The Life of Pi said it would make you believe in God...These stories will emind you of your belief in your love for all the people aorund you whose voices you rerely hear, even among families. Like Studs Terkel says...where is the human voice? It's here. Let's look up from our phones and gadgets and listen better, ask someone every day for a story from their life.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of this book and one that may slip a bit by in the audio format is the intricate structure /construct of this story. The book is set up precisely under the rules and timing of the wheeling astrological constellations and planetary influences on the trajectories and lives of twelve luminary characters and about 6 other important characters starting precisely on January 27, 1866 - ____1867 ~ at a precise compass point location in New Zealand (important for precise astrological charting of predestination?).
There are 12 parts of the novel that wane without waxing like the moon during that year. Each part is roughly half the length of the section that precedes it and the concept of halving and halving again is repeated often by different characters. The first part was fun for me and was a relatively interesting, and brilliantly written 358-ish pages long. The final part (Part-12) is only TWO pages long then poof, it over...I guess only to live on differently as the moon wanes anew and characters start their lying and deceit yet again I am guessing with a variance here or there and resulting different trajectories, or not, thus only to repeat pre-determined charted paths. I was quite surprised to realize that the story actually ends quite few hours before (300 pages or so) before the discussion on the two page final Part 12 section is interrupted and the book ends.
All events and characters reel/wheel under the influence of the planets and stars and time as it exists in the mathematically precise/predestined astrological realm except for one and only one character (the murder victim) who had a "Terrestrial" influence. I don't really know why as of this second reading, but, and I am guessing, but I think by the authors design to let the story wane and wane and wane I doubt any reader would care much about the victim or in the end about any of the characters or their lives. Is the author really not intending to tell any story ...changing what a novel is or definition of fiction...Why don't I care by the end? This is astounding as this author is a brilliant writer and spends hours describing her characters very intimately from both the inside and outside views from the perspective of many others from their in-most and their out-most "selves" and at varying levels I cared about each then lost the ability to care...again I think this was intentionally planned by the author, but I am not able to explain why coherently. I am still pondering this and wonder what other readers think or feel or know.
Concepts I liked pondering:
• Twins. Twin-ship. There are countless scenes where characters look into mirrors in the present time or as a memory and reflect on the mirror images of themselves and how this image influences everything. Characters ponder others viewing their mirror images and wondering if others would be surprised by the image they see of themselves and especially if that certain person gets surprised after looking into a mirror because the image proves they forgot a major event...More importantly can people be so linked they change places in time and place and are mirror twins?
• References to a "Twinkle" do not refer to stars but a means of cheating with a mirror at gambling which I won't disclose. Actually the language in the entire story is so well lit...well illuminated and full of mirror folding's and unfolding's.
• What is truth...the whole truth...is a whole truth possible? Is truth circular?
• Everyone lies all the time but what is the morality of lying to ones-inner most self , their outer-most self or others intentionally or inadvertently?
• What is more important...truth or loyalty?
Of course greed and money were key movers of the "plot" or storyline and while none are original an audio listener might do well to follow the money, the dresses and make their own Cliff's notes if they continue to care as the story does fold over itself repeatedly and there are new reveals but other obfuscations. There are many magical turnings based on the spirit of an ancient land and the effect of humans on this realm and vise versa to which I would pay more attention should I listen again. I'd keep better track of the Aurora land and image.
This could be viewed as a brilliant spoof of a Victorian novel and, if so, is well done. I liked the use of the chapter headings such as "Where the ___ get caught in a lie" and where X takes a big fall...At times it reminded me of an Agatha Christie mystery where there is a gathering of people and one "Mind" dices and slices each characters slice and version of an event...the "mind" of the story which solves the mystery. In this story the "Mind" telling the story changes from character to character from time to time...Time and events are clarified then blurred again until I as the reader did not believe any truth or story remained after the waning of the interrupted anti-climatic end. But I am confident I have only brushed the surface of this strangely strange "story". I await the thoughts of other readers!!
How is it possible for one man to find within him three such rare, ethereally magnificent, terra shaking literary gems? I say this as a woman in her mid 60's with almost 3,000 titles in my Audio.com library and who has read almost a book a day from the beginning and who was taught early about building memory castles so as to remember to this day almost each word read. ( Sorry about only writing 20 reviews, but I am working on that for my children so they may know an inner me). I also say this as a reader who upon finding even one line, or a moment by an author will be sure to read every word written by said author. So why you may wonder am I so rocked by this one author's body of work? Forgive me if I start with discussing my experience while inhabiting this work...this world.
How is it even possible for an author who must know from the beginning how blown away the reader may be as the latter portion of the book starts to echo louder and louder...to so slowly and patiently...even ordinarily, perhaps intentionally not extraordinarily quietly unfold layer after layer, perhaps even risking losing the concentration of the reader...to wait to reveal his hand?
