Rachel's Reviews > The Manual of Detection

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
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Oct 29, 14

it was amazing
bookshelves: seen-the-author, mystery, fantasy, named-after-a-book-in-the-book, read-2010, male-author, hero, male-author-hero
Recommended to Rachel by: SF in SF
Read from August 05 to 17, 2010 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Charles Unwin is not a detective. He doesn't know how to be a detective. (Although he has been making unofficial trips for unofficial reasons...) He's merely the clerk who reviews and files all the reports of the Agency's star detective, Travis Sivart. But when Unwin finds himself suddenly promoted to the rank of detective, he reluctantly decides to solve just the one case that will return his life to the status quo: Where is Sivart? He will allow himself to read just enough of his new copy of "The Manual of Detection" to do the job and no more. But as the case becomes deeper and wider in scope than Unwin could ever have forseen, and the future of the city is threatened, he finds himself rising to the challenge--and when people's dreaming lives overtake their waking ones, Unwin must follow...

I bought this book because I saw the author read two selections from it and was excited. I knew I had to read it, and suspected it was something special. I was right. The premise is fantastic, the characters are sympathetic, the action is exciting, the ideas are fascinating, the writing is excellent, the mysteries are interesting...I honestly can't say enough good things about this book. Also, I don't have a single complaint. Oh, and the cover is beautiful.

Seriously, this amazing book defies both summarization and categorization, but I'll do my best. It is both mystery and fantasy. There's no magic and nothing actually supernatural, but the nameless city Unwin lives in seems surreal in its noir-ishness and it's constant rain. The setting and characters and locations are hard-boiled, but its detective is not. It is also humerous--but while there are some moments of great humor, but there are no specific laugh-out-loud lines to point out, because it's situationally hilarious.

Unwin's lack of real experience with detecting and with the gritty city outside of his apartment and his office, and even with the hierarchical world of the Agency, allows us to learn about them along with him--and yet his academic knowledge of them, via his close reading of Sivart's reports, allows him to sometimes be a step or two ahead of us and to keep us guessing.

Then there's the dream detecting. This book crosses into similar territory as the movie Inception, but from a different angle, and with a different science. In both concepts, your dreams can be used against you. But in The Manual of Detection, everything that happens in dreams can affect what happens in real life--might even be happening in real life. There is dream surveillance, dream communication, and there are dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams. The dimensions of sleeping and dreaming that the book gets into are new and interesting.

I love this book and recommend it to anyone who has an open mind and likes quality writing.
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Reading Progress

08/05/2010 page 6
2.0% "I like Unwin already. Unofficial trips that he has to excuse by buying coffee he doesn't want all to see a woman wait for someone else. Say it with me: Awwww."
08/08/2010 page 17
5.0% "'Yes, begging your pardon, Mr. Dud, there has been a mistake. I arrived several minutes late today. I shall spare you the details, since all of them will go into my report, which I would like to begin writing immediately. From this I am prevented, however, by the presence of another person at my desk, using my typewriter. Measures had to be taken, no doubt, because I am so late to work.'"
08/08/2010 page 17
5.0% "'Yes, begging your pardon, Mr. Duden, there has been a mistake. I arrived several minutes late today. I shall spare you the details, since all of them will go into my report, which I would like to begin writing immediately. From this I am prevented, however, by the presence of another person at my desk, using my typewriter. Measures had to be taken, no doubt, because I am so late to work.'"
08/08/2010 page 24
8.0% "p. 24: Corpses were nothing new to Unwin. Hundreds of them populated the reports entrusted to his care over the years, reports in which no detail was spared. People poisoned, shot, gutted, hanged, sliced to ribbons by industrial machinery, crushed between slabs of cement, dismembered with skillets. defenestrated, eviscerated, burned or buried alive, held underwater for lengthy intervals, thrown down stairs..."
08/08/2010 page 24
8.0% "p. 24 continued: ...Or simply pummeled out of being--the minutiae surrounding such incidents were daily fare, so to speak, to a clerk of the fourteenth floor...A man so thoroughly versed in the varieties of dispatchment might, then, regard with unusual ease the result of an actual murder, in this case a man whose neck had been bruised by strangulatory measures, tongue emitted as a result of smotheration..."
08/08/2010 page 25
8.0% "In each dark corner, Unwin could almost see a killer crouched, waiting for an opportunity to strike. To move from where he sat would have brought him closer to at least one of them. So he remained motionless, briefcase clutched in his lap, seated as for a proper meeting with Mr. Lamech. This meeting went on for some time, with only the weather having anything to say, and the weather spoke only of itself."
08/08/2010 page 26
8.0% "On Corpses: Many cases begin with one--this can be disconcerting, but at least you know where you stand. Worse is the corpse that appears partway into your investigation, complicating everything. Best to proceed, therefore, with the vigilance of one who assumes that a corpse is always around the next corner. That way it is less likely to be your own."
08/08/2010 page 37
12.0% "The lamp was on. Seated with her head slumped over the back of the chair was a round-faced young woman, thick red hair bound up with a pin at the top of her head. Crooked small teeth were just visible between her parted lips. Her plump, short-fingered hands were limp across the keyboard of the typewriter. Was it Unwin's fate to go from one office to another discovering a fresh corpse in each of them?"
08/08/2010 page 54
17.0% "The man with the blond beard looked up, his eyes bulging with violence. 'Find another phone,' he hissed. 'I was here first.' 'Were you speaking about me just then?' Unwin asked. The man said into the receiver, 'He wants to know if I was speaking about him just then.' He listened and nodded some more, then said to Unwin, 'No, I wasn't speaking about you.'"
08/12/2010 page 146
46.0% "Somewhere amid the hills of clocks, a bell began to ring, a futile attempt to wake some sleeper a mile or more away. To Unwin the sound was a hook in his heart: the world goes to shambles in the murky corners of night, and we trust a little bell to set it right again."
08/12/2010 page 147
46.0% "A spring is released, a gear is spun, a clapper is set fluttering, and here is the cup of water you keep at your bedside, here the shoes you will wear to work today."
08/16/2010 page 181
57.0% "Unwin found it difficult to stop counting anything once he had begun. Counting sheep, in fact, was his surest route to insomnia--by morning he could fill whole pastures with a vast and clamorous flock. Now he counted steps, and by the twentieth he felt certain the walls really were narrowing, and the ceiling was getting lower, too."
08/16/2010 page 182
57.0% "'This will not do...You know what it means to be on a schedule, of course, so I will not rebuke you unnecessarily, as that would be tantamount to redundancy, which I already risk by speaking to you at all, and risk again by observing the risk, and so again by observing the observation. In this we could proceed endlessly.' [To be continued]"
08/16/2010 page 183
57.0% "[Continued] 'Will you not relent? Are you really so stubborn? I ask these questions rhetorically, and thus degrade further the value of my speech.' 'I'm not sure I follow you, Miss Burgrave, but if perhaps you' allow me into the archives--' 'IF PERHAPS,' she repeated, her wrinkles deepening. 'Mr. Unwin, we shall brook no degree of mysteriousness on this floor.'"
08/17/2010 page 278
87.0% "That's all there is."

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