Customer Review

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea, very flawed execution, 7 Dec. 2011
This review is from: The Investigation (Paperback)
I like fiction books that examine serious questions in the course of the narrative but in my opinion, the execution here is very flawed. Perhaps I could describe the book as a cross between the science fiction of Philip K. Dick, a philosophy on the nature of the world and science (say by David Hume) and the fiction/philosophy of Milan Kundera. However...

Unlike PKD, there's no clever plot that engages and intrigues, and there's no resolution either. PKD let the stories speak for themselves and provide the philosophical questions. Here, this is achieved crudely, by having the plot as a transparent vehicle for the author to put long abstract, philosophical/psychological words to the mouths of the characters. As a result, characters are inconsistent, pretentious sounding, and unrealistic.

Unlike Hume, the philosophical bits feel incomplete and superficial. DH used precise language and argumentation, and also wrote modestly about what philosophy, reasoning and words can achieve. Here, there's a lot of abstract, imprecise language, and cinematic descriptions that detract from the ideas (which are not that unique in the first place, it's a somewhat post-modernist, all-is-relative, observations-and-facts-are-in-the-mind arguement, hammered again and again with no variety).

Finally, unlike Kundera, there's no flowing readability. Kundera walks the fiction/philosophy line by switching between story and thoughts/philosophy. Perhaps not ideal but better than the mishmash here. You have street-wise Scotland Yard officers talk in a weird, half-formal, half-casual language (switches randomly) which I've never heard in real life. Characters out of the blue say random things (to suit the philosophy) or have random revelations and emotional ups and downs that don't fit with either story or character. Someone suddenly feels like this, then like that, out of the blue he's sick and not going to work, then goes, then loses the plot and panics, then relaxes, seems everyone is an emotional wreck tormented by some deep thoughts they can't fully articulate. Sometimes one doesn't believe the metaphysical elements (because it goes against his core philosophy), the next minute he does, at one minute detectives have a down to earth practical discussion on the case, the next minute they start the abstract psycho-philosophical analysis on the nature of knowledge.

Two last things, I don't get why, since the author was trying to use science and argue that statistics is the only knowledge available, he didn't include any reference to quantum mechanics, which provide the main evidence that the universe acts in a probabilistic way (the book was written in 1959, well into the quantum age). Finally, as another reviewer here said, so much practical stuff about how Scotland Yard operates sounds like it was got from early American movies or books, it's as if the author didn't bother to do basic research. Although I wonder if this (along with other criticisms above on language) have to do more with the translation.

(Sorry for longish review!)
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Initial post: 8 Apr 2014 10:22:53 BDT
Length no object - thanks
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