Friday, January 21, 2011

Review : The Eighth Day by Tom Avitabile a.k.a, Pseudo-scientific Conspiracy Theory Thriller

The Eighth Day by Tom Avitabile

A chemical engineer sets in motion a horrendous explosion killing hundreds of commuters and himself. Hollywood's hottest sex symbol assasinates a sitting Senator. A  grandmother stages a sophisticated attack on a train causing massive damage. An airplane full of Silicon Valley's brightest is blown up while refuelling. A series of deadly, unrelated events or the unlikely start of an insidious terror network? As Science Advisor to the President, William "Wild Bill" Hiccock is tasked with assembling a team to identify and stop the threat, whether homegrown or foreign. His team- a retired Navy Admiral, a wise-guy computer hacker sprung from federal prison, and his ex-wife, a leading behavioural psychologist- must identify and destroy their elusive adversary who always seems to be a step ahead. 
"And on the eighth day, man created life." 

I should probably rethink including summaries from now on, but since it's already been typed out, onwards ho!Attempting to be as spoiler free as possible, so these are my general thoughts.

And so we have the basic groundwork of what is bound to be an exciting thriller novel. The concept isn't new; a terrifying terrorist network threatening the US of A's very existence, leaving a bloody mess in its wake, and it's up to a brilliant scientist plus his ragtag team of ridiculously talented misfits to save the day.

First the pros:
  1. Always brilliant to see an author who clearly knows his stuff, or at least has done his research on all things spanning Science, computers, politics and the military.
  2. Clear, engaging style, probably carried on from his television writing career.
  3. Some clever ideas and interesting ideas, particularly about the human brain.

Now herein lies the problem. For every pro he has, there are about 2-3 flaws with this book I can pick out.

Avitable has a serious case of being too detailed. Usually I enjoy it when the author takes the time to lovingly describe all the little details, and usually, the lends a layer of believability to the narrative and really immerses you in their world. In this instance, unless you are actually familiar with hydrogen chemistry or have a good grasp of computer terminology, it is likely to fly over your head like a G6. Most times, it just feels like he's spewing out info just to show that he can. Inevitably what seems to be an intelligent piece of detective work mostly feels contrived because you just don't understand how he got from point A to B.

Ironically, even though the non-living elements are so wonderfully rich and alive, the same can't be said for his characters, with the exception of one or two. William "Wild Bill" Hiccock is the classic case of a Gary Stu. He's too freakishly perfect, too flawless, and as interesting as a piece of tissue. I'm not saying that a character needs to be flawed to engaging, but he lacks strong characterisation to be a convincing enough male lead. Maybe its because he's been so clearly delineated and defined as just being the quarterback. He doesn't show any character development, and isn't that one of the driving forces of any good novel?

I want to say that the side characters, Admiral Parks and Kronos were more interesting than he was, but even then, they just play out their roles of hacker-turned criminal-turned liberated hacker and gutsy old soldier and are little more than side attractions. Again, Avitable uses them to flex his computer knowledge with, but most of the time it sounds like gibberish, and doesn't really contribute much to the plot. And for goodness sakes, is it necessary to have a love angle in the story? I'm looking at you Janice Tyler. You could have done so much better than him,sigh.

The twists don't feel like twists and there were times where I felt like I was simply skimming the book as opposed to really reading it. And the end... just derailed from pure plausibility and logic to downright science fiction. After pacing through 3/4's of intelligently plotted realistic story to a supercomputer which can self-propagate and is who single-handedly orchestrated the whole thing?*highlight for spoilers* 

Call me a spoilsport, but that just seems like a giant copout. I suppose the way he steered it, it couldn't have happened any other way, but I was really hoping for a devilishly creative ending that would blow my shoes off.

On the other hand though, Avitable is really good at creating tension. You really can't wait to find out what sort of monstrosities he is waiting to unleash on the Red Shirts of America, nyaahhahha. I really did appreciate the sort of story he was trying to create, to try to warn us from becoming too dependent on technology and the chilling ways it can be manipulated to cause harm. Surprisingly, Avitable cooks up a great political yarn. As, and I quote, the U.S. Ambassador Micheal Skol's says, " Frightening realistic. Most of Washington really works this way. Homeland Security had better read this one and take corrective action." Yea, it was that convincing.

I also have to give him props for creating a President character who's not too despicable but is admirable in his own way. And Dennis Mallory! Cannot forget Dennis Mallory! 


Not too impressed by the characters ( they're meant to be the driving force of the story! Not dead weight!). Good writing and interesting ideas which never really paid off. Still, a good way to pass the time for a few hours. Apparently he's working on the next Hiccock novel at the moment (maybe it'll fix that niggling problem of characterisation). No. Thanks. I'd rather read more about the ex-President.


1 comment:

  1. Just finished the book. All-in-all, a good read. I completely agree that the author spent too much time "down in the weeds" with the technica. It's better to make the declaration and let the reader go look it up if they believe the statement is not true. There were several instances of just plain blowing it factually, and unbelievable premises in the book. first example, a "25 caliber revolver" taped under a table. The only 25 caliber cartridge for a revolver would have been the .25 stevens (1897). The only current 25 cal. cartridge is the .25ACP, which is used in an autoloading pistol. That cartridge is incredibly weak, and I could say that no-one who intended to assasinate someone would think of using a gun in that caliber. A .380 (James Bond's gun for the first several films) would be about the minimum. That's just the first of a book strewn with little boo-boos like that.

    The most difficult thing to swallow, was the President of the U.S. galavanting around in Marine One, actively participating in the finnally. Maybe if Janice was his daughter or something, but come-on, really? I couldn't even imagine George Bush the cowboy taking an active roll in something like that. It just doesn't work.

    A couple of plot elements seemed familiar to me.

    i, Robot: Computer becomes self aware and wants to control us for our own good, or not.
    Independence Day: Press Secretary and hero are divoced, but obviously love each other.
    Halloween III, or some other number: Kids are hipnotized by flashing subliminal messages embedded in halloween mask company's television commercials, and programmed to kill the adults. Just say'in.

    I give it 3/5. Certainly good enough to keep you interested, although it was very disjointed in the beginning. It took about 60 pages to get the hook sunk in, and that's about my limit.