Apr 152016

The Devil’s Eye, by Jack McDevittdevils eye

Synopsis: After visiting a distant colony on vacation, a famous author commits suicide, but not before sending an obscene sum of money to a wealthy antique dealer so he’ll investigate why.

Book Review: I think McDevitt phoned this one in. I strained to find any sort of emotion, or any reason to care about the characters or plot. Eventually I was defeated, before I’d even made it halfway through the book.

The characters were dull. Their dialog was stilted and not believable. No one had any real motivation to do anything. After a fascinating prologue, the book lapses into a boring travelogue of tourist traps. I really just couldn’t find any reason to care about anything that was happening. It felt like McDevitt had come up with an interesting plot and forgot to put people in it.

A person much wealthier than you, who you’ve never met, commits suicide and gives you lots of money. OK, great. I can see being curious as to why. But that doesn’t grab me as compelling. I, as the reader, have no reason to care. The rich person could have been a relative of the protagonist, or a friend, or a jilted lover. There’s a thousand ways to put in some sort of emotional hook to compel action. None were used.

Interestingly, this also made the occasional action scenes very boring. I don’t have anything invested in the protagonist, so I don’t really care if she wins or loses, or what is at stake. Even if she were to die, I wouldn’t be particularly upset, because she’s just a thing to move the plot forward, she’s interchangeable with anyone else willing to take orders from her boss.

The book did make me wonder if I’ve become a calloused misanthrope. I don’t recall clearly, but I think I used to be the type of person who would pick up a book and instantly identify with the protagonist simply because she was telling the story. Events were intrinsically interesting, because they were happening to the person talking. I cared if they were in danger, because danger is dangerous! When did I start needing to have a reason to care about people? Am I that jaded now? Or did I simply have the good fortune before to only pick up well-written books that snared my interest so skillfully that I didn’t notice it happening? My reading choices used to pass through two layers of filters – first a publisher, then the librarians at my neighborhood branch – so maybe I really only did get the good things. Now that the entire world is available to me, Sturgeon’s Law kicks in, and I think my inability to empathize is a flaw in my emotional processes rather than a flaw in the art I’m consuming.

OTOH, kids have no taste. Maybe this inability to empathize is more a refining of taste, rather than a flaw in my emotions? I dunno.

Of course none of this has anything to do with the novel, I just didn’t have anything else to say about it, because I found it so dull. Back on topic – Not Recommended.

Book Club Review: I feel there could have been a lot to talk about here, the idea behind the story was pretty neat. But since McDevitt failed to emotionally engage most of the book club, we didn’t engage with his idea either. We ended up talking about other things much of the evening. Not Recommended.

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