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Darwin's Blade


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  • Darwin's Blade

    I just finished the book "Darwin's Blade" by Dan Simmons. The publisher calls this "a novel of suspense". The lead character in the book is a privately employed accident reconstruction expert.

    I've read many novels in the past that were way off the mark on police policies and procedures, but this one takes the cake. The author includes a lengthy passage that is supposed to be from an LAPD traffic collision report. Unfortunately, the language and format were completely wrong.

    The author also repeatedly refers to the Sherman Oaks Police Department. Sherman Oaks is a subdivision of Los Angeles and, as such, is served by the LAPD. They don't have their own police department.

    The lead character and another private investigator show up at several crime scenes, including some homicides, where they are granted immediate and unrestricted access to the crime scenes.

    I recognize that the author isn't involved in law enforcement and is therefore bound to make a few errors. It seems to me, however, that even some very minimal research would have eliminated the most glaring errors from this book. I feel like I have completely wasted several hours of my life (and $7.50) in reading this piece of junk.

    Has anyone else read this thing?

  • #2
    I, uh.......liked it.

    .....and I've enjoyed most every Dan Simmon's book that I've read. I found Darwin's Blade to be funny. There was more than a little bit of literary license employed, and procedural accuracy obviously suffered greatly for the sake of the plot. For some reason that didn't bother me. I like the way Simmons puts words together and I guess, since I'm a fan, I'm willing to forgive his apparent lack of technical acuracy.

    The guy started out as a short story writer, mostly horror and science fiction, and has only recently begun to write conventional thrillers. This background may explain his emphasis on style over esoteric detail. I found much to like about Darwin's Blade, irrespective of it's weak plot. When he's at his descriptive best, Simmons is a great writer. It's unfortunate that his talent only shines sporadically throughout Darwin's Blade.

    I've always liked to employ Occam's Razor when confronted with a perplexing investigation. The logic device is attributed to William of Occam, a philosopher of the middle ages. Originally it went something like, "One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything" but I usually think of it as, "The simplest answer is usually the right answer".

    "Darwin's Blade" is described in the Simmons' book as a corollary to the aforementioned rule and reads, " ....and all other things being equal, the simplest solution is usually stupidity." If for no other reason, I'll remember the book just for giving me that.


    • #3
      You oughta read some of James Patterson's 'works' if you HATE procedural/technical errors....
      "When you guys get home and face an anti-war protester, look him in the eyes and shake his hand. Then, wink at his girlfriend, because she knows she's dating a *****."
      -Commanding General, 1st Marine Division


      • #4
        Dan Simmons is my favorite author although this was one of his poorer books. If you like sci-fi you need to read the four books in the Hyperion series. Best ever.

        Simmons jumps genres a lot and when he does he sometimes tries to write a prototypical type of book within the genre. With Darwin's blade I think he was trying to copy a lot of the old mystery type books where it was always P.I.'s who solved the crimes and did all the work.


        • #5
          I'm a big fan of science fiction. That's where I first ran into Simmons. I thought that his science fiction novels were okay but, for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, he just doesn't make my list of favorite authors.

          Usually, I'm fairly tolerant of law enforcement related technical errors. However, Simmons irritated me early in this book. His constant quoting of classic Greek writings, his references to classical music, his repeated use of mathematical formulas, etc. did little to advance the plot. In my opinion, this was just a kind of pseudo-intellectual postering designed to impress the reader with the intelligence of the author. Those portions of the book made for heavy reading while adding little or nothing to the plot.

          Having begun to get slightly irritated over this, it really got to me when he made numerous errors related to police procedures, legal matters, etc. It seemed to me that these errors could have been easily avoided had the author done some simple research. I thought that these errors caused plot problems that would have been avoided if the author wasn't spending so much time trying to seem like a genius.

          Okay, I've got that off my chest (for now anyway).

          Does anyone have book recommendations? I prefer science fiction but will also read horror, mystery, adventure, or even the occasional work of serious fiction it I am desperate enough.


          • #6
            I used to like sci-fi more than I do now, UDog. I grew up reading Heinlen, Silverberg, Sturgeon, Dick, Pohl, Cordwainer Smith, and other writers of the golden age. Few writers seem to work in that style these days. Now and then, I do spot something that reminds me of the old space operas. "Deepness in the Sky" by Vernor Vinge is a nice example. A few of the Niven/Pournelle collaborations also hold the same appeal, even if they are a bit juvenile. Tad Williams' "Otherland" trilogy is a modern sci-fi series that I enjoyed and I've grown fond of the alternative histories of Harry Turtledove, particularly the "World at War" series. "Fox on the Rhine" by Douglas Niles and Michael Dobson is another good entry in that genre. Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" and "American Gods" are difficult to categorize. They remind me of the magical realisn of Borges or Marquez, but more accessible. I liked them both very much.

            Nelson DeMille and Stephen Hunter books have always been a sure thing with me and they both are still going strong.

            Matthew Reilly, an Australian writer, is probably most comparable to Alistair Maclean or Clive Cussler. He has two novels in paperback and they're easily the most action packed books I've ever read. He runs non-stop from beginning to end. It's not exactly great literature but it is fun.

            Dean Koontz is another guilty pleasure. I think he's a terrible writer but an excellent storyteller. I like the way he grounds the fantastic in plausible reality. His similes are execrable and his chewing of the scenery sometimes makes me cringe, but he is nonetheless appealing. He seems to be on the verge of losing my interest with his latest offerings, but I'd still recommend his earlier stuff.

            Carl Hiassen and Tom Dorsey may be the funniest writers I've read within recent memory. Both are worth a try.

            I'm reading "Foucalt's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco right now. It's an impressive literary effort, but it's more incomprehensible than it is engaging. "The Name of the Rose" was much more to my liking.

            Richard Adams isn't all that prolific but his older books are among my favorites. "Watership Down" is a classic anthropomorphic fable and "Traveler" is a civil war tale told from the POV of Robert E. Lee's horse. It's different, to say the least.

            I have an insatiable appetite for books and could go on and on, but since I've probably already become tedious, I'll just end the list here.


            • #7
              How about Douglas Adams and "The Hitcher's Guide to the Galaxy" series?

              It's been a while, and I think I missed a book or two, but they're a hoot!
              Optimistic pessimist: Hope for the best, but expect the worst.


              [email protected]


              • #8
                Thanks for the input. For sheer escapism, I strongly recommend the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, books by Laurell K. Hamilton. There is a lot of action, fast moving plots, and some surprising endings.


                • #9
                  Underdog, I am a huge sci-fi/fantasy reader. Right now I am currently reading the second book of the runelords series by Farland. I have read authors from adams through vancy. I have a extensive collection of books in my personal library. The list of them on a disk takes up 20 pages now. LOL

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