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Read Only if You Have Time to Kill
I am a Caleb Carr fan. His turn-of-the-century New York thrillers "The Alienist" and "Dark Angel" are marvelously inventive, fast-paced and suspenseful, and populated with fascinating fictional characters interacting with real historic figures in intriguing ways. But "Killing Time" has little of the magic that makes his other novels so enormously entertaining.
Directly derivative of Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "Killing Time" has its own messianic Captain Nemo in Malcom Tressalian, the crippled son of the "inventor" of the information age who pilots a huge aircraft (called, a la Verne, a "vessel," complete with wood paneled rooms), through a dystopian world of the near future..
The plot is fantastically implausible, as Tressalian and his crew attempt to show the world that it is being deceived by the "money interests" by perpetrating elaborate internet hoaxes that have horrendous unintended consequences. The mission is so vague in its methodology as to be all but incomprehensible, and the awful outcomes seem to baffle even the resident genius, who at last concludes that people are just too dumb to recognize a good hoax when they see one.
As with Verne, a member of the the crew, psychiatrist Gideon Wolfe, serves as narrator, speaking in 2023 in that stilted Victorian style of 1898, and joining the others in wreaking havoc around the world in the name of saving it from itself.
The title, "Killing Time," refers to an attempt by Tressalian to go back in time to change everything. The ambiguous ending -- some things are better, but maybe some things are worse -- leaves us as puzzled as we were at the beginning.
Caleb Carr is wonderfully talented, but his attempt at social engineering through hoaxes and time travel makes "Killing Time" pretty much a waste of time. Where was Snopes.com in all of this?
I had a hard time following the logic used in the book..It is a rant against capitalism (and what he calls communo-capitalism). His doomsday scenarios were all blamed on conumerism and capitalism which made no sense at all. The book was very illogical, the "good" characters in the book were completely unlikeable. I'm about 90% of the way throught the book and I have to force myself to finish it.
A comment on 'Killing Time'
I love Caleb Carr's ability to combine historical fact with compelling stories while offering insight to our times, our nature and our role in the world's chronology. I feel he does this in 'Killing Time' while also cleaning up his tendancy to make his characters talk too much or at a level of sophistication that is beyond their ability.
Killing Time is a good, but fast, read that, given the subject matter that Carr tries to deal with, could stand to be longer. Personally, I would have patiently read through at least 200-300 more pages in order to have this plot, and Carr's comments on our world, expanded with more depth.
I do, however, feel that Carr's insight, in this book, is characteristically sharp. He brought up many points, and made many comments, that have given me something interesting to think about and discuss with those around me.
Not bad, Caleb...but, as a reader, I like you better when you take your time and say your piece at your leisure. Quality can't be rushed!
This book is bad on so many levels, I find it difficult to know where to begin. It reads as an attempt to write science fiction by someone who never reads it, and is regrettably edited and reviewed by many of the same people. The perils of reliance on inherently unreliable, yet ubiquitous, sources of information such as the internet are discussed and explored with far more insight and wit by such authors as Neil Stephenson, William Gibson and John Kessel. The back-cover blurb citing Carr as establishing "a new genre--future history" is a gross misrepresentation which conveniently dismisses the entire field of futuristic speculative fiction. Carr strikes me as having decided that reading science fiction himself would be a waste of his time, as he can no doubt do it much better than those hacks. (If I am wrong and he has read in the field, then he has absolutely no excuse for foisting this piece of drivel upon the reading public, other than the venal desire of himself and/or his publisher to make as much money off the success of his first (admittedly enjoyable) novel as possible.)
Carr's characters are laughably two-dimensional, his science on a discovery-channel commercial level (apparently electromagnetism is a miraculous force, which would enable us to do *anything* provided we have good enough superconductors), his plot thready and inconsistent, his action reduced to comic-book simplicity (which may be unfair to today's more subtle artists working in the genre), and his insights trite and unconvincing. I found myself hearing the voice of Niles Crane from "Frazier" in my head as I read this first-person narrative, and I couldn't shake it. The amusement factor of reading selections aloud to friends made it worth the fifty cents I paid for it, but that is the only value I can find in it. All in all, I recommend against this book on every level, and can only hope that Mr. Carr can return to the past, where he seems much more at home.
Picked the book up at a used book sale . . . glad I didn't pay full price! The book is simplistic and at times the chonology is laughable. I really wonder if Carr wrote this book . . . it just doesn't read like any of his other works. The ideas were interesting, but not very well fleshed out. I found his constant and pervasive allusions and references to just about every historic, somewhat-historic and yet-to-be-historic event over the past 20 years trite and disingenuous. It was kind of like sitting at a dinner party and listening to someone "name-drop" incessantly. Can't recommend the book.
This book was good
Ditto to the earlier message. The concept is interesting, as Carr's concepts always are, but the delivery was flat. The characters (especially the love relationship) were never built up, I didn't really care about any of them. It did have action in sections that was gripping, but overall I was very disappointed after LOVING the Alienist and appreciating Angel of Darkness.