Flashback by Dan Simmons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a very tough book for me to review, because I had such a mixed experience listening to it. I was very interested in the mystery plot, the dystopian setting, and in the three main (viewpoint) characters. Despite other problematic issues, I listened to the entire thing and was pretty much satisfied with the ending, although one major plot point is never entirely resolved (I can take a guess, but I think it should have been spelled out). The dystopian society was intriguing, as was the exploration of the minds of the three main characters.
The difficult part of the book is the political discourse that regularly derails the plot as the book progresses. At first it made me uncomfortable, then annoyed, and finally became just sort of amusingly predictable in its heavy-handedness. I have read that the author claims he does not hold these particular right-wing political beliefs, which are unfortunately delivered without subtlety or finesse. Initially I thought (hoped) he might be trying for a Stephen Colbert-esque approach: to mock a political stance by extrapolating it into absurdity. But as the book progressed I became less convinced that this was what was going on. Sadly, the dystopian society is posited as a direct result of much of this, so for me, that undermined the exploration of the society itself–which was, in all other respects, quite intriguing.
I felt that the book was most successful in its portrayal of the three main characters (all male) and in the intricately interwoven plot lines. It’s a very male-centric book in a way, although the lives of all three main characters are certainly shaped by the loss of Dara Fox-Bottom.
I can’t say I disliked the book, but I suppose I liked it *in spite* of its deep flaws. So in a way, that’s a positive thing. I’ve stopped reading other books for far lesser failings, so it definitely offered enough to keep me reading and encouraged me to shrug off the problems. Did it offer me any insights into right-wing thought? Not really. If it could have done that as well, and left me feeling that I’d learned or better understood something, I would have rated it higher despite disagreeing with most of the polemics.