Darwin's Bladeby Dan Simmons
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"A literary thriller like no other...A hard-charging, edge-of-the-seat tale." -Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Darwin Minor travels a dangerous road. A Vietnam veteran turned reluctant expert on interpreting the wreckage of fatal accidents, Darwin uses science and instinct to unravel the real causes of unnatural disasters. He is very, very good at his job. His latest case promises to be his most challenging yet. A spate of seemingly random high-speed car accidents has struck the highways of southern California. Each seems to have been staged-yet the participants have all died. Why would anyone commit fraud at the cost of his own life? The deeper Darwin digs, the closer he comes to unmasking an international network specializing in intimidation and murder, whose members will do anything to make sure Darwin soon suffers a deadly accident of his own.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Spellbinding... [A] gripping suspense thriller... A breezy writing style, rollicking humor, and ingenious descriptions of weird accidents make this action-packed thriller a real winner."
Alternately hilarious and suspenseful... Simmons is not one to disappoint... [His] readers already know that he will keep them on the edges of their seats; that his gift for descriptive writing will make them feel as if they are right there; and that he will make them feel as if they are old friends (or enemies) with his characters. This time, though, they may be surprised to find themselves laughing out loud while reading this tale... Another tasty treat from Mr. Simmons. Savor it."
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Harrowing... Not since J.G. Ballard's Crash have automobile wrecks been so compelling... Simmons throws a light on a whole new murky subculture for thriller fans... [He] has mastered whatever genre he's chosen to write in... With a simple, unadorned style backed up by massive amounts of research, intricate plotting, and well-rounded characters, he isn't hemmed in by formulas."
San Antonio Express-News
This is an exciting novel, full of shootouts, computer-aided investigations, duplicity, and humor. The humor... [is] the black kind, common to cops, reporters, and accident investigatorswhere you laugh to keep from crying."
A smart, well-researched thriller."
A born storyteller... Simmons has over the last decade repeatedly shown himself to be one of the most versatile, intelligent, and unpredictable novelists around."
One of America's finest writers... Dan Simmons is, in many ways, the reincarnation of Robert Louis Stevenson."
Des Moines Sunday Register
[A] high-tech, high-voltage action thriller. Offering an appealing hero and heroine, deadly villains, zippy dialogue, and high-tech weaponry and expertise, this is, most of all, a hair-raising adventure to satisfy the most discriminating reader."
If Donald Westlake, John Irving, and Robert Parker had sat down to collaborate on a novel, DARWIN'S BLADE would have been the aftermath... [Simmons] manages to juggle tragedy and comedy with uncommon skill... This off-beat thriller will have readers wondering whether to laugh or cry in their headlong rush to see how it all ends."
A strong, thoroughly intelligent novel welcome relief from thrillers that offer nothing more than action scenes strung together... Don't be surprised if you come away from this book with what might appear to be an unhealthy interest in accidents."
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Read an Excerpt
"A is for Hole"
The Phone Rang a few minutes after four in the morning. "You like accidents, Dar. You owe it to yourself to comesee this one."
"I don't like accidents," said Dar. He did not ask who was calling. He recognized Paul Cameron's voice even though he and Cameron had not been in touch for over a year. Cameron was a CHP officer working out of Palm springs.
"All right, then," said Cameron, "You like puzzles."
Dar swiveled to read his clock. "Not at four-oh-eight A.M.," he said.
"This one's worth it." The connection sounded hollow, as if it were a radio patch or a cell phone.
"Montezuma Valley Road," said Cameron. "Just a mile inside the canyon, where S22 comes out of the hills into the desert."
"Jesus Christ," muttered Dar. "You're talking Borrego Springs. It would take me more than ninety minutes to get there."
"Not if you drive your black car," said Cameron, his chuckle blending with the rasp and static of the poor connection.
"What kind of accident would bring me almost all the way to Borrego Springs before breakfast?" said Dar, sitting up now. "Multiple vehicle?"
"We don't know," said Officer Cameron. His voice still sounded amused.
"What do you mean you don't know? Don't you have anyone at the scene yet?"
"I'm calling from the scene," said Cameron through the static.
"And you can't tell how many vehicles were involved?" Dar found himself wishing that he had a cigarette in the drawer of his bedside table. He had given up smoking ten years earlier, just after the death of hiswife, but he still got the craving at odd times.
