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3.4 out of 5 stars
When the Killing's Done
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2012
Reading a T.C.Boyle book is like watching a movie. The exuberant detail of his descriptions sucks you into each scene as if you were there. Each chapter takes you on a rollercoaster ride; you never know where it will lead you, but you're never disappointed. You do not only read his books to know how they end, but just as much for the buildup of the suspense and ultimately for the sheer joy of the reading itself. This latest novel takes us to Boyle's backyard, the Californian Channel Islands. The theme of environmental activism might remind one of his earlier novel 'A Friend of the Earth', but the two books are completely different. As in 'Talk Talk', the story is told from two opposing viewpoints. Conservation biologist Alma and environmental activist Dave both want to do what is best for nature on the Channel Islands. Where this leads to, you have to read yourself. As always with Boyle's novels: the book is so good, it can never be made into a movie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The novel is about the struggle of man and his environment - of one day (19th century) introducing non-native animals to an environment and totally obliterating species that didn't know how to cope, and years later (21st century) trying to undo the damage this introduction did by killing the non-native creatures and re-introducing the native animals that weren't wiped out.

This is the main story of the book with the real life events of the extermination of rats from Anacapa island and afterwards the extermination of pigs from Santa Cruz island (both islands are off the coast of California). Alma Boyd Takesue is the environmental scientist who takes on this challenge and is our heroine, while Dave LaJoy is the antagonist, a self proclaimed eco-warrior attempting to stop and sabotage any attempts at wiping out any animals no matter what. To this end he pickets Takesue's campaign to wipe out the rats and when that fails, he does everything he can, going further than before, to stop the extermination of the pigs.

I've been a huge fan of T C Boyle's writing for years now and strongly recommend his short story collections After the Plague, Tooth and Claw, and last year's Wild Child, as incredible examples of the short story medium and Boyle's own mastery of writing. That said, I've never been able to finish one of his novels before "When the Killing's Done". Not sure why that is but one reason I'm sure of that made me finish this book was the story and the writing.

Boyle does a marvellous job of pacing an interesting story and turning it into a thriller. The pages fly by with events unfolding at a furious pace, the spaces between chapters sometimes signalling a shift of several years and Boyle often jumps backwards and forwards in time to give the reader background to a situation, sometimes going back to the 19th century then the 20th, then the present day. The impression is of a whizz-bang tour of the history of the region and coupled with Boyle's indeible prose makes for a compelling read.

The characters of Alma Takesue and Dave LaJoy are also fascinating. It's clear who the reader is supposed to side with and who Boyle himself favours but we nonetheless get a vivid portrait of two obsessive individuals who feel they are doing the right thing. Alma, for all her surety as a scientist and rigid world view, is challenged by events in the book that happen in her personal life and we see her grow realistically as a character. Dave is a more fascinating character just because he's so extreme in defending animals that it blinds him to human beings and drives him to do ridiculous and dangerous things. As the reader spends more time with him we get to see the various sides of his character and the contradictions of his life, work, and goals.

This was my favourite novel of 2011. An original novel featuring events and themes relevant to us today filled with characters and a level of writing that showcases a master writer at the top of his game. Utterly engrossing, memorable, and hugely enjoyable, I loved this book and am more convinced than ever at T C Boyle's abilities, it's a shame he's not as popular in the UK as he is stateside. If you're a fiction fan looking for an exciting, contemporary read, "When the Killing's Done" is for you.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 March 2011
The novel is about the struggle of man and his environment - of one day (19th century) introducing non-native animals to an environment and totally obliterating species that didn't know how to cope, and years later (21st century) trying to undo the damage this introduction did by killing the non-native creatures and re-introducing the native animals that weren't wiped out.

This is the main story of the book with the real life events of the extermination of rats from Anacapa island and afterwards the extermination of pigs from Santa Cruz island (both islands are off the coast of California). Alma Boyd Takesue is the environmental scientist who takes on this challenge and is our heroine, while Dave LaJoy is the antagonist, a self proclaimed eco-warrior attempting to stop and sabotage any attempts at wiping out any animals no matter what. To this end he pickets Takesue's campaign to wipe out the rats and when that fails, he does everything he can, going further than before, to stop the extermination of the pigs.

I've been a huge fan of T C Boyle's writing for years now and strongly recommend his short story collections After the Plague, Tooth and Claw, and last year's Wild Child, as incredible examples of the short story medium and Boyle's own mastery of writing. That said, I've never been able to finish one of his novels before "When the Killing's Done". Not sure why that is but one reason I'm sure of that made me finish this book was the story and the writing.

