Get beyond your emotional baggage and move Only Forward

Mar 26, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:In the end, a man must put away his emotional scars and move in a a single direction - ONLY FORWARD

Cons:the beginning reads like and average book then takes off - may be too violent for some readers

Hbomb has been telling me to read this book for months. He kept telling me to trust him and that I would enjoy it. It didn't sound like something I would really like so I told him I would read it and forgot about it. He sent me his copy of the book last week and said "Trust me. You will love this book." So, what could I do, I sat down and started to read the book.

A couple of pages into this book and I was hooked. Smith has a writing style that seems almost conversational, which draws you in immediately. Smith delivers the action is a witty, readable, outlandish, non-chalet manner. (I couldn't help thinking of the movie Army of Darkness when I was reading this book... not for content, but delivery style and wit)

The action takes place in a futuristic England where cities and towns have been replaced by Neighborhoods (English spelling - If you don't mind I'll use the American spelling from now on to make it easier for myself.). As Stark explains, cities used to be divided by simple differences like race and creed. People got bored with hating their neighbors. Cities also had problems as a single city covered most of a country. The solution was Neighborhoods. Neighborhoods are self governing, self-regulating states that are free to act and govern as they please. Individuals pick their Neighborhood by finding the hood that matches their tastes and beliefs. Our hero lives in a Neighborhood called Color. The hood of Color has massive computers that rearrange the coloring of walls, streets, and buildings to co-ordinate with the surrounding, including a person's clothing. There are other Neighborhoods like Cat; a neighborhood full of Cats, to enter you must love cats, and Action Center, a neighborhood full of inhabitants with a can-do attitude. Of course, the idea of Neighborhoods is not perfect. As with traditional cities, you may not travel freely from Neighborhood to Neighborhood. If you are from a bad Neighborhood, like Red or Turn, you are stuck in that Neighborhood. Basically, nobody wants you. There are also other Neighborhoods that simply allow no one in and no one out. Our story revolves around one such Neighborhood, Stable. Stable has build walls and a ceiling to prevent no one from getting in. Their inhabitants believe that the world suffered a nuclear war and they are the lone survivors...

Our main character Stark is specialist for hire. If you need anything done, he is your man. He is hired by the Action Center to retrieve one of their top commanders, which they believe has been kidnapped. It's Stark's job to find him and return him to the Center.

Stark narrates the story as he searches for the leader in a number of Neighborhoods, including Red and eventually Stable (where outsiders are killed on sight). The action is quick and the writing is witty. The extremely readable writing style of Smith makes the book almost addictive, forcing you to turn page after page until the wee hours of the night.

I didn't understand, however, why everyone that reads this book is so amazed by. Personally, I thought the writing, plot, characters, the whole package were great... but it didn't seem to offer much beyond a good story. It was action, action, and more action. Then I came to what I thought was the end of the book. Stark had traveled the different Neighborhoods, he found the leader in Stable, escaped from the Neighborhood, and was on his way to return to the Center. Like I said, there was some great action and some witty plot line, but that was it. Worse yet, I was only about 100 pages into the book. What did the author intend to do with the remaining 300 pages? I've heard of lengthy wrap-ups, but that would have been ridiculous.

In Part 2 (and eventually Part 3) Smith really comes alive. It's hard to imagine that the book can become so significantly different, but it does. The plot takes a huge turn in Part 2 of the book. To explain the plot would really ruin the book. This is one of the few books that I think you can really say this about... (It's a little like telling the ending of Sixth Sense. I would still be an enjoyable movie, but you would be missing so much by hearing the ending). Once you think you are back on track again, Part 3 takes an even bigger turn. As you find out, Part I and Part 2 are essentially filler for an action story that turn inward. Its here that Smith begins to really explore the emotional aspects of the story. The plot line and even the writing style change ever so slightly as Smith begins to look at powerful subjects such as guilt, emotions and eventually one's impact on another.

Some readers may be turned off by the violence in the book...



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