Nonbelieving Literati: Not the End of the World  

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Almost from the beginning this book reminded me of Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. The themes were similar. My problem with Snow Crash was that the characters were two-dimensional and were always the best at whatever they did. Hiro was the best hacker, YT was the best Kourier, Juanita was the best at expressions, Raven was the best badass, etc. In Not the End of the World, the characters are divided into the good guys (atheists) and the bad guys (Christians) or heroes and sheep. And other than a few brief stereotypes, that's all you get in the story.

The book would have been better overall if the characters had been more real - in my opinion anyway. But then I tend to go for more realism these days in the world of fantasy, which is in its own way a dichotomy. I find more and more that the stories I read moves the characters along too fortuitously, but maybe I'm just nit picking.

Not the End of the World shared not just the same two dimensionalism of characters with Snow Crash, but the same theme. A loony man seeks to take over the world by causing an apocalypse. But Snow Crash gave me something to think about afterwards.

My issues with Not the End of the World started with Maddy's sacrifice. There's no way that the police would go along with it (unless it was going to be fake from the beginning). There's no way that the public at large would believe that they would. The bomber was left with a perfect scenario that was far, far from perfect. I just couldn't continue to buy the book after that scenario unfolded. As much as I liked Maddy, and to some extent Steff, I couldn't see them as heroes. It was like setting up a cardboard cutout and expecting me to believe they were actors in a play.

But there were some fun interjections by the author throughout the book that made it readable. And while his caricatures largely ruined the book for me, I think there was potential for a good story in there. And I'm not too unhappy about the atheists saving the day.

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11 comments: to “ Nonbelieving Literati: Not the End of the World

  • The Exterminator
    Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 10:55:00 AM CDT  

    This post states my opinion to a T.

    When I read a novel, I'd like the characters to seem alive. If I want cardboard, two-dimensional characters, I can always just follow the presidential race.

  • Lifeguard
    Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 11:00:00 AM CDT  

    Righto, OG.

    I almost got the feeling throughout the book that Brookmyre was treating the story and the characters as his own version of payback against theists.

    It just came off as kind of contrived.

  • the chaplain
    Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 1:00:00 PM CDT  

    Exterminator, Lifeguard and I have all posted our responses to this book. They pretty much line up with yours.

  • John Evo
    Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 1:44:00 PM CDT  

    See, OG got NICE towards the end of her post the way I usually do! I just couldn't bring myself to point out that Brookmyre actually DID make a handful of good side points about the absurdity of religion and the strength of the atheistic world view. Those were just too few and far between, and were totally lost in the larger context of a poorly crafted action novel.

  • The Ridger, FCD
    Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 2:02:00 PM CDT  

    When I read a novel I don't always want realism. I want more than realism - that's why I'm reading. Stylized characters and over-the-top situations work if I know that's what I'm getting and if the author has something to say with them, which I think Brookmyre did. (it's about lying for Jesus, I think)

    Also the rest of his books are set in the UK (except one in Europe), and maybe he works better where he's at home and I'm not.

    At any rate, I'm sorry my choice was such a near-universal failure.

  • Ordinary Girl
    Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 2:06:00 PM CDT  

    Bah, no choice is a failure, ridger. Come on, people really hated my choice too. It's the discussion that's important, right?

    I haven't read anyone else's yet, but I look forward to reading all the opinions later today.

    And yeah, I admit that my obsession with realistic characters is probably an issue. I've pointed it out with almost every reading selection so far. But I can't seem to help it.

  • Spanish Inquisitor
    Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 5:30:00 PM CDT  

    I haven't read them all yet either, but so far I'm surprised that no one has said "The book sucks, but I hope it sells a lot of copies. We need to get the attitude that atheists are the good guys to permeate society more, and when mainstream thrillers do it, it's a good thing."

  • C. L. Hanson
    Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 3:08:00 AM CDT  

    S.I.: I agree it's great to see atheist heroes go mainstream. Of course it works that much better if the book is good and people like it, but still it's good that the nonbelieving literati are out there discussing a variety of different atheistic books.

    On that note, to those of you who have a physical copy of this book: Could you look around the front/back matter for some sort of acknowledgements and tell me if it lists who his agent is?

  • The Exterminator
    Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 3:34:00 PM CDT  

    Few books list literary agents, unless they're specifically acknowledged by the author.

    Why don't you just search for "Christopher Brookmyre literary agent" or some such string?

  • The Ridger, FCD
    Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 6:33:00 PM CDT  

    His web site merely lists Little, Brown (his publishers).

  • John Evo
    Monday, March 17, 2008 at 9:43:00 PM CDT  

    Mine is Little Brown Jug.


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