What sounded like an amusing coming-of-age story set in the future turns out to be a moving survivalist story about the unresolved issues of real life as a stressed high-school family-supporting junior in a Detroit-like Manhattan at the end of this century. As a survivor of similar conditions in South Chicago in the middle of the previous century, I hear reality.
After a sniper murders lefty radicals from the 70's, starting with somebody who resembles Jane Fonda, the plot thickens. Well, sometime it clots, but if you like Clint Eastwood's style of justice, it is a good read, especially if you like dealing with murderous Irishmen.
Now that the subject is so far past as Napoleon, the young Stalin emerges as an unexpetedly lively person, resembling the thug-rappers on recent American experience (tho he has a better voice), but our thugs are nowhere so bold as to rob our national banks. Everywhere Stalin goes, he gets laid, even in Siberia.
This is good research into the history of American automotive design. Cars are the second largest capital investment of a household, after shelter, but few authors spend time and energy documenting how the styles we buy come about. It is remarkable that so few men controlled our choices, which seemed so democratic.
This story starts as a horny girl meets someone online from her past, but then nicely works up a much scarier plot of lonely-flies-inthe-web. The bad guys are just possible enough to carry the story.
The hasty, ragged reporting by an American who is estranged from both Europe and highfalutin society of his time still has a compelling quality, observing the absurdities of both his compatriots and the people and places visited. Plus, an amazing offhand visit with the Tsar's family in Odessa.
Despite a slow start, the story is a wonderful comedy of the silly upperclass Brits, with constant flips in the plot line. Comparable more recently to, say, a Steve Martin film.
Considering its reputation, I expected an adventure story. But nothing. Just a celebration of somebody else's effort to deliver a message, embedded in tacky patriotism.
As an elderly astrophysicist, I never again expected to read a realistic science fiction adventure of the sort published in the mid-20th century, with technical problem-solving on a daring but plausible engineering scale, using the tools at hand. I particularly liked the portrayal of the actual challenges posed by the Martian terrain, relentless cold, and amazing wind storms.
While an interesting notion, the story is an adolescent James Bond-style fantasy about a Nick & Nora pair with stilted dialog. Too bad.
After many weeks on the best-seller lists, I expected a merely artsy story, but I was delighted to find a novel worthy of Dostoyevsky, rich with full-blooded, flawed characters who semi-connect with each other and the semi-criminal world we live in. The narrator has an amazing range of voices with distinct personalities, not just accents but emotional persona. The author, a middle-age woman, does an extraordnary job of creating realistically reckless young men. Oddly, her female characters are thinner. The only flaw to my mind was the closing chapter, a redemption of the sort imposed by Victorian publishers.
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