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Very Bad Deaths (Russell Walker/Zandor Zudenigo/Nika Mandiç Mysteries #1)

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  571 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
Aging baby-boomer Russell Walker wants only to retreat from the world and the shattering death of his beloved wife, into the woods of British Columbia. But the real world won't let him become a hermit. Instead, he finds himself thrust into the mystery of a series of mass murders by a monstrous sadist and serial killer who makes Hannibal Lector look like a boy scout. And he ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Baen (first published December 1st 2002)
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Mike
Dec 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: completed-series
(A bit of a marathon read… er, listen...)
Mostly fun. As others have noted, there is about 20% fluff and 20% harmless proselytizing, and the only real science fiction element is telepathy. But it needed far less concentration than The Bourne Identity, so...


For SRC17Q4, Task 30.7A (modifier "very" in the title); awaiting To Say Nothing of the Dog
Jim
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1audio, 2fiction, fantasy
Robinson wowed me with Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, a collection of short stories, many years ago. Unfortunately, he hasn't done so since then. I occasionally try to find the magic, but it isn't there. Wasn't this time, either. An interesting, quite imaginative story, but he dragged it out way too long. It became a vehicle for his snarky comments about some of the ills of our society. I don't have much patience for people who can only complain without offering up a solution & this meandering ...more
Stephen
2.5 stars. Set in present day Vancouver, this is more of a detective thriller with the only SF element being ESP. Main characters include Russell Walker, a newspaper columnist who stays up late and is addicted to coffee, Zandor Zudenigo, Walker's friend, who is a telepath, and a sadistic torturer/murderer whose MO is to kill his victims only after causing them as much pain as humanly possible (hence the title of the book). The basic plot involves Zandor, who is a recluse and can not stand to be ...more
Bryan
Dec 24, 2009 rated it liked it
I've read a few Spider Robinson books now, and I think I've noticed some trends:

1) Spider writes himself into his books. He's the main character.

Not so bad, is it? But imagine if Spider had written 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Then we'd have Captain Nemo who smokes pot and quotes Heinlein. Or what if Spider had written 1984? Then Winston would crack puns and enjoy Travis McGee novels.

Okay, not fair - Spider writes a different style than those novels. But as enjoyable as his books are, they can
...more
Donna
Spider Robinson is like a guilty pleasure for me. His characters are in no way related to my life, and they usually partake of drugs and "free sex" in a measure that I'd normally think of as unhealthy and unwise. If i were to meet any of his characters in real life we'd probably part ways mostly unaffected by each other, each content with the respective non-intersecting realms we inhabit.

And yet.... I LIKE Spider's books. I REALLY do. His protagonists are generally mild mannered men who have had
...more
Jeff Yoak
This is a little dark for Robinson, but had the wit and charm I associate with his work, and was warm and comforting to read.
Lucy Takeda
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoy Robinson’s off kilter characters and philosophies. The outline of the novel did warn me that it involves a sadistic monster. Yes, it does, and he majorly creeped me out. I really liked Russell and Zandor.
Russell is contemplating suicide when his college roommate ( nicknamed Smelly) knocks oh his door at 3:00 a.m. to ask for his help. It’s a complex scenario involving flashbacks to college days in the ‘70’s, marijuana, Canadian sensibilities, and the logic of police forces dealing with a
...more
Brian Gaston
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
A good book but a bit of a downer for Spider. I suspect the writing was reflecting some of the tough things happening in his life at the time.
Anna
Feb 16, 2009 rated it liked it
Russell, the protagonist (although not the driving force behind the story), is described as being incredibly open-minded and easy-going, with no strong opinions, which is allegedly why Zandor can stand to be around him. This would make sense, except for the part where everything about the character denies this. The man is a columnist, for crying out loud. He makes a living by publishing his opinions and ranting about random things. Throughout the book, he gives very decided opinions about mariju ...more
Steve Lundh
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
I am a fan of Robinson's work due to his funny, somewhat bent story lines which are usually possible but not probable. Very Bad Deaths for me dragged on way too long, was a bit darker then I like and just did not keep my attention. Hoping he goes back towards the Callahan series style which was funny, weird but still thought provoking.
Jack
Oct 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Robinson indulges in some (what he might consider) "just-left-of-center" preachiness at the end of this book. He whines and sings the praises of Canada's nationalized health plan (and, of course, Canada and it's health policies will give deference to a world-famous author, won't they? I've heard from other Canadians who are not as well-known or well-off that paint a different picture). Much of what he says was written pre-2009 crash, of course, when many nations in Europe had to begin scaling ba ...more
Benjamin Kahn
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book is well-written, my problem was that I didn't read the blurb on the back carefully enough. I got it from the sci-fi section of the library, I know Spider Robinson as a sci-fi writer, probably saw that it was set in BC and away I went. I didn't realize that it was about a serial killer until I got into it and by then it was too late. It's just not my kind of book.

The whole flashback to the '60s thing really reminded me of a lot of books that I read in high school - The llumanatus! Trilo
...more
Lea
Aug 01, 2012 rated it liked it
My (new to me) local library drives me batty with the way it shelves fiction-- especially genre fiction like mysteries, fantasy and sci-fi. I've taken to randomly pulling books that catch my eye and hoping I get lucky. This book was one of those randomly pulled from the mystery section-- I probably would have called it Sci-Fi or a thriller (thrillers, oddly enough, are housed with the Adult fiction), but it was, honestly, a mystery book as well.
Normally I'm not a fan of serial killer themed myst
...more
Jackie
Dec 22, 2011 rated it liked it
A fun read, although really abortive at the end - everything was over too quickly and the villain was never really "explained" to my satisfaction, and some of his dialogue was a little unconvincing. I like Robinson's work although all of his protagonists are such transparent Mary Sues - they might as well all be given the same name. We get it, you like to put some whiskey in your coffee. Also, boobs.

