I bought this with a bit of trepidation. I've read quite a bit in this area and almost all books seem to fall into one of two categories--either a shameless apologia of all things Islam, ala Edward Said, or a dry recitation of facts without interesting intepretation or comment, apparently in fear that any sort of serious criticism may lead to a fatwah--ala Karen Armstrong. I was pleasantly surprised to find in this book a knowledgable author who presents as balanced an approach as one is likely to find on this subject, presented in a most appealing style with relevant commentary and even serious criticism at a number of points. My only disappointment was in the author's approach to current issues. His clear bias toward almost a total Islamic view of curent events was a bit off-putting. For example, he makes no mention of the fact that Arab nations shamelessly and intentionally refused to allow Palestinian Arabs to assimilate into their countries after Israel was established for the express purpose of keeping alive the Israeli/Palestinian discord. He makes no reference to America's efforts to aid Muslims in the Balkans, Kuwait or ,yes, even Iraq and Afghanistan. He fails to say anything about the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the death sentence fatwahs placed on Salmon Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali or the shameless surrender of fundamental rights of free speech and free press (and the underlying reasons therefore) surrounding the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. Even after the Munich Olympics (which he never refers to), the Iranian takeover of the U.S. embassy, the Lockerbie bombing and 9/11, he seems to imply that virtually everything the U.S. and the West in general has done for the last 50 or so years is totally indefensible and solely responsible for the current antagonisms between the two sides and that Muslims are just defenseless victims. (I probably overstated that last point.) Nonetheless, if you have an interest in this subject, it is not likely you will find a more informed, better written or more balanced and nuanced work on the subject than is here presented, given the current state of world affairs.
Intriguing subject matter, well written, but the narrator is way too dramatic. Every sentence sounds like a proclamation from Mr. Sinai.
I bought this for two reasons: I'm planning a trip to Tuscany and was hoping for the sort of local color other mystery writers provide--Parker for Boston, Connelly for LA, Johnson for Wyoming, Sandford for Minneapolis and environs, for example. There's virtually none of that here and, except for the Mafia connection, it could have been set almost anywhere. Also, I like good mysteries, but this is not one. Finally, the narrator does all the Italian characters with something like either an Oxcam or Cockney accent, depending on their class and background. Cannot recommend.
If you like mysteries where almost all the essential information relevant to the crime is withheld until the very end, at which time the wily old detective gets everyone in a room and all the guilty ones readily confess and fill in all the details (a la Columbo, Poirot or Perry Mason), you'll probably like this. If not, not. There is a decent amount of clever British-style quips and banter and the narrator is ok but not exceptional.
I thought this was very well written and thought provoking. Assuming it is an accurate portrayal of Black culture (which I do), it demonstrates that the author is not afraid to show that Whites do not have a corner on racism, but also that he does not seem to understand Whites or White culture any better than Whites understand Blacks. Since all the White characters are either air-headed, condescending, 'bleeding heart' (one of his Black character's phrases) yuppies or unapologetic red-neck racists, I can only conclude, surprisingly, that even with his intelligence and experience as a respected journalist, he apparently has not encountered any who share the same values I'm sure he has--hard work, honesty, self-reliance, self-respect, personal responsibility--and who endeavor to judge others on those same grounds, not on skin color. If he has, I'm not sure why none were portrayed in his otherwise excellent novel.
The book was ok in terms of plot, character development, etc., but I found it very odd that the author chose to present it as a number of first person narrations. What are we supposed to think these are? They are not letters or diary entries. If we are supposed to think the all-seeing author is putting us inside the heads of these people as they muse, it strains credulity to think that anyone muses so articulately, whether a child, a nurse maid, an executioner or a queen. I don't recall ever reading a book like this and I think it greatly distracts from the overall work.
This may be my last Burke novel. The plot is preposterous in many places. (Warning: plot spoilers dead ahead.) Why would a German submarine have a 42 pound, jewel encrusted swastika and Hitler's 'plan for America' on board? Why would even a Neo-Nazi psychopath want the sub so badly? Would any real person risk his life to save a man (he thought) who had brutally tortured him or a woman (as it turns out) who terrorized his family? How can Clete continue to get away with his shenanigans (as much as I like them)? How many times can one novel contain some variation of 'Are we CLEAR on that now, podnah?" To top it all off, are Rush Limbaugh listeners (Burke makes a very thinly veiled allusion to them) really responsible for the Neo-Nazi movement and do they really not care about black people being slaughtered, as Burke clearly implies? I've contributed enough to the support of self-righteous liberals like Streisand, Baldwin, Penn and Damon. I didn't realize until this book that Burke has the same mind-set. I wish someone had warned me.
I gave it two stars instead of the one (or less) it probably deserves because there are some funny lines and, despite a great deal of over-elaborate description and psychological musing, it is pretty well written. Unlike many Burke reviewers, I think Hammer's narrations are excellent.
So I'm about 1/4 of the way through this and I'm not sure how much longer I can take it. I was hoping for an honest account of how a Christian sincerely combats atheist objections. (Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the best they can do.) He starts by saying again and again that even believers like him have doubts. (So?) He seems to go on (it's never very clear) by adopting Tertullian's claim that he 'believes because it is absurd.' An argument which is self-confirmingly absurd. He then claims to respond to Hitchens' challenge of 'tell me some moral shortcoming I have because I'm an atheist' by saying Hitchens wouldn't comply with the first three commandments (have no other gods before me, no craven images, honor the Sabbath), simply assuming without justification that anyone who does so is immoral. He asserts, with no real facts or argument, that atheism is self-contradictory. He cites many appeals to what the founding fathers believed (so?), but so far, he has not even attempted to answer why anyone should believe whatever he believes without any evidence whatsoever. I'm trying to keep an open mind, but I don't know how much further I can go in what seems more and more like a basic (unresponsive and irrelevant) claim that believing what he does makes him feel better about other people, himself and his place in the world. I may amend this review later if he ever comes to grips with the real issues atheists propound, but I'm having doubts about that ever happening.
I'm a big Estleman fan, but this one is not worth your time. It's a Scooby Doo/Hardy Boys plot, unworthy of him.
I've read 6 of Shaara's books (the 4 WWII ones and the last two on the Civil War) and liked them all, but I just couldn't get into this one. The characters seemed flat and the plot uninteresting.
I guess that's why I, like everyone I knew at the time, LOVED this book when I was a college sophomore in the late '60s. Yosarian was us. We were the only ones who saw through all the phoniness of the culture our parents had created. We were the only ones who realized that war is a bad thing. Everyone in any position of authority was a mindless buffoon, perfectly caricatured by Heller and his buddy, Kurt Vonnegut. We can now look around and see what my generation of know-it-alls baby-boomers has done to the world. Unfortunately, from the many rave reviews, there seem to still be a lot of that mind-set around.
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