Boyle does a marvellous job of pacing an interesting story and turning it into a thriller. The pages fly by with events unfolding at a furious pace, the spaces between chapters sometimes signalling a shift of several years and Boyle often jumps backwards and forwards in time to give the reader background to a situation, sometimes going back to the 19th century then the 20th, then the present day. The impression is of a whizz-bang tour of the history of the region and coupled with Boyle's indeible prose makes for a compelling read.

The characters of Alma Takesue and Dave LaJoy are also fascinating. It's clear who the reader is supposed to side with and who Boyle himself favours but we nonetheless get a vivid portrait of two obsessive individuals who feel they are doing the right thing. Alma, for all her surety as a scientist and rigid world view, is challenged by events in the book that happen in her personal life and we see her grow realistically as a character. Dave is a more fascinating character just because he's so extreme in defending animals that it blinds him to human beings and drives him to do ridiculous and dangerous things. As the reader spends more time with him we get to see the various sides of his character and the contradictions of his life, work, and goals.

This is the best novel of 2011 so far. An original novel featuring events and themes relevant to us today filled with characters and a level of writing that showcases a master writer at the top of his game. Utterly engrossing, memorable, and hugely enjoyable, I loved this book and am more convinced than ever at T C Boyle's abilities, it's a shame he's not as popular in the UK as he is stateside. If you're a fiction fan looking for an exciting, contemporary read, "When the Killing's Done" is for you.
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on 4 June 2012
T.C. Boyle is an acclaimed writer and Professor of English at the University of Southern California. Aged 64, he takes all the poetic licence he has and writes about the topic he is really interested in: the history of the Channel Islands right opposite his residence in Santa Barbara.
And as he obviously loves boats, too, this combination comes in handy when he invents young Alma, the National Park Service biologist and executive, who oversees the killing of rats and pigs on the islands and the reintroduction of endemic foxes and the like.
Her much livelier depicted counterpart is middle-aged, rich, independent Dave LaJoy, an irascible animal lover, who does everything in his considerable power to prevent the killing on the islands. His lover Anise, long-legged and beautiful like all the women surrounding him, has her own fatal family history connected with the islands.
The omniscient author uses more than ample flashbacks to enfold his majestic battle painting, with the islands taking centre stage. The humans around their story pale in comparison, most of them are doomed, victims to the rough sea and weather.
And Boyle loves to let women suffer, specially the pregnant ones. His story-telling reminds me of the late paintings of Picasso, denunciatory and sadistic. Is it the view of disillusioned old men? Philip Roth comes to mind, too or Elmore Leonard.
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on 12 August 2013
I liked this. Not as much as many other Boyle books (it seemed overly long to me). If you haven't read Drop City or Tortilla Curtain or Talk Talk, I'd start there first...
This was, however, the worst Kindle conversion I have ever seen. Hundreds - literally hundreds - of formatting errors, missing spaces, words stuck together, random capitals. No one from the publisher can possibly have bothered to read even a few pages of this, because if they had, they would have seen what a mess it is. And that's really not acceptable.
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on 2 May 2013
Gave up halfway through, after about 4 lifetimes (or what felt like it). A good story in there somewhere but way too padded. Not the first time I've thought this about one of his books I have to say
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on 20 July 2012
A dark book unpleasant reading but oh so true of lots of species being put in the wrong area and ruining the natural islands inhabitants
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on 28 November 2013
Probably my least favourite TCBoyle book, I found it lacked coherence, but also recognise its just a personal point of view!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Tc Boyle has written some fantastic modern classics... But they are all in his early years ... So if you''re a tc Boyle novice stay well clear of this wordy adjective strewn dull book. Why? Unusually for the author, he telegraphs all of hs interesting plot twists pages before you read them, so the book grinds along to very long drawn out and obvious conclusion. The subject matter is interesting- the influence of man on his environment and the coincidence and often freak outcomes of nature... Although I'm not sure what TC is suggesting? whatever mankind does- nature is the final arbitrar? Does that mean that TC is just having fun or if you take this arguement to its obvious conclusion ... Global warming is natures way... We may have an influence but it's destiny...or maybe I just got bored and tried to read the "devils advocate" ito liven up its plodding story telling.

Maybe you dont agree with my take on the book, but I can't see how anyone can possibly justify the stretching out of the main characters back into 3 generations when their ability to influence the story is negligible or non existant... It's lazy and unnecessary and extends what could have been a good mid sized novel into a verbose and obese piece of literature.
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