Having been so moved by his previous works, I was impatient to get to the magic...so much so I actually gave up thinking that this quiet, impressive literary work would ever evoke something rare. From the beginning I was engaged with the characters and story line and at times would oooh then sigh quietly at a special turn of words or added layer of enlightenment, but thought it (even though more superbly written) similar to other books in many genres which cover a cast of family members over three + generations told from various viewpoints at different moments in time. Unfortunately all this normal, respectful adherence to this fine work was done quietly in private...only to lead to me gasping out loud in line at Trader Joe's, totally unable to curb my emotions, stop my eyes from welling up, breathe and not tilt my being...(thus causing other shoppers to reach out for me probably thinking I had just learned of a family death or something)...This happened in the midst of a unique telling of a characters story (Involving a camera) then as I realized the depth and level the inner thoughts were reaching levels few could reach on thier own I was grabbed. Luckily I found my way home to pace back and forth such as I do as I am adding to my memory castle knowing I am in the midst the rare and trying to ensure I get every word and nuance as it touches me at first blush...thinking I had it all...only to unintentionally scream out loud...not once but three times as I wrapped my mind around the fact that I had totally forgotten that special element revealed at the end, yet, not the easy ending, unfulfilled on some level but more real thus more special; like life actually unfolds. Only we the readers, those who have joined the author to view these lives from all sides know what might have been.
After finishing my first reading, I pondered the title of the book. To me it was the opposite of a mountain echo. You know if you shout in the mountains and hear an echo...the echo starts out loud then fades ethereally away to another realm of sorts then it is gone. Well, to me this book felt as though the author shouted even trumpeted out to the mountains only to first hear the response as though from a place far away which then gos on to be heard louder and even louder until the mountains shake along with the hearers with its ongoing life force.
I suspect that this book may not find its audience as strongly at first as the others. I do highly recommend reading this even if you are less emotive than I. It is beyond brilliant without bells, whistles, tricks or traps. I doubt even five readings will touch what is has to give.
While this book does not as deftly and brilliantly cause the reader to stop breathing, lie lower wherever they are to hide from that "heavy force" as they realize they have entered into a realm of bewildering darkness such as Nesbø revealed in The Snowman and The Leopard and his other books, The Redeemer still is brilliantly and intricately crafted and rates better than most of the "Scandinavian Noir" books IMHO. Actually this book was written earlier than both The Snowman and The Leopard so we in America haven't the pleasure of reading in order. If you are new to Jo Nesbø and Harry, and want to read the books in order, most of this series has finally been translated. Here is the actual order of the series:
The Devil's Star
However, this is the rare instance when I recommend one read The Snowman first then The Leopard as each are not just brilliantly crafted mysteries, but transcend the usual mind-read state to capture you - the essence of your being and take it elsewhere. Then start the series in order.
The Redeemer addresses more of a complex mix of everyday sicko murderer(s) and everyday corruption on many moral levels. Yet, personally I had to face why I felt less horrified than in his previous novels as murder is murder and corruption is corruption. Harry and others make interesting unlawful rationalizations which are tantalizingly easy to buy into...but should I? The ending in particular even though centered on a small thread of the multiple storylines in this book but add to a previous books conundrums then invites one to question "good/evil/justified/redemption" and reveals how easily one can start with high intentions then be blinded before realizing one has ended corrupt and evil on one level...then be faced with what one should do to atone or not; plus what should their peers do; how should they judge? It makes you think.
Enjoy your pondering!
As I entered the book, almost immediately I drew in my breath in a gasp at the beauty of the writing, the narration...knew that I was in the hands of a fine literary artist and was ready for a momentous ride. From the title one knows that the main character, Ursula, will die often so I was not emotionally harmed by her multiple sudden deaths but set my mind to watch how her life "repeats" related or built to the point where she "gets it right"...and what the author's vision of getting it right would be. Unfortunately after the flow and glow of her first 8 or so life repeats, to me, the book totally loses focus and gets tedious. Still, I plunged on trusting that no matter how boring, the author was leading to a point..any point that might be interesting and even hoped for a little moment of awe. The reader knows there will be a critical scene with Hitler from the get go. It takes forever to get back to that moment of choice...gets there then ends as though it never happened. Huh? Many of the characters know they are repeating their lives to varying degrees, yet nothing interesting is deduced after the reader knows this is happening. Did you think Ursula got it right in the end...the very strange, silly Hollywood ending? Did the end make any sense whatsoever? It is worth a read as it is great writing, you will meet people you like and there are vignettes of the bombing of London that are fabulous, but don't expect any awe and prepare to be disappointed.
I've read all of Coben's books and while I never expect too much, I hope for an enjoyable, light read dealing with normal people who are suddenly thrust in to intense, often bizarre situations full of twists and turns before culminating in a place unimagined at the beginning of the story...ergo fun to experience. In his previous books, even if I thought the overall story was a bit of a "miss", I always identified with the protagonist(s) and could imagine being there with them. I think only a love sick pre-teen could identify with the ludicrous actions and idiotic love-sick declarations with which the character implied justified as "rational motivators" for his insane, uber-selfish actions throughout the story. It was also odd that Coben foreshadowed...even spotlighted each upcoming "surprise twist" to the extent that the reader knows what is going to happen before it does. Why? Also, in this case, one of my favorite narrators, Scott Brick can't be accused of over-dramatizing his reading of this particular story. Surely, no human alive has ever really held internal dialogue with the silly pathos as this guy does over and over and over again in this story. It is so corny it is almost funny and SNL skit worthy. I'm not saying not to read this if you are a Coben fan. There are enough nuggets evocative to his good work to perhaps make it worth your credit. It's just akin with the adage, with friends like the main character, who needs enemies? He is as awful as the bad guys.
What is the Power of this book, of the Dog?...With 2,722 books currently in my Audible library, thousands of ratings, but only 18 written reviews...why am I taking the time to write about this particular book? Applying simply surface thinking , this book transcends genres, and should thoroughly satisfy and engage the mind and the emotions of most readers (even Sci-Fi lovers, as while based totally in this current world, it does transcend time and unfolds as do the deepest and most complex of our eternal/internal operas). At its root, this book reveals the darkest Use and/or Abuse of Power and Greed via Political, Religious, Class, "Good Intentions" and Economical means and the resulting consequences in this particular story and to all of us today and throughout time. Yet, have you ever read a such book that most people would proclaim exposed the Real Raw Truth...people across all political and religious strata...the most politically passionate left-wing collectivist, the nuttiest on the farthest right wing, the most pious religious believer, the most stringent atheist, the richest class elitist, the poorest and most dispossessed, people of any race would agree as the sober truth thinly veiled as a fictional story? I think this author achieved this without a shrill agenda. Of course what these people would define as proper Use or Abuse of the Power exposed will be vastly opposed. I imagine that few will have a sure solution, and most will define the DOG differently, but we all are still being savaged by its bite in different guises. This book should make us all face the reality we know exists but prefer to bury; but as one line in the books ponders this book will probably make you wonder, "What is the best you can do in this world?" It's a really good story and enjoyable on the lightest or deepest of levels. What is the Dog to you?
When I am in the mood to be challenged by a crime/mystery novel, I expect/hope to be drawn into a well defined world steeped with atmosphere one can feel and smell; experience how the events and vivid characters twist and unfold...you know, the usual. In my experience, to create an iconic or even just good book in this genre requires super intelligent, great writing skills, but fine, deft literate prose is usually not a required component, but thrilling when found. In this novel Flynn treats readers to an extraordinarily fascinating 'Best in Class' story in and of itself but the wonderfully powerful yet deft writing, the fine prose, hauntingly amplifies its impact and force...the entire experience. Flynn's writing is not the snooty, sesquipedalian kind of fine literature but the best kind that is so well crafted it does not get in the way of the experience. I suggest you first just experience the story then parse out prose in later contemplations.
Seriously, I must have considered purchasing this book over ten times but looked at its' cover and did not even go on to the reviews. Thankfully I finally read some reviews and bought it. Surpassed even my most hopeful expectations! Super fun, LOL funny at times, superbly written, even super plausible-ish. Just read a little...then swoosh ~ you'll quickly be drawn in for a wild ride. Enjoy it in a place where you won't be judged if you stand around quietly, concentrating intensely only to break out in loud laughter now and then.
Hopefully this review will make up for my rather negative review of Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" which I know many love, but I found lacking a bit. (I'm sorry!) I won't repeat that review's discussion about which elements I think are necessary to create great dystopian/utopian tales, but I will say that this book surpasses most of my beloved books in this (my favorite) genre exponentially. It adds a new factor to the oft pondered conundrum as to whether or not a perfect utopian society could flourish or even survive long considering the oft dystopian-ish behavior/nature of homo sapien sapiens and/or if the good in people can long survive dystopian type tyrants/governmental systems. Can splicing in and out selective genes, behavior patterns, sexually based actions and consequences, etc. create a utopian people who can survive in a spliced/un-spliced world? However, this is only one of many awe-inspiring concepts to consider as Atwood deftly builds and unveils the mind-bending world of Oryx and Crake and the complex characters, corporate powers; the humming, shattered yet effervescent environment, the multi-level societal structures and situations, the resulting decision conundrums and so on. She draws you in and you can go there, live among the characters, loving some hating others...ponder and wonder accept or try to reject the consequences of actions. I've read this over five times now and it just gets better. Be sure to read this before "The Year of the Flood" which takes place in the same world at the same time but from other fascinating viewpoints and treats the reader with some awesome revelations, my favorite characters ever almost, all the while adding new ways and things to ponder.
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