Top critical review
Starts out amazing, then gets incredibly boring.
on 17 July 2012
If I were asked to rate the first 80-100 pages of this book, I'd give it 5/5 without question. We're introduced to the main characters, their histories, their methods and all manner of interesting and vivid activities and beliefs. It's really well written also, all shaping up to be a sensational ride.
Then, everything starts to fall apart. Main characters get killed. Interesting ones, that I really wanted to see more of. Ones that could have been a source of humour and all kinds of plotlines, twists and character/relationship developments later on. It takes a brave writer to kill off a main character he has developed, there has to be more good characters able to replace them. Here no such thing occurs. These random inexplicable deaths are where the warning signs about this novel began for me.
Nearly the entire book after the start seems to be filled with descriptions of research or trying to find people. Now, normally in a book there might be a few paragraphs about what was done to find this person. Or if they want to, they may include little adventures about where the person went to as about and find them. But they only include the exciting bits. I mean, actually researching and stalking a person is incredibly boring, right?
And yet that's what this book is a lot of the time. To the author it seems every google search is an exciting adventure. If they type the wrong thing and then the right thing, it's all worth writing about. Just pull in random strangers like a bartender and ask them for information on another bartender who might know something where we finally get our clue that far-fetchedly lets us track down the person. This might be ok at the start. But it seems Burke is doing this right throughout the entire novel.
I expected a wild plot. I expected a James Bond style novel, where Burke would end up in Wilson's underground lair or something, and he would ask why Burke couldn't have left things alone, what was he only some kind of clerk. And he'd explain in detail how his view of utopia and how it came about. Forget all those crap references to Ayn Rand and the native Indians (he can include a paragraph on the native indians if he wants). And Zero and Khalid would be like Bee-Bop and Rock-Steady style characters. Meanwhile at home Belov would be trying to figure out what the hell was going on, and arrive in the nick of time... but in a wild twist we find that Burke had been so convinced by this guy's appeal to why natural things were best and how humans were destroying the planet that he is now on Burke's side. And maybe the Russian government and US government and Chinese government are brought in to try find compromises with this guy to prevent him from destroying the world, and Burke acts as the mediator between them. And Burke thinks in a sort of ironic way about how when it came down to it it wasn't much different from his old job - mediating between the supposed good guys and supposed bad guys.
4/5ths of the way through the book, when we should be building up to the climax of the fiendish plot of world armageddon, Burke is still trawling through the internet looking on insights to Wilson's "psychology" and for the history of the native Indians which we get every detail about etc. I don't know how anyone can find that exciting. Neither do we care about all the mundane processes of mail order ukrainian brides, it's not even thematic and barely develops his character. Another part of the book that was a real let down for me was when not far from the end, a certain prominent character (won't say so as not to spoil), after a massive build-up to the scene... said he didn't actually even care about Wilson anymore and he wasn't up on his priorities list at all. I mean it was just ridiculous, after all that. That's when I knew the rest of the book would be very uninspiring. I don't care what some random nobody's detailed reaction at the airport was or meaningless details in what's supposed to be the climax of the novel.
The stuff about Tesla's work was fine for a while, but got way too detailed for its own good. Tesla's weapon is only a plot device, not the plot itself. All we have to know about is how powerful it is, and about the waves, not go on and on about it.