Speaking of boobs, the sexual politics in this book were a little off-putting. In particular, the
...more
David Kelly
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
I found this a very odd book to read. The basic premise had a lot of potential but the execution was bizarre. I couldn't drum up much sympathy for any of the characters, making it difficult to care about what happened to them. There are also great swaths of material that seem to be reminisces of the author's semi-adolescent sexual fantasies that really contribute nothing to the plot and read like "filler". The writing itself is tight enough - it just seems like it started out as a short-story an ...more
Denis
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hardcover
Spider's "Very Bad Deaths" is not a true science fiction novel save for there being a telepath (Zandor aka Smelly) as a central character. However, the star of the show is Russel aka Spider Robinson.

The story is well told in the usual witty and sensitive Spider Robinson fashion. The flashbacks from the current date to 1967 and back was a nice touch.

The story itself is a mixed bad of both fun and very disturbing moments, he pulls no punches as far as lacing the plot with his very liberal ideology
...more
K Shawn
Jun 26, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who don't mind alarming toture and bad smells
Shelves: yesyes
Well written and interesting overall. The story begins in 2003 and then quickly flashes back to the early 60s. The opening chapters are good strange fun, and the author crafts a believable base for what is to come. That is if you can get past the really old jokes and references (to events and people of the 60s) -- a lot of which I did not follow, but I shook those off and read on.

When the story jumps back to 2003, everything gets disturbing. From there you'll just have to decide if you can take.
...more
Ryan
May 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Robinson's style is compared often with that of Heinlein's, and I can definitely see why from this book. It was a fairly enjoyable, light read. Robinson's got a fun sense of humour, and it shines through even the serious moments of the book.

What I really liked about it, though, was the way that Robinson talks about Vancouver and its surrounding area. It's a wonderful corner of the world, and reading this book really made me want to visit it again. Vancouver tourism should definitely be cutting S
...more
Jen
Jan 18, 2010 rated it liked it
I continue to applaud Robinson's grasp of human interaction; it simply blows me away how well and realistically he created a telepath. The villian is admirable in that he's so creepy you don't really realize how creepy he is; the entire book I was laughing at the dry humor because I refused to wrap my mind around what Allen represented. I'm not sure if I'm more disturbed that such people might exist or that Robinson was able to dream him up.
Very good mystery sci-fi, though not the strongest I've
...more
Ana
May 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
This was a disappointment from Spider Robinson. He's written some excellent books, but this one felt like a very early work or something that just wasn't fleshed out well. I loved the details and the storytelling and the premise was interesting. The characters' reactions to the antagonist just seemed overblown and fake - that or I've been horribly jaded by the internet and movies like Saw. I have the next book, so I'll continue the series for now. If I didn't own #2, I probably wouldn't bother.
Bridgina Molloy
I really did enjoy this book. As a fan of spider Robinson I wasn't let down, there was suspense and humour as well as some descriptions of Vancouver and mention of Whistler. I'd recommend the book to anyone who wants a good read. If you don't like flashbacks in a book, then you might want to stay away, as there are a few during the course of the story. I love Spider's style of writing, it's almost as if he's sitting telling you the tale himself.
Craig
Apr 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Although he's an excellent writer, Robinson's work sometimes tends to suffer from such an over-abundance of syrupy-sweetness that it has to be taken in small doses. This novel, a crime-procedural, is something of a departure for him in that regard, and is enjoyable except for the plot depending on some pretty strong coincidences.
Heidi
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
"I've found another great scifi author. Original, funny, rich, thoughtful.... Very Bad Deaths is a treasure. The flashbacks and stories within a a story are priceless, and I can't wait to see what Smelly, Nika, and Russell get up to next. I could have done with a little less of the I Love Pot fandom, but it's not science fiction without politics. Great stuff!"
Rainbowjay
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I wish I had know this was a sequel when I picked it up. That being said however, This is Spider Robinson at his finest. The usual bad puns and jokes combined with wit and charm. The book was a little slow towards the beginning but the ending was spectacular. All in all a great read. This will be a feature on my what to re-read list.
Stefan
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very Bad Deaths was a humorous, well-written and extremely exciting sci-fi thriller. Spider Robinson (succeeded again)at creating a vivid world populated by interesting, eccentric characters. The fact that the book was set in and around Vancouver made it even more fun to read. I definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.
Kallierose
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Another of Robinson's later books. The concept is interesting, but I didn't find myself at all enthralled like I was with his earlier books. It wasn't an awful book, it just wasn't anything special, and his books *used* to be special. ::sigh::
Ron
Apr 13, 2010 rated it liked it
A typical Spider Robinson book where someone tries to do good, but the end is not what is envisioned by the characters early on. Spider does a good job getting the reader to care for his characters, even if you do not agree with their philosophy.
Keith
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reading Spider is just like hanging out with an old friend. I can just easily identify with his writing style and his train of thoughts. This book started out a bit disjointed but finished strong. I enjoyed it.
Fraser
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
Read some time during 2014
Salamandyr
Mar 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book is, if not the worst book I've ever read, then at least the laziest.
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504 followers
Spider Robinson is an American-born Canadian Hugo and Nebula award winning science fiction author. He was born in the USA, but chose to live in Canada, and gained citizenship in his adopted country in 2002.

Robinson's writing career began in 1972 with a sale to Analog Science Fiction magazine of a story entitled, The Guy With The Eyes. His writing proved popular, and his first novel saw print in 1
...more
More about Spider Robinson

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