Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Simple Genius

Among the two series recently started by David Baldacci, I definitely prefer the teaming of Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. Two books(Split Second and Hour Game) old, they have become a familiar team now, always there for each other. They are interesting as always in Simple Genius places the novel them in the middle of a plot that starts off interestingly but then veers into the ridiculous.

For a while Sean King is on his own as he investigates an apparent suicide in Camp Peary, a secretive CIA area. Across the river from Camp Peary is Babbage Town, a places filled with geniuses who are working on a scientific discovery "that could stop the world dead in its tracks". Monk Turing, the man found dead in Camp Peary, is a scientist from Babbage Town. Meanwhile, Michelle checks herself into a psychiatric facility and uncovers some wrongdoings there before checking herself out and joining Sean. But Horatio, her psychiatrist, isn't convinced that she is completely alright. So he jumps at the chance when Sean asks him to come to Babbage Town to work with Viggie, Monk Turing's autistic daughter.

We learn a little bit more about Michelle as the book starts off with her death wish and then takes us along as the psychiatrist tries to understand the reason behind it. Her stint at the hospital eventually turns out to be the most interesting part of the book since it is somewhat grounded in reality and the things she uncovers don't turn out to be anti-climactic. The secrets in her past are also fed to us in bits and pieces and her condition makes sense when they are finally revealed.

Sean's investigation at Babbage Town also starts off interestingly and with the CIA involved, Baldacci is on familiar ground. The science parts of the book remind us of a few other books but Baldacci wisely doesn't delve too much into the details(as he himself mentions in the epilogue) and so the story doesn't get bogged down. The addition of the autistic kid allows Baldacci to stretch the story out since she reveals information only when she feels like it. But the bonding between Michelle and her is developed well.

Baldacci's books have always been a little far-fetched(his first book Absolute Power opened with a thief watching the President kill a woman with his bare hands!) but he takes things too far here. The plot veers off in a bunch of different directions towards the end as the book, after dealing with secret codes and POWs, brings in plot points like buried treasure and drugs. The twists seem forced and don't evoke any interest. A lot of interesting issues(like the whole "Codes and Blood" phrase) are brought up but their resolutions are simplistic and disappointing and are usually achieved by unbelievable leaps of intuition.

Baldacci better stick to Washington D.C and American politics!


At 6:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bb, you should read Forsyth's latest, The Afghan. Definitely better than most similar themed books out there. I recently re-read the Day of the Jackal and was still amazed at how great a read that was when compared to a lot of fiction that is published these days...

At 6:53 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

I almost picked up the book the other day. After reading this, will wait for the free (library) version I guess.

Is he running out of steam?

At 7:42 AM, Blogger VThinkTank said...



At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it has had an UK release yet sadly, :-|

Anway, has anyone read Derailed by James Siegel, recently made as Pachaikili Muthucharam by Gautham Vasudeva Menon.

At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bb, i am always curious abt your take on suspension of disbelief...in some movie reviews ("Anniyan" springs to mind), I've noticed that u are okay with the Director stretching the limits of credulity as long as there is style. as u know, i am not an avid reader. but i'm curious as to what can cover up the lack of realism in a story? pace? as in, is a racy narration enough to get u hooked to a novel irrespective of u having to suspend disbelief...?
as an avid movie goer, i find myself drawn into dramas (even if the pace is slow, as in rhythm or more recently, the namesake) as long as the characters and the situations do a good job of drawing me in...

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The book is so bad that I left it in the plane. Come on Baldacci you can do better !

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

anon, can't remember the last forsyth book that i read. i usually don't read world war/spy novels. but no arguments on 'day of the jackal'. terrific read and brilliantly suspenseful :)

munimma, definitely not a book to own. and lets hope this was a blip and he's not out of steam yet :)

prin, don't worry. u haven't missed much!

knew about the book 'derailed' only when the movie was released. and naturally, didn't wanna try the book since i knew i would see the movie :) u've read it? any comments vis-a-vis the movie?

ram, thats something i've asked myself several times. and i think a bunch of things that come together to make suspension of disbelief easier. with respect to movies i guess the 2 most important would be the pace and the style. the same 2 work for books too - pace and writing/narrative style. dan brown's 'deception point' is my favorite example of a book that made suspension of disbelief easy.

reema, lets hope he does do better next time :)

At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you read "A Planet for the President"?!! It is one of the most brilliant satires I have read. The book actually came out sometime in 2004 and a lot of the things predicted in the book, esp abt climate changes/effects have eerily happened since then (most notably Katrina!!). The book is an easy and quick read as well.


At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derailed went on, while as PKMS stopped short. Parts of Derailed seemed classy anhumerous from the villain's side while PKMS didn't. However Derailed was too western to make a tamil film!

At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But hasnt that always been the case with baldacci? I've always though that he knows how to set things up very nicely, takes us on a nice complicated ride, but at the very end, simplifies the answer so much that you lose the thrill of the ride... have felt that about a few movies too... untangling the knots becomes too difficult ....felt the same thing abt absolute power, the very end is so straight forward.. not at all like a thriller..



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