"We can't even ascertain beyond a reasonable doubt what kind of vehicle or vehicles was or were involved," said Cameron, his voice taking on that official, strained-syntax, preliterate lilt that cops used when speaking in their official capacity.
"You mean what make?" said Dar. He rubbed his chin, heard the sandpaper scratch there, and shook his head. He had seen plenty of high-speed vehicular accidents where the make and model of the car were not immediately apparent. Especially at night.
"I mean we don't know if this is a car, more than one car, a plane or a fucking UFO crash," said Cameron. "If you don't see this one Darwin, you'll regret it for the rest of your days."
"What do you..." Dar began, and stopped. Cameron had broken the connection. Dar swung his legs over the edge of the bed, looked out at the dark beyond the glass of his tall condo windows, muttered, "Shit," and got up to take a fast shower.
It took him two minutes less than an hour to drive there from San Diego, pushing the Acura NSX hard through the canyon turns, slamming it into high gear on the long straights, and leaving the radar detector in the tiny glove compartment because he assumed that all of the highway patrol cars working S22 would be at the scene of the accident. It was paling toward sunrise as he began the long 6-percent grade, four-thousand-foot descent past Ranchita toward Borrega Springs and the Anza-Borrega Desert.One of the problems with being an accident reconstruction specialist, Dar was thinking as he shifted the NSX into third and took a decreasing radius turn effortlessly, with only the throaty purr of the exhaust marking the deceleration and then the shift back up to speed, is that almost every mile of every damned highway holds the memory of someone's fatal stupidity. The NSX roared up a low rise in the predawn glow and then growled down the long, twisty descent into the canyon some miles below.
There, thought Dar, glancing quickly at an unremarkable stretch of old single-height guardrail set on wooden posts flashing past on the outside of a tight turn. Right there.
A little more than five years ago, Dar had arrived at that point only thirty-five minutes after a school bus had struck that stretch of old guardrail, scraped along it for more than sixty feet, and plunged over the embankment, rolled three times down the steep, boulder-strewn hillside, and had come to rest on its side, with its shattered roof in the narrow stream below. The bus had been owned by the Desert Springs School District and was returning from an "Eco-Week" overnight camping trip in the mountains, carrying forty-one sixth-grade students and two teachers. When Dar arrived, ambulances and Flight-For-Life helicopters were still carrying off seriously injured children, a mob of rescue workers was handing litters hand over hand up the rocky slope, and yellow plastic tarps covered at least three small bodies on the rocks below. When the final tally came in, six children and one teacher were dead, twenty-four students were seriously injured including one boy who would be a paraplegic for the rest of his life and the bus driver received cuts, bruises, and a broken left arm.
Dar was working for the NTS13 then it was the year before he quit the National Transportation Safety Board to go to work as an independent accident reconstruction specialist. That time the call came to his condo in Palm Springs.
For days after the accident, Dar watched the media coverage of the "terrible tragedy." The L.A. television stations and newspapers had decided early on that the bus driver was a heroine and their coverage reflected that stance. The driver's postcrash interview and other eyewitness testimony, including that of the teacher who had been sitting directly behind one of the children who had perished, certainly suggested as much. All agreed that the brakes had failed about one mile after the bus began its long, steep descent. The driver, a forty-one-year-old divorced mother of two, had shouted at...Darwin's Blade. Copyright © by Dan Simmons. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
Dan Simmons is the Hugo Award-winning author of Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, and their sequels, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion. He has written the critically acclaimed suspense novels Darwin's Blade and The Crook Factory, as well as other highly respected works, including Summer of Night and its sequel A Winter Haunting, Song of Kali, Carrion Comfort, and Worlds Enough & Time. Simmons makes his home in Colorado.
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Every author has a bad book, for Simmons this is the bad one
After having been enthralled by Dan Simmons' work in the 'Hyperion' series, his horror novels such as 'Carrion Comfort' and various short story anthologies, I was somewhat disappointed with this offering. His previous work was fascinating because of the richness of his imagination, his offbeat but believable characters and unexpected plot development. In 'Darwin's Blade', it is as if he has attempted to cram as many cliches as possible between the covers, held together by the all-purpose glue of fast cars and big guns. Most of the bizarre accidents featured in the story are drawn from the annals of the Darwin Awards, and may have been interesting if you hadn't already seen them documented in a dozen other places. Simmons even takes several pages to milk the hoary old joke about the obscene note and the sleeping juror. In between the various crashes, shootings, urban myths and corny jokes, Simmons also takes time out to lecture us on 'how to fly a sailplane', 'how not to be seen', and various other lessons included to show the amount of research he did for this book. All in all, a moderately entertaining but ultimately forgettable story which has all the hallmarks of being churned out to pay the rent.
I enjoyed the book immensely. The car wrecks and how Darwin figured them out was clever and interesting. The characters were appealing and I fell in love with Syd. Plot moved along well. It slowed down, however, toward the end with too much description about flying sailplanes and the technicalities of weaponry and snipering. All in all, I'd read a sequel when it comes out, and I'd like to read more of the author's stuff.
'Darwin's Blade' is vintage Dan Simmons. Well written, well plotted, and as sharp as Occam's Razor, to which the title alludes. A thriller writer par excellence, Simmons has the ability to infuse this creatively plotted suspense novel with pithy observations regarding many aspects of everyday life, and it's a pretty good bet most people will find themselves not only agreeing but, at times, laughing as well. Simmon's also knows his subjects, accident reconstruction, weapons, and police procedure well enough to imbue the book with the ring of truth in its technical details. Protagonist Darwin Minor, and major characters Sydney Olsen and Lawrence & Trudy Stewart are well-fleshed, believable people that you wish were real so you could get to know them. 'Darwin's Blade' is a fast read, and doesn't flag in its pace from first word to last. A fine piece of work from a literary master sniper.
In the newest novel by Dan Simmons, DARWIN¿S BLADE, I once again found myself awed by how truly talented this writer is. Most authors are unable to switch genres and remain successful in their endeavor. Mr. Simmons, however, seems utterly capable of fully expressing his marvelous ability in whatever genre he chooses, whether it be horror, science fiction/fantasy, spy/international intrigue, or action-packed thrillers. Mr. Simmons, like Stephen King, has the skill to continuously surprise and delight his fans and DARWIN¿S BLADE is no exception. This is the story of Darwin Minor, a man who used to work for the National Transportation Safety Board, investigating airplane and auto accidents, until his wife and baby son were killed in a plane crash. Now Dar works as an independent accident reconstruction specialist, helping the California Law Enforcement agencies reconstruct traffic accidents. When his investigations begin show a pattern in certain accidents¿accidents that involved murder and were deliberately staged for purposes of insurance fraud by a large criminal organization¿Dar becomes the focus of a team of ¿hitters¿ whose only goal is to kill him. What they don¿t know is that Dar used to be in the Marine Corps and was the best of their snipers. He¿s faced death, experienced tragedy, and is a man who won¿t back down. If you want to kill him, you¿d better be prepared to lose a lot of men in the process. DARWIN¿S BLADE completely surprised me! I didn¿t really know much about the book when I bought it, only that it was by Dan Simmons, which was enough for me. I found myself being quickly drawn in to the different types of traffic accidents that Dar had to reconstruct, finding myself intrigued by how people stupidly kill themselves, not to mention the seven-billion-dollar-a-year business of insurance fraud. Though the book was moving at a fast pace and was holding my interest, I didn¿t actually know in what direction the novel was headed until Dar¿s background as a Marine sniper was revealed. This immediately excited me because I knew then that Dar would be taking on the team of Russian assassins by himself, and I love the type of novel that has one man in it with extra-ordinary skills taking on insurmountable odds in order to survive. That always wins me over faster than anything else. I guess it¿s my ¿Rambo¿ mentality. Mr. Simmons does offer a wealth of fascinating information concerning accident reconstruction (most of the crew of Challenger spacecraft didn¿t die in the explosion, but rather when the main crew cabin hit the water), Marine Corp sniper training, the last days of Vietnam, the infiltration of the Russian Mafia into our country, and the warriors of ancient Sparta. This is a book that will educate, as well as entertain, while propelling the reader toward an ending filled with relentless action as a modern-day warrior does battle, facing death without fear, much like an ancient Spartan or Japanese samurai. DARWIN¿S BLADE worked perfectly