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.
While this is a good debut effort, I think it was unwise to burden the author who has promising talent with the burden of comparisons to the phenomena that was/is, "Watership Down." It is a cruel set-up to fail/disappoint.
Parents who think this might be a cute, creative story to share with their children should consider the fact that there is a big emphasis on drones and mating which is ok; everything mates,...but there are also numerous scenes describing male drones demeaning their slave female bees, getting them on their knees, demanding oral and manual hand "grooming" of ALL body parts. There are a few occasions when the drones get motivated and expose their blue members and strut and parade around to the delight of the female slave bees. It is explicit but not pornographic; kind of like cute comic book level silly but - graphic.
Personally I did not enjoy the story as I could not find a character who I liked, hated or cared a twit about, nor could I experience an event that engaged or interested me in the outcome. But perhaps I was expecting cleaver and something similar to Watership Down.
Oh, as I have barely 30% normal hearing, I am happy to hear anything and unlike other listeners have not disliked any narrator of the 3 or 4 thousand books I have on Audible...until this one. She was going for the squeaky little girl whiney thing being Bee sound...and I had to chide myself for squirming and not being thankful to hear at all.
I am so old that I had to type my Economics Thesis (Tyranny and Economic Blah blah of Feudal Serfdom System) on a manual typewriter w/o spell check...gasp! Well my years of work and analysis actually wasn't ignored and it became famous...it was read by numerous professors even many outside the Econ dept., but not in a good way. I wrote passionately about the difficult lives of and abuse of 4 generations of European and Russian Phesants trapped in the evil feudal system. My 15 minutes of "fame". I think there were tear stains from laughter on most pages when it was finally returned to me kind of all crumpled up. It did read more like Watership Down than this book did sadly. You still may find merit in The Bees, just come at it w/o preconceptions. It is too late for me...in many ways, but I digress yet again.
It took me awhile to realize (get) the thundering challenge Nesbø initially and so deftly hid within the usual 'flawed detective' ("FD") formula. Upon entering the world of this book and for quite a while thereafter, I thought it was worthwhile enough being there to stick around, but had to work through some initial disappointment that Nesbø wasn't yet again leading me into a darkly terrifying realm I could only endure by knowing I could escape then reenter, when renewed courage allowed, by simply closing the book or turning off the sound (i.e. Nesbø's "The Snowman"). Most all of these FD books surround the reader with sinners, saints, guilt, revenge, corruption, murder and/or inane mismanagement from the top, etc.; and I initially thought this book was riding this wave until something jigged and veered from the norm and I suddenly pictured myself at Pipeline in Hawaii grooving along thinking I'd soon be in the blue tunnel only to realize I had mis-"judged" everything and was falling off the lip to the exposed coral so faaaaaar below with that wall of water following to pound down, yikes...fortunately one can rewind an audio book and get a do-over. IMHO, Nesbø subtly challenges the readers mind to step out from just watching like a sheeple hating the evil and corruption to at least consider ...well, just when is unchallenged, ignored, too Big or Powerful to Jail, governmental, Criminal individual or gang, Corporate, Banker/Broker evil-doer harm enough for citizens to say enough is enough! If the appropriate powers ignore and will not implement "justice", when if ever should an individual or rise up and would they be justified in doing so? In the old days I watched for and applauded "Random acts of Kindness" ; now I am starting to applaud the few Random acts of civil disobedience I see reported more and more often...but I digress. You should like this book even if you just want to escape with a good book...no civil disobedience, or citizen revenge required. You will care deeply about many characters you meet, there are intelligent, plausible and surprising twists and shifts of viewpoints. I wish I could bet each reader $5 they will not guess the biggest surprise near the end...Brilliantly crafted...Bravo, Mr. Nesbø !
In times of rare insight, we realize we celebrate the wrong heroes in life and books. I write this on President's day, but what did they do remotely equal to the hero of this story? This is the Most important of the 3,250+ books I've listened to on Audible. Whether like me you have been going along just fine only to suddenly hold your dying child in your arms ~ or not...you will understand some levels of the pathos felt by post WWII people worldwide. Second only to the Atom bomb Americans feared polio because its' cause was a mystery. Remember just prior to WWII children often died of simple scrapes until penicillin came into use. It was the way life was. Then Fleming and penicillin. A co-Nobel laureate worried that the discovery of penicillin would cause too many children to survive childhood thus resulting in global over-population. Can you imagine? In this book we live with powerfully drawn characters in the 1940-50's at a time when no one had a clue what caused polio. You will weep but learn how to survive and help those living through the worst of all fear and death of children...and adults. If you had a child die you (and 100,000+ others at the worst) became a pariah...accused of poor house keeping, not being a good parent less moral, wrong race...etc.. What would you do to try to keep your child from contacting this mystery disease? Roth gets it correct in a powerful, true to life engaging story. You will be better for having read this book, IMHO. Jonas Salk is the true hero of the last century along with Fleming. In Salk's case, this hero did not enrich himself and would not patent the polio vaccine. When asked how rich he was getting from the patent...he said there was no patent. "Could you patent the Sun?" He shines as does every word in this book.
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.
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.
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