By Jonathan Lethem
This book was pretty thoroughly “meh” for me. It spanned a couple of genres and didn’t do any of them particularly well. First and foremost, this was a murder mystery. I have read a decent amount of this genre. I find that the appeal is largely trying to figure out who done it. To do this, the reader needs to be supplied with the same clues that the investigator has. Then you can essentially have a battle of wits with the protagonist. Unfortunately, this is did not happen. Several points of key information were not provided, so I couldn’t make any good guesses at all. So as a murder mystery, it rates as poor. Stylistically, I would have liked it to be a bit heavier on the noir side. It just barely scrapes the surface of a very rich tradition in noir fiction. It would have benefited a lot in the tone and made me a bit more forgiving of the lack of clues.
The other genre it dabbled in was sci-fi. I say dabbled because there was very little in the way of world creation evident. It seemed more like a satirical take on the early 90’s than anything else. The result is that the world is fairly shallow to the reader. There were two main redeeming factors in this. The first is the evolution treatment (giving animals more intelligence). It was an interesting, if uninformed, look at the future of genetic experimentation. It kind of reminded me of Tron in that way. No one knew how computers worked, so Tron was as good an interpretation as any. The second interesting concept was creating a world in which no one asks questions. It’s simply not done. I thought that was a fascinating idea and I wished he would have done more with it.
As an actual story, this rates at barely ok. There were some serious structural issues (like jumping forward six years but having the plot stay in hiatus for the jump). The relationships between the victims and the suspects are massively over complicated. Rather than misdirecting the reader as to who is guilty, it was just confusing and annoying. One of the main things that annoyed me about the story, though, is that private investigator who has been in the business a while has no idea who the biggest gangster in town is. This makes no sense. It’s also a major plot point. A full third of the book involves him trying to figure out who the mob boss is. It definitely made me disbelieve the likelihood of the plot as a whole.
I don’t think I’d recommend this book. It is ok, but not the greatest read and you can find better examples of this type of read.