Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Talbot Odyssey

The Talbot Odyssey by Nelson DeMille was the final book I had selected for my trip to South Africa. I know I can always count on a DeMille novel in case any of the others weren't keeping me going. This is also the one I read in two parts, the first 3/4ths on the 18 hour plane ride back home (plus connection times and airport waiting times), and the last 1/4th after completing the prior novel. If that isn't clear as mud then you haven't been paying attention.

Nelson DeMille novels, as I mentioned, are always at least good, if not great. I can count on them to be a good read and they can hold my attention despite distractions such as nearby conversations, people constantly walking by in airport waiting areas, and the horrible current trend of bluetooth cell phone overuse, especially by people who don't realize, or don't care that there are 50 people listening to their private conversations. But I digress.

This novel is a fairly early DeMille, about the 4th of his bigger publications. He had several novels published before he hit it big, some of them under pseudonyms. This one was first published in 1984 and is essentially a Cold War era spy novel. "Talbot" is the code name of a deep cover Soviet mole in the US. There are a handful of point-of-view characters who attempt to flush him out (or activate him, depending on what side they are on). This was written and takes place way before 9/11 obviously so the nature of the terrorism involved is quite different than we might think of today. This time, unless stopped, a satelite will set off a nuclear blast above Omaha, Nebraska, transmitting an electronic pulse (EMP) which would destroy the US' electronic infrastructure (phones, radios, etc.) and also preventing a nuclear response.

The book was, frankly, not one of DeMille's best. I would still call it "good" and I enjoyed reading it but it was not without flaws. Lots of main characters compete for the reader's attention making it hard to identify the main protagonist. Once I did, I wanted to hear more from his point of view but kept getting shuffled off to other characters. DeMille does spend time in most of his books on character development but there just seemed to be too many characters to really identify who was important. During the climactic scenes at the end, several of the good guys get killed but I really didn't care because I hadn't come to know them well.

Still, this is worth the time to read and enjoy, especially for fans of Cold War politics and themes. I believe this is the 7th DeMille novel I've read so far and I plan to read them all. I include him as one of "my" authors on the left column of this blog and I probably tend to be more critical of "my" authors than others. I'm not sure why, other than I feel like I know them personally and I expect a lot from them. I must also add that Nelson DeMille's newsletter is among the funniest I've ever read; his sense of humor is fantastic. His more recent novels tend to incorporate that humor more than his earlier works, usually in the form of a wise-cracking protagonist. I saw evidence of that in this book as well, with the protagonist cop, Tony Abrams having quite a few witty remarks to his associates. With DeMille's trend of writing sequels to many of his novels, and hinting that they are all related in the same "DeMille Universe" I can't help wondering if there might be a sequel to this book as well, featuring Mr Abrams. We'll see.

Now it's back to new, non-trip material. I plan to read a young adult novel next but haven't yet selected the title. Stay tuned...

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire