Meltdown Paperback – Unabridged, 5 Dec. 2008
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But actually, it's not far from the mark.
What I like is the way as a reader you're drawn into a petty world of office politics, and then you see how these minor concerns affect the real world, to the extent of bringing it to its knees. I got the papaerback and saw a that Barry Forshaw loved it - and he's the grandaddy of professional critics for this type of book - so my expectations were high.
Apart from too much sex (why, oh why? keep that bedroom door shut, and let us use our imaginations!, they were all met. It's totally unputdownable once you're into it.
The best thing in a way is the timing. There's a glut of book like this now, but this guy was easily the first. Looking at the publication of the hardback, it's like the writer predicted the whole rogue trader thing at Societe Generale in Paris.
This leaves me with two questions. When's the sequel coming out? And given the way the author predicted alkl this mess, can I have this guy's lottery numbers?
Unfortunately, slowly but surely, the whole thing starts to fizzle out. Pacing is a big problem, with the synopsis on the back cover basically describing two-thirds of the book so succinctly that you might as well just pick up the main story where it leaves off. Many of the events in the book seem just a little too farfetched or over the top to swallow, and the shallowness of the characters only compounds this problem. After being set up as some kind of genius in the first chapter, Samuel ultimately comes across as an average man whose photographic ability only emerges when it is convenient to the plot. The supporting characters are disappointingly two-dimensional personalities, with the women seemingly existing only to service the lead with kinky sex scenes- despite barely knowing him!
Worst of all, however, is the novel's poor conclusion, which throws together an astounding number of largely pointless twists, all to seemingly disguise the fact that there is no real resolution to the central issues of the story. Even if you enjoyed it at the start, as I did, the last few chapters will almost certainly manage to disappointment. The financial aspects of the book are also not particularly easy to understand- admittedly I'm not an expert on financial markets, but then again how many potential readers are going to have in-depth knowledge in this field?
Overall, Meltdown is not a particularly awful novel- certainly once you start you will want to finish it- but ultimately it proves to be a flawed experience that fails to live up to either its potential or the publisher's hype.
The story begins with the recruitment by a media tycoon of Samuel Spendlove, a legal scholar at Oxford, to go undercover at the Paris branch of an international investment bank, to learn how a top trader managed to win away a French publisher from under the nose of the Englishman who coveted it. Samuel becomes the trader's assistant and in a matter of weeks becomes sufficiently knowledgeable and proficient to match wits with his boss, known only as Khan. Then two colleagues are found murdered and Samuel is accused of killing them
The title of the book, "Meltdown," refers to the chaos created by driving down the price of a currency or other asset, creating panic on a scale far more dire than the Great Depression, destroying whole countries. While the plot has a great degree of potential, it really is far-fetched and artificial. The writing is somewhat stilted and sex is inserted needlessly at various points. The descriptions of the trading floor at the Paris branch of the American bank are fairly realistic and amusing.