Although I had heard of Charles de Lint for years and had read some of his short stories, this is my first book, so I write this to those of you who might come in cold and consider this book.
First, the book takes a LOOOONNGGG time to get started -- I had to start over a few times because I lost track of what was going on (and it's a long book). It also takes a long while before any fantasy element emerges, but the writing is so fresh and the characters so compelling, that eventually this book met my test of a wonderful audio book -- when you sit in your garage listening to it in the car because you can't wait to get back to it.
The long beginning is worth it, as this becomes my introduction into what I see now is a rich world that gets revisited in several of his books (all set in the artist community of Newford).
I rarely write reviews and, as a die-hard Stephen King fan, find few books that are as compelling, but this one sings after awhile, and is well worth the wait.
I read the reviews, and being fairly liberal myself I kept an open mind about it, and I wasn't all that bothered by the right wing agenda of the characters. Most of what everyone is complaining about occurs in static scenes where two characters talk (playing chess, in the cab of a truck, at a desk) and blame the bleak future on Obama (specifically) and American policy in this decade, and because these are isolated incidents, it just sounds like a cranky old author bitching because he can. But the story itself is fascinating -- it is BLEAK as hell, but incredibly compelling -- bleak in a different way than 2030 by Albert Brooks was bleak (I still can't believe that ALBERT BROOKS the comedian wrote that? He had to have had some help). In Flashback, the Japanese are a superpower, whereas in 2030 it is the Chinese. All extrapolating plausible outcomes based upon current trends (remember when the sci fi books of the 80s blamed the bleak future on the Reagan administration?).
However, if you are a Dan Simmons fan, you will enjoy this book tremendously despite the occasional political griping. He is still one of the most interesting writers working today, and this story is layered and rich, and it will throw you many surprises along the way. Just try not to get too depressed. It is worth it all the way to the end.
My first Cormac McCarthy audiobook was THE ROAD -- although beautifully written, it really had no plot and was somewhat repetitive. So then I picked up this story, which at least had a plot the first 2/3 of the story. I literally had to re-listen to see if part of my audiobook had been cut out, becuase (and you'll see this in other reviews) after Moss has a tender scene with the teen runaway, the next scene is the police investigation and clean-up of their murder, just like that. Whatthehell? So maybe Cormac McCarthy is just a difficult author to get around. Perhaps I'm conditioned to more conventional stories, and this will grow on me later, but for now I find it terribly annoying.
I am a PKD fan, but I find many of his later works challenging. This book just rambled on and on (I've not seen the movie, but in answer to the previous reviewer, they probably changed a great deal of it to dramatize it, like with all of the other PKD adaptations), to the point where I endured to finish it because I used two credits on it.
The story has a kind of "1984" feel to it, in the sense that the protagonist is basically trapped, with little or nothing he can do to survive the manipulation that has created his situation (the protagonist is rather pathetic by the end, too). The author's note at the end was moving, but all in all, the story itself felt drug-induced and disjointed, making it a struggle to keep track of what was going on.
Giamatti as the narrator was excellent. For the most part, the book just draaaaaaaged.
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