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on 6 December 2015
Flashback takes place in a dystopian future where the USA has declined and disintegrated, extreme Islamic Caliphates and reactionary new Japanese feudal powers are the major forces carving up chunks of Europe, America and China between them. Many of the inhabitants of the much reduced United States are in thrall to a new drug which allows them to dream away their lives reliving their favoured past experiences in vivid detail. The catalysts for this distasteful and not too distant future being: out of control national debt and appeasement. Debt being blamed on welfare or social spending and the appeasement of extreme Islamic nations taking the blame for the destruction of Western culture. Some might find this a bit right wing and some of the content offensive or even alarmist. If it provokes debate, that's no bad thing, is it?

Now, I must be clear, as a liberal, socialist British person, I do fundamentally disagree with the basic premise.
But, I'm still giving this work 4 stars. Why? Because I read it as one man's extrapolation of current events as a basis for describing one of many possible futures.
What I read was another fast paced, detailed, gripping tale from a master story teller. There isn't a dull moment, the characters are well drawn, the action had me on the edge of my seat, there is tension, suspense, angst, a classically flawed tragic hero and whatever else you need packed into a successful thriller. I don't have to agree with the premise this particular reality is built on. This is fiction. Really well crafted fiction and I enjoyed it very much.
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on 2 October 2015
The Good:
He can still write well. The actual story is quite engaging and interesting. There are some interesting ideas.

The Bad:
There is just so much politics in this book. Having a right wing author write a dystopian novel does make a nice change. Sadly there is just far too much suspension of disbelief required. Normal these types of books get it out of the way early but this just keeps on taking you out of the story. I really don't think a minor and mostly forgotten speech by Obama is going to have such a massive effect. There are numerous instances of this throughout the book. The lack of realism gets so bad that it just gets ridiculous by the end. It is almost much too long which is of course a criticism that is often made of this author.

The absurd:
To describe some of the characters as cyphers doesn't do justice to the sheer obviousness of the author using them as mouthpieces for his views. The grandfather character is pointless. A bit of subtly would have greatly benefited this book. Making fun of Japanese pronunciation once is okay, twice is getting a bit repetitive but acceptable but by the end it almost seems racist not to mention very boring.

Despite all this I did read to the end and the book did have some merit but nevertheless it was a huge disappointment.
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on 7 August 2017
Flashback is able to sustain the pace and interest through the originality of Dan Simmon's ideas. I enjoyed the combination of detective in a future dystopia and read the book in a short space of time.
My only gripe was the sense that recent political developments were included with a rather tenuous link to the plot. I dislike an author using their art to shove their politics down my throat despite them rapidly become out of date since a new president has entered office in the USA. I felt this aspect weakened the plot and the book.
I still have it 4 stars as I was able to ignore the peripheral negative references to Obama and things like Medicaid. I am also currently reading The Fall of Hyperion and appreciate the great pleasure that these books give.
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on 21 February 2016
Dan Simmons is a great writer - mixing inventive scenarios with interesting characters and pacy thrilling plots. This books contains all of these hallmarks and was a very enjoyable read .
The central mystery and the relationships between the characters are all well crafted and the action scenes keep you on the edge of your seat.
What lets this book down is the intrusive and monotonous view of why the world in general and the USA in particular has gone to hell.
Medicare is bad, militarism is good and Israel should be supported at all costs. This would be fine if only on or two characters mentioned it, and better still if an alternative account was even floated, but no the whole underlying premise of the book is rammed home again and again like a crass commercial for the Republican party.
It's not that the ideas offend, its the lack of wit with which they are presented that makes the reader sit back and drop out of the story . Simmons is capable of better .
It's always a danger when reading a book written by someone in another culture (even one as close as the US ) that you miss some essential clue that tips the wink that the book is a satire, but I really don't think so in this case. If so, sorry Mr S I just didn't get the joke.
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on 6 January 2015
Don't listen to the left wing babies, this is a brilliant book, that at heart is just a great detective story. I hope and doubt that many of Simmons ideas about the future are not realised but it is fascinating stuff in my opinion nonetheless.
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on 2 October 2016
I'm about to do something I usually never do. I'm about to put down a book while still in the middle of reading it, and walk away from it, never to return.

The book in question is by Dan Simmons, an author who has written a slew of frankly excellent books which are widely, and justly, regarded as among the best SF books you can find. In particular, his "Hyperion Cantos" books, published from 1989 to 1997, are top notch works.

But this book, "Flashback", is different. This book is set in a near future, and it shows features of Simmons' personal and political views bleeding through into his story, and not in any useful or charming way. It's not a work of literature, it is a screed. Every page or so, there is some racist digression, a passage that bleeds venom towards non-whites and non-Christians, in one form or another, and a deeply visceral hatred towards those whites that collaborated with racial and religious enemies to ruin the strength of the white and Christian USA.

This book is a racist, right-wing rant. I might be able to finish it, if it were also well-written. But Simmons is preachy and digressive throughout, dumping expository racist passages into the middle of scenes. It would be embarrassingly poorly written for an unknown author. For an established author, it is catastrophically inept.

Simmons, with this book, shows himself to be full-on Tea Party racist (and it's a fair bet that he is banging his drum for Trump these days, though that is purely a conjecture on my part). His book is no more readable than one of Rand's rants, masquerading as literature, is.

And with that, I put it down. I may never read another book by Simmons.
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on 18 April 2013
I absolutely adored the Ilium/Olympus series and The Terror, so I was very excited to get my hands on this. Unfortunately, Flashback really doesn't rank up there with Simmons' best.

It's a decent thriller, for the most part, although not as compelling as The Terror, and it lacks the creativity and literary bravery of Ilium. Most annoying, though, is the regular authorial intrusion. Characters keep interrupting the story to pontificate on how Obama and social programs ruined the country, or how Islam should be feared. It's like being sat next to a bore at a dinner party. You just want to enjoy the story, but they keep interrupting the tale with another rant.

I don't care what Simmons personal political views are, but as a writing teacher (as well as an exceptionally talented writer) he should know better than to ruin a story with lecturing.
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on 15 May 2017
Starts so well and and has so much potential, but then turns into a thin veiled podium for the author and his political beliefs. The author cant seem to help himself from interrupting the narrative with what essentially amounts to a rant about left wing social polices and its extremely jarring to say the least
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on 10 January 2012
On one hand we have a tautly written thriller set in a future dystopia that is all too believable. On the other, we have an appallingly clunky political polemic the lurches from accusation to accusation.

The main character, Nick Bottom, is beautifully rendered as a drug-addicted ex-cop desperately trying to make sense of the loss of his wife but many of the other characters are parodies - 2D representations that you do not care about. It is this shallow treatment that makes this book fall so short of what it could have been. Religions, cultures, science and political policies are selectively trashed but apparently done so not to set the scene or move the story forward but to further some other agenda. The author claims on his own website that this book does not reflect his own personal views but if not then whose?

This is a complex and interesting book, but only worth 3 stars.
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on 26 April 2012
Or perhaps the real Dan Simmons has been kidnapped by space aliens, or been replaced by his evil doppelganger from another dimension. Not likely perhaps, but a lot more plausible than the future presented here.

Can you imagine what the future would be like if everything Fox news and the Tea party thought turned out to be true? No? Well the evil version of Dan Simmons can, and Flashback is the result.
The implausibility of the future wouldn't be such a problem but for the fact that most of the book is taken up by ranting about it, leaving little room for the (actually quite good) plot. There are no opposing points of view here; all the characters share the same view of why America (and the world) has fallen apart. It's always possible the views expressed here are not those of the author but given the way the future is set up, and the endless discussion of it, this seems unlikely.

If you are a radical right wing extremist and a Science fiction fan, this is the book you've been waiting for. For everyone else it's best avoided. Go for one his other books , which are all excellent, and hope the real Dan Simmons escapes from his captors and comes back soon.
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