The narrative skips from one unconnected vignette to another. I'm three hours into Tree of Smoke (for a second time) and none of the many, many characters are fleshed out; they drift through scenes without discernible motives or passion. If the exotic, historic setting intrigues you then you may get more out of it.
I have tried ti listen to this many times as well as reading the book. It is just unreadable, there is no plot, no theme etc.
A very fine book which at times borders on incoherence, although
always managing to tie things together. The narration is superb and adds to the experience, building on the atmospherics of the words. The plot meanders, the characters are flawed and it bears no resemblance to any conventional war novel. It reminds me of Michael Herr's wonderful "Dispatches" in the way it is a series of vignettes, sometimes only loosely related to what has come before. Most of all it portrays the way men (mainly) can begin a cascade to destruction, reveling in the knowledge that they will continue to fall and doing nothing to prevent it, rather doing the opposite. The polarized reviews are understandable but I found it to be a profoundly moving and engrossing experience.
I find I can tune out with some books and wander back to listening and be able to carry on without missing a beat. This is not one of those books. This is a book where your attention has to be focused on every word and you have to concentrate and work pretty hard to keep up. So I'd call Tree of Smoke a challenge but I'd also suggest it is well worth it. The writing is fantastic, the characters are interesting and the reading is excellent. The style of the book reminds me a bit of Cormac McCarthy. If you're looking for a lazy and light listen this probably isn't the book for you, which is not at all to say it is a bad book or that there is something wrong with people who like lazy and light listens -- only that some people won't like it. I think it is a brilliant book -- it is just rather unforgiving to the wandering mind. I had to listen to it twice to really get the most out.
I bought this one because I love Will Patton’s narrations, but it is “Apocalypse Now” on hallucinogens. I’m not sure I’ll make it through this book and I don’t want to listen again. The writer needs to find some different drugs because these aren't working.
This is my first Denis Johnson read. A new genre door is opened. This is a razor sharp story of duplicity, espionage, confusion, and conflict set against the backdrop of the larger Viet Nam conflict, and works on so many levels. It is politically unbiased. The first paragraph became an addicting vortex un-releasing and un-relenting until the end. Who's spooking who? Each character is richly developed through a literal walk in their shoes. As always, I was transfixed by Will Patton's reading which always and again rends a final veneer to this or any work.
The only positive thing I found about this "work" was the wonderful narration.
From someone familiar with many things from that time period it is obvious that the so called writer was on some magical mushrooms or something when he tried to write this story.
There was no due diligence for research done in preparing for this book.
The web was not woven connecting anything or anyone.
DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY OR TIME.
This was the most diasappointing work I have tried here in dozens and dozens of books over a period of years.
The author seems to have taken some of the drugs that his characters took. Although this is interesting from a historical perspective, the narrative is disjointed and too hard to follow.
I have never written a review before, but I feel compelled to write my opinion of this book. Like some others, I found this book to be a total waste of 21 hours of listening. I must say that narrator Will Patton did a superb job catching the tenor of the book perfectly.
There is no discernable story line. I found it to be a collection of disjointed whiney musings of several very depressed individuals none of which had any obvious socially redeemable qualities. The Tree of Smoke has all the insanity of Don Quixote with no trace of the literary style.
Based on Book Award nomination and NYT book review, I slogged through a dreary, pointless 21 hours of this audiobook. Never did find a plot or a point, or any character development. Complete waste.