Top critical review
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Needed a good editor and characters to care about
on 9 May 2012
Having enjoyed Death and the Devil so much, I was eagerly looking forward to The Swarm, so much so that I had pre-ordered the English translation.
Perhaps The Epic would have been a better title - this was a really long book, and whilst that would always be my preference as I enjoy something deep to get my teeth into, sadly in this case it was so long because the author had been allowed to throw in all the research he had done in preparation for the novel. There are many places in the book where it is clear that Frank has done extensive research about a particular topic that is relevant to the story, but he then goes and spoils it all by basically regurgitating ALL his research over the next n pages and you get bogged down in incidental detail that doesn't help the story move along.
First though, I should say that I really enjoyed the premise of the book. I do like well written and intelligent sci-fi and whilst you wouldn't describe The Swarm as a sci-fi book, it touches on some topics regarding intelligence beyond ourselves that were really thought provoking.
At 500 pages I suspect this could have been brilliant - albeit with a stronger ending. At nearly double that I'm afraid it was a huge let down. The one saving grace is that if you are a quick reader like me, you'll soon get adept at skipping over whole swaths of prose when it's about characters you don't care about or research that you've read enough of now thanks.