunder, following by a protracted courtroom battle. Add more than a touch of cheesiness (here, the temporary patient guardian's name is Helen Bedd), and count on a spectacular ending (here, the epilogue) that is satisying and thought-provoking. Fans of Picoult's other works will not be disappointed.(less)
An entertaining mystery novel involving a newlywed college professor with a checkered past, his art dealer wife with secrets of her own, and a trucklo...moreAn entertaining mystery novel involving a newlywed college professor with a checkered past, his art dealer wife with secrets of her own, and a truckload of stolen diamonds. While the plot at first seemed formulaic, the twists and turns were fast-paced and satisfying, especially the couple of shockers at the end. (I listened to the audiobook and Malcolm Hillgartner does an impeccable Russian accent.) This novel prompted me to seek out more titles by Rector. (less)