i read this in college and loved it. this time around, i didn't enjoy it quite as much. the characters are a little flat, and they aren't really developed, but they are likeable (except for the bad ones!). having said that, startide rising is a lot better than most sci fi. the premise is very creative, and david brin makes a deep statement about taking care of our fellow mammals. i could have lived without him ACTUALLY STATING IT at the end of the book, but maybe he was afraid some of us missed it.
this is a really fun book. the good guy, carl webster, is a u.s. marshall who wants to stop lawbreakers, but he mostly just wants to be famous. he keeps a crime reporter nearby, so the world won't miss a minute of his heroics and cocky quips.
jack webster is the son of an oil tycoon, who robs banks because he enjoys it, even though his dad would willingly support him. he loves being notorious, and once he starts killing people, he gets a real thrill from it.
what's interesting is that carl's motivations aren't much different than the bank robbers he's chasing. he seems to worship them in a way, always trying to outdo them and even dating their girlfriends. carl isn't even interested in any woman who isn't a "gun moll." jack tells carl he's going to kill him the next time he sees him, so carl helps jack stay out of prison to finally prove he's the better man.
elvis loves dancing to the music of elvis presley. he is bisexual and enjoys wearing makeup. these traits have nothing to do with the story of "graceland," and elvis's character is not developed in any way.
this is because elvis is only a vehicle for chris albani to list the atrocities that take place in nigeria. children and nuns are raped. elvis witnesses someone being burned alive. twice. kids are kidnapped and sold for organ harvesting. political prisoners are brutally tortured. a child is electrocuted, and no one cares. i could go on. when albani can't fit a horror into the story, he just has people talk about it.
elvis's character is never developed. things just happen to him. his friend redemption tricks elvis into becoming a criminal. his father abuses him, and his aunt entices him. none of elvis's choices affect any of his life's outcomes. it seems that if elvis made the opposite choices, nothing would have turned out any differently. was that the point of the book? i'm not sure.
the author seems to make a theme of redemption at the end of the book. but who is being redeemed? elvis? certainly not. he is a consciencious kid who never hurts anyone. is elvis redeeming nigeria? maybe, but it's hard to imagine that his simple kindnesses are enough. the author also makes a feeble attempt to blame white people for the horrible things black nigerians are doing to each other, but that nonsense doesn't hold up too well these days.
on the positive side, i did like albani's narration. he speaks with a soft sadness and does a wonderful job with the voices. one could almost believe that albani's narration is the redemption of his lousy book.
You can't just tell me that two people are in love and expect me to believe it. You have to make me feel the love. I listened to five hours of this book and didn't have the slightest affection for any of the characters. It's almost like the author thinks people in the 40's didn't feel the same feelings we feel today. They only felt lofty emotions that they would describe in flowery verse. Don't believe it!
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