Friday, October 12, 2007

Darwin's Blade -- Dan Simmons

I'm in awe of Dan Simmons. He writes really long books of the sort I'd never dare attempt, he writes complex series and standalones, and he writes in several genres. When he wants to, he writes lean thrillers like Hard as Nails. In other words, he can do just about anything.

Darwin's Blade is a thriller, but it's not lean. It's long, and it's filled with all kinds of research and ancedotes relevant to accident investigation. If you're interested in accidents, particularly auto accidents, this is your kind of book. Darwin Minor is the protagonist, and he's an ace investigator. It turns out that he has a past (no surprise there), and the book morphs into a sort of Bob Lee Swagger novel. If Simmons and Stephen Hunter sat down to talk, they could go on about guns and ammo for, at a rough guess, thirty-seven years without repeating themselves. There are a couple of set-pieces in the novel that Hunter would surely admire.

The plot has to do with the Russian mob taking over the fake car accident scams in California, and it didn't really make a lot of sense to me. Apparently the Russians just kill people for the hell of it. Or something. Anyway, they have to be stopped, and Minor, along with the FBI and a bunch of task forces, is up to the job. Some might find the book outrageously padded (we even get mathematical formulae), but it's entertaining all the way. The ending is clearly a set-up for a sequel, but as far as I know, there hasn't been one.


Gerard said...

Guns like Stephen Hunter? I immediately grabbed that book off the library shelf!

Craig Zablo said...

Yeah, I'm a fan of Simmons myself. Started with the Kurtz novels and then moved into other areas with him. I have his The Terror in my TBR pile. Darwin's Blade was good stuff and unfortunately no sequel... yet.

Gerard said...

Oh, that's the same Simmons as "The Terror"? I'm listening to that on audio, it is very good.

Howard said...

This was the first Simmons that I read (picked it up on a clearance table)...that lead me to Hard as Nails and the rest of his stuff.

I agree that he seems to have a very wide range as a writer. I even enjoy his horror stuff, a genre that I read very little in.

The Terror is close to a masterpiece.

viking13 said...

Darwin's Blade is my first Simmons novel, picked out of a shrinking pool at my (small)local library.

I enjoyed the book immensely, with a couple of reservations. The author continuously mixed Imperial (what he called "English") and SI (metric) units, which got a little confusing, even for Dar and Syd! Understandable perhaps, Darwin is a scientist living and working in a country using archaic units of measurement.

The "gun talk" was fascinating, and Simmons seemed to know his stuff- except that he talks of a .748 Winchester, which as far as I know doesn't exist (he may have been confused with Winchester 748 smokeless powder). Bear in mind that the .748 refers to inches and a "50 cal" is half an inch, and at the extreme upper limit of what a human can shoulder fire. At one stage Simmons calls a cartridge case a "bullet", which is a mistake an ignorant tabloid journalist might make, and hopefully not too often by an educated novelist.

Bill Crider said...

That last is a fairly common blunder.

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