A community in the southwestern United States falls prey to a plague of vampire bats with a virus which compels them to feed on everything in their path. Martin Cruz Smith, author of the best-selling novels, Gorky Park and Polar Star, mixes Indian mythology with virology in this masterful thriller.
©1977 Martin Cruz Smith (P)1991 Recorded Books
I bought this because I'd read in a review that Martin Cruz Smith had written some excellent books prior to his Detective Arkady Renko books and that he was quite talented at getting the nuances of other cultures correct. This was the first book I read of his other than the Renko books, and the characters were a Hopi Indian and a white expert on vampire bats. I don't know enough about Hopi culture to know for sure if he had that culture down accurately, but it certainly seemed so. Again, good narration as well.
I have loved this book since it was first published. I have read it several times, but thought I would enjoy listening to it. I did not enjoy the performance very well. First of all, they should not have have used someone from back east to read the book. It sounded like he was probably from New York. That just didn't fit with a Native American character. Also, I grew up in the southwest corner of Colorado (the Four Corners area). The reader should have been schooled in how to pronounce the Indian words and names. Many of them were wrong.
I'm sure he would be a good narrator for other types of books. He just didn't fit as a Western Native American.
After listening to Gorky Park, I decided to give this author another listen with a different type of novel circumstances. I was very moved by his ability to weave the story into the culture instead of the usual method of weaving the culture into the story. After experiencing Cold War Russia in Gorky Park with all the nuance of the culture and politics of the time, I was amazed at how Native American culture and politics could ring so true. Many authors take stories they write and put them into context of cultures they are familiar with; it takes a special talent to do this in such a diverse manner. If you loved Gorky Park for the immersing you into a different world and making you feel you belonged there and could understand the characters, then you will find yourself alongside and understanding an entirely different place and time...not to mention a GREAT, thrilling story of vampire bats, plague, epidemiology of disease, conflicting agendas and politics, and a reluctant protagonist. I read other reviews that indicated that the narrator mis-pronounced Indian names, if so, that is unfortunate. I thought the deep rumble of his voice somehow fit the story. He did not attempt to sound like a Native American to my ear, but was rather like a third party. Overall, nicely done!
I've enjoyed several other (later) books by Martin Cruz Smith and I was looking forward to one of his earlier novels.....sadly, I finished disappointed. There is much less characterization and much more cliched action in this book. It was fine, and average novel about vampire bats and infectious disease on a Reservation, but nothing to write home about. It was interesting, though, to read the about the political issues between the Hopi and the Navajo from the Hopi point of view which paints the Navajo in a bad light.....different from other books I've read where the protagonists (and the novel's setting) are Navajo.
The narrator did a really bad job; I had to run this book at 1.25x speed just to make the narration sound "normal" and not be too slow and ponderous. He is bad with differentiating characters with his voice and some of the characters sounded really unbelievable.
While this is a novel from 1977 it does not come off as dated. Its story is solid, its characters are interesting, and the pace is just right for a nature horror story.
I liked the glimpse, true or not, into the Hopi culture. I liked the desert descriptions and the interactions of the people. This book kept moving, and was fun.
Usually, the descriptions of the victims.
A good reason not to take night strolls.
I enjoyed this book and want more like it.
Say something about yourself!
When I think of all the times my sister's and I played in the Red Rocks caves when we were kids--and loved to see the bats that lived there--it gives me chills after listening to this novel.
One of this author's earlier novels from the 70's. I was happy to see this as a "daily deals" offering. Clearly not as well developed in his writing skills that came later, such as in Gorky Park, but a fascinating look at Indian customs and the damage that some bats can actually inflict on animals and humans.
The novel kept me listening even though it seemed kind of slow and disjointed at times. If you are a Martin Cruz Smith fan, or not, I would recommend it. I personally love to see what our popular author's work was like early on, and this is a great example.
One last note--the narrator, Richard Ferrone, is very good. His voice was almost the same in the 70's as it is today as shown in the "Prey" novels by John Sandford.
When I first started listening to this book, I immediately realized that the author was adept at his craft. I thought this would be a good novel. However, even though written by a technically skilled author, I found the book to be excruciatingly slow. Slowness led to boredom. Boredom led to me not finishing the book after enduring three-fourths of the way.
The narrator had a good reading voice, but read slowly, which would have added to the dragginess of the book if I hadn't listened in double speed. The narrator was not very good at differentiating voices.
Rich and compelling!
The rich descriptions of native American culture and the Arizona backcountry. In addition to a good story, the treatment of the characters was neither conventional nor sentimental.
Great balance of tone and inflection without distracting from the story.
Overall, just very well written with enough genuine science mixed with native mysticism to make it a very compelling listen.
If you enjoy stories that are set in the Southwest, you will want to treat yourself to Nightwing!
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