The prologue and epilogue were great. The long middle was often tedious and a tad mundane... post-modern crap that wandered along, plotless but incident-rich. The characters were not standouts, but were normal, accurately described people we all know, love and hate.
The problem was not only the lack of a "point," but the lack of cohesion. Many, many things occurred in this long story, but all you really needed and wanted to know was given in the prologue. The resolution of the story questions did not come until the epilogue and then, the explanations were kind of shruggingly okay.
In the middle are several family members, several subsets of families, several buildings and locations whose past, present and future are all linked. We have several unlikable characters, and contrary to common practice, some of these are children, and they are believable. There is a climax crisis seen in a school, it is inevitable, I suppose, but the actions of one of the key child characters is indecisive and, frankly, not well explained. It was as if the author was the father of the child and couldn't commit to allow the child to act as a normal child might have. The father in the book, the key character, Miles, is an overweight softie who has no guidance except that of his gruff (caricature of a) father. He is manipulated by women living and dead and he really has no past to stand him out as a protagonist with something to lose or acquire or adapt to. Many other characters (brother David for one and ex-wife Janine for another) are multi-faceted and have depth. The author gives those characters depth of feeling and contemplation, reflection and acts that change after reflection. For Miles, the author has nothing but irritation.
At the end of the book, the reader is given the explanations to a number of odd events in a few of the characters' lives. Miles makes a decision -- finally -- but it is a decision to do nothing rather than to do something. I got the impression that in the "sequel" (God forbid) we would find the Robey family intact and picnicking on the Whiting land. I learned nothing, I felt little for any of these people and not for one moment do I think I could find this so-called Empire Falls anywhere on the planet. It was not sufficiently engaging. It was like a diary of a bored man.
I gave it three stars because the writing is exquisite. The language, the imagery, the 2nd hand, omniscient description of what characters said and felt were all astute and believable. What was lacking was the voice of the characters as they experienced it.
The narrator, as usual was fabulous and correctly distinguished voices. If I have one complaint about McClarty, it's his attempts at women's voices. But to his credit, they were all equally treated. The women sound like drag queens. Still I'd listen to Ron read anything over some of the other narrators I have endured.
*** for story
** for structure of the novel.
***** for the narrator.
The worst narrator in the world. Voice was bad, and there was an audible "click" like to a tape machine every several minutes... I am downloading another version, because I know the book is great... This should be removed from the list.
Wonderful book, good story, some predictable elements, but the "twist" was unexpected. I expected a whole different reason for the "big decision." This was better. Warm, authentic and suitable for all ages, cultures and interests. Narrator very good. Recommended -- in fact, should be required reading for students of the human community. Tolerance, humor, survival, family, fathers and sons.... just great.
Loved it on every level. Liked that there were no "hidden" messages, but outright connections and links to events and personal psychology of the hostages. Loved that so many characters could be so individually present and unique. Loved the "love" relationship of the two couples, adored the Russian's profession of adoration based on a (long) short story of the man's early years. Yes, these are archetypal characters.. we've seen them all before in one scenario or another, but the twists are subtle and sufficient enough to make it a page turner, though the pages turned gently, for it was a sweet book, a book of hope.
Throughout the story, the narrator tells us things like "later he would think..." so that we knew certainly the future of that particular character. The suspense was in my own longing that the couples could be coupled after the takeover. Yet the tragedy and the glory of the situation grow from the impossibility of the situation.
If the set was too comfortable, too well fed, housed in a mansion and not in a thatched roof hut in a forest, who cares? The story was about captivity, language, voice, independence and dependence. The Opera motif fit perfectly the drama of the setting, the largeness of the characters, and voice, voice was key here.
A translator is not allowed to interpret or choose what is meant to be said, eventually the Traductor stepped out of his role. A terrorist is not supposed to waver; the generals eventually tired. Child terrorists should be obedient or they would be punished, this scruffy lot was hungry for the outside world and confined to the VP's mansion were things they would never have seen, heard or felt. It was about acceptance and letting go.
Someone mentioned that the language came right of an MFA platter of perfect English. I agree, and that's what made it so readable. The sentences were almost invisible, unless you don't like your English well done. The language carried the story without intrusion and that is a trait of greatness.
I have one complaint, and that complaint cost this the 4th star. The ending, a bit abrupt, was "unfair," regarding the terrorists, and it seemed rushed. But beyond that, what we learn in the Epilogue about the survivors broke the spell for me. I did not care at all for the way Roxanne and Gen ended up. It is too flimsy to say that because each lost the love of their individual lives (as formed in captivity), that they should assume the roles of the lost ones. Mr. Hosokawa and Carmen go down together by a single bullet.. ghastly and too melodramatic. Gen and Roxanne’s final pairing made no sense, and while I was ready to "sell" the book to anyone who would listen to me, it ruined the spell for me. Of course, Edith and Simon Thibault made sense together… Simon’s adoration of his wife was never questioned.
Narrator Anna Fields was splendid...
Limited in scope, a "feel-good" story written in simple prose, with nothing of substance to support it. Rather stock characters, though some more interesting than others. Religious "lessons" in the actions/punishments of wayward people. Basically a Christian look at a hard life, about forgiveness, tolerance, and learning to be satisfied with what one has.
If this was meant to contain any "feminist" threads, they were slim. Strong female protag who is successful in most of her endeavors, but waits till forever to marry. A few conflicts which could have proved interesting but didn't
Narrator fine; story -- good for 10-12 year olds; older kids would find it dull and unrealistic.
Lots of scenery, love of the land, etc. etc.
Read The Yearling if you like books about making it in the rough, about rising to overcome adversity and about growing up to be a "good" human being.
2.5 - 3*, because it is the first of a fairly good trilogy. My Antonia (the 3rd) is far better than this one; with more grit and real emotion, perhaps because by then Cather had matured as a writer.
From the opening words to the final scene, the story was flawless. Not too many "silly" coincidences, but a few for good humor. Not too unlikely a scenario, but enough to make it riveting. I especially loved the first "escape" scenario -- a bit out there, but not for Reacher. As usual there is a good measure of but just enough philosophy, sociology, child psychology and scientific fact. The romancing was maybe a bit light, its power being in afterthoughts and not in present/action. Would have liked a bit more eroticism; seemed like a "task" to get done and over with the first time; the second time being described in retrospect, passively and without ardor.
The plot: Loved, loved, loved the Claughtons, believable, funny and a little caricatured. Believable except for the 1 vs. 8 "honor among thieves" episode.
My favorite parts were in Reacher's musings on Sam Dayton, the way phrases goaded him forward, and in his recountings of his childhood, the way phrases explained his particular kind of thinking.
If there is a weak point, and this is probably only my problem, it is the ending. The end was good in that it tied up and explained everything. But the all-around forgiveness was hard to accept. I DID like the way Jack and Susan ended the book. Logical, predictable, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. God forbid there would be commitment.
The book began and ended with Reacher as he is: affected but not altered by his recent episode and encounters. It was good to watch him "feel" for another person. His feelings went well beyond righting wrongs. It went to his core. If the Samantha Dayton story had worked out differently, we would have had a kinder, gentler Reacher, who might have begun building picket fences.
Instead, I wait for the next one, and a year is entirely too long.
This is one of the best books I have ever read in my life. It is riveting, it is complete, it is complex, it demands much from the reader; it requires re-reading of some sections.
Every single character is "sympathetic." You like them all. You want each of them to achieve their goals.. the good guys and the bad guys. As the murder victims added up, I felt so sad, so sorry for them. The characters are so strong that I will never forget them.
Throughout the book, I kept asking myself "whose story is this?" It comes clear late in the book. It is in parts 7 and 8 that the whole thing begins to stick together.
Still, the end was a little disappointing. There is at least one "missing person," one unexplained death, and it is so much meditation on very "heavy" subjects.
I think I wish McCarthy had put some of that spiritual searching earlier in the book; following so much action, it's a little bottom heavy with stream-of-consciousness, moralizing. The questions are all apt to the story; they provoke deep thought.
There is very little but some politicizing ... some grandstanding by the author, but it was light and it did not feel like a "big statement."
At any rate it is among my all time favorites, right up there with the Classics, the Russians and the Moderns. It is atypical of these post-modern times. The book is old- fashioned in that it tells a real story. It is new-fashioned in that it has a strange approach to dialect -- including phonetic punctuation. It does become comfortable quickly. There are point of view switches that are not always clear until well into each new section's opening paragraphs. Sometimes you don't know whose story we are in, and then you do know because each character is so distinguishable.
No need to go over the story. Suffice it to say, it's Kellerman's early work, filled with simple sentences and ridiculous scenarios. The unlikely actions of a variety of professionals are maddening. Story has potential, and then at the end FINALLY, the explanation is too complicated. Characters are rough-hewn, except for Alex. He's perfectly rendered. Milo is still a background character and the gay card is waved about like a flag -- to denote political correctness? Because it adds only a smidgen to the story. Robin has some interesting appearances, and Alex (Kellerman's alter ego) is right there with the romance everybody dreams of -- though a bit over the top for an infraction of minor proportions. Alex knows boating and furnishings, gourmet and fashion. Alex knows psych, and what he does not know, he gets from other "experts," in this story, the experts are little geniuses.
The reader/narrator is a little stiff, but that's not the problem with him. It's his pronunciation: co-op is pronounced coop (chicken coop) cadge (twice pronounced cadged -- like tagged); other badly "read" words the narrator obviously did not know. Very distracting.
Two stars and nearly unreadable except that having read the series from end to beginning, I had something to look forward to, which never materialized. No engagement -- but long lectures on science, anatomy, South American Indians, psychotropic drugs, high finance and land development, blah, blah, blah... the story was so small, it could have been an anecdote. We have gays and gay haters, racism, sexism, rogue professionals, bikers, investigators, good cops, bad cops, astounding wealth, single moms and dirty dealings all around. And yet, there was no story, like a child's Christmas tree upon which are placed his favorite things, great and small, for the child to gaze upon and be impressed.
For the most part, believable, though the kinesics sort of got in the way. It was kind of text-booky the way Kathryn Dance described the tics and gestures of the liars she encounteres.
Daniel Pell is competing with Manson for world fame. The book competes at the same level, trying to create a "family" for Pell, one comprising weak-willed women who do his bidding. Shrug. Pell is a master at escaping and stalking the people who wronged him. That was a little much.
The "Sleeping Doll" of the title, wakes up one day and tells her story. It's pretty unremarkable. I think the author wanted us to feel so bad for her that she held that secret for so long and then she grew up and stood up for herself. But the "secret," such that it is .. is nothing, and it does nothing to help find Pell.
One problem I had, which was probably only evident in listening as opposed to reading text. Daniel Pell, Kathryn Dance, Rebecca, Samantha, and others.. all the names started to sound alike. A bit difficult to keep them all straight.
I found the use of masks and disguises to be a very childish device for the writer. It's a fallback that helps the writer avoid having to come up with plausible explanations for the killer's ability to escape detection. Reading some of the dressup scenes made me yawn.
I liked it well enough, and I'll look at other Deaver books. Not necessarily a "page turner," it stuck with me and I really liked the concepts of lie detection that it explained. (I loved "Lie to Me" on TV).
Interesting and plenty of twists. Maybe a bit too long; too many end of story twists. I'm the type that likes my endings clean and final. Even though there is an ambiguous suggestion at the end concerning one bad guy, it is okay and appropriate. But the final actions taken against some other contributors to the mayhem were a bit extreme. Not that the actions weren't warranted -- in real life it would have "made sense" and all, but it was unnecessary to the plot -- I think.
There was a kindness shown one of the victims that I am not sure I quite buy. I think that the prime victim in the book, the one the reader is rooting for, would have suffered a more terrible end than this book offers. It's as if the author felt like the whole mess was so bad, so grisly and so horrific, he needed to add a little relief, to the detriment of the story's believability.
I am not sure I liked the volley between first person and third person. There was something off for me, watching the action through Alex's eyes and mind and then being omniscient and knowing what everyone in the world is thinking, though Alex isn't even present. I never lost consciousness of that switch. I don't think it was done well enough.
Another thing that was "wrong" with it for me was my lack of connecting to the characters. I didn't give a hoot about any of them. The single victim Alex is seeking throughout the book is the only one I cared about -- and I didn't care except that I wanted closure about what happened to that person. It wasn't emotional.
There are some well-handled sex scenes between Alex and a "white woman," and I appreciated the subtlety of the romantic encounters. But I didn't believe that either. Alex was so "into" her and she was so cool and disconnected. But smart, psychologist Alex missed the cues? Also, Alex was very much aware of the social differences between blacks and whites, and he was vocal about the inequality between black and white victims. No matter how gorgeous Jezzy might have been, I think Alex would have been less easily enticed into this dangerous pairing. Not too convincing. Not that it couldn't and doesn't happen; it's just that Alex is drawn to be very much a racial-centric kind of guy. It would take more than blonde hair and blue eyes to get his juices flowing -- and to bring her home to meet his kids -- not likely so quickly. Alex's grandmother came up short too. She was drawn as the wise old g'ma, but she was a walking cliché who never really raised a lather about the things she confronted in this story.
About the main perpetrator. Very bad guy whose beginnings are clearly laid out so that we understand (sympathize with?) his tragic trajectory. By the way, it's pretty cool that some of the ancillary bad guys also had some kind of parent issues (not abuse but neglect and ignorance).
The apparent split-personality that is suggested as a foundation of the killer's actions felt wrong too. I don't know except from other books and movies, but this guy, even if he is a dual personality, was so manipulative, so over the top, so successful, that I'm more inclined to think he suffers from one of the personality disorders which gives him a believable omnipotence. But Alex is supposed to be a shrink and he's not sure either. In the end, we don't really know if the killer was motivated by his previous (psychological) abuse. There is a nice juxtaposition between "Gary's childhood" and the missing child's situation.
It was better than "ok" but not "really good." It does not deter me from continuing the Alex Cross series.
The narrator was very good, and he smoothly handled the switches in point-of-view.
I know this is an oldie, and we cannot judge it by Kellerman's recent work, but really, it was a little too preposterous. ALERT: There are scenes that describe graphic child sexual abuse here. There are words/phrases that would be unspeakable in today's sensitive times. But we cannot slight JK for that -- that was then and this is now.
No, my complaints are about the way the story unfolds. First there is some detective work that combines Milo & Alex, then Milo disappears and Alex is a psychologist, detective, and near-mercenary. There are some nice homey scenes between Milo and Alex and their respective amours, but not enough of them.
At any rate, the bad guys are rounded up and the most hated of them have stories to tell; long, stories, told in retrospect, as if it justified their adult behavior.
Alex treks to other states, gets in fights, shoots, captures and threatens people until the truth comes out. When it does, all the truths link up into a somewhat surprising outcome.
I am glad that JK decided to take the weapons away from Alex in his later, more mature books.
I know it was the launch of the series, so for me, having read all the subsequent books, this one lacks the cohesiveness and logic of the best and most modern of the Alex/Milo canon.
I would not recommend this book, however, because of the graphic descriptions of child sexual abuse. I would feel responsible to someone who read it on my recommendation and encountered this content. I would not recommend it to anyone who loves the Milo/Alex pairings because this one does not illustrate their relationship as we have come to expect.
For a first time reader of JK, it is always best to begin a series at the beginning, and this one, because of some of the content, might turn someone away.
I had to check to be sure, but there is a movie (1994) of the same title, which seems to include some aspects of this plot, though it doesn't seem an exact rendering.
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