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There has been a lot of negativity surrounding Flashback, and most of it centers around Dan Simmons’ right wing politics. There’s so much negativity, in fact, that I hesitated before buying and went on to read a few more reviews. In the end I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but for the author who gave the world the Hyperion/ Endymion story-- among the finest works of science fiction in the last thirty years--I would forgive much. I decided to give it a try.
I am glad I did. Simmons is at his best when he finds his voice in a haunting tale of personal struggle amidst a larger struggle. The dialogue is often brisk, well-read, philosophical, and reflective. The setting is somewhat cyber punk in the sense of high technology and low people, but somehow more mournful and sad than what typically defines cyber punk.
There is no question that Simmons’ far right wing politics set the stage for the story, and critics who have alleged that he’s personally gone off the deep end may well be correct. My answer to this is “so what”? What does it say about us as readers if we are only able to read books that reinforce all of our political positions and lash out at those that push us-- even if they push us with new points of view. It is perhaps reflective of our partisan political era where each side writes books only for their followers, makes news channels only for the loyal, and each side makes sure the battle lines are all clear. This is an absurd standard to judge fiction by. I am not a prince of Denmark, I am not a boy with a run away slave, I am not a pirate, a space marine, or a horse deciding whether to vote for the full manager or the three day week but I have lived these tales. Books are about considering new perspectives and challenging ourselves, not weeding out anything that doesn’t reinforce our ever narrowing vision of the world.
Read Flashback because it is a great work of science fiction. Read it to be challenged, read it to see how the other side thinks, read it to see your own politics in action, read it to learn, but most of all read it because it is the work of a 65 year-old master of the craft who may have too few books left. Read it because it is fantastic.
17 of 19 people found this review helpful
You know I read all of the other reviewers' warnings about the political stuff in this book before I decided to buy it. I thought maybe the reviewers were just being overly sensitive. The premise of the book sounded really interesting, and I've enjoyed other books by Simmons in the past. (Although I thought DROOD was a total snore.)
Seriously, I could not get through a third of this book. The political nonsense in here is ridiculously heavy handed, xenophobic, borderline racist and just largely unnecessary to the story. Its so similar to the problems with Tom Clancy's latest book, you have to wonder if Simmons and Clancy are hanging out together in tea party chatrooms or something.
I would argue that even the most ardent Republican reading this book would stop and say WTF??? Did I really just read five pages complaining about Obama's rally in Denver and what did that have to do with this cop trying to solve a murder??? Then again, who knows. Maybe there is an audience of people who will listen to this book and nod to themselves that they knew all along the native American and Mexicans infiltrating our universities would lead to the collapse of the US and people would one day be openly celebrating 9/11 as a holiday in Los Angeles.
Yeah seriously. That stuff is in this book.
Last Dan Simmons book I will ever waste my money on.
36 of 47 people found this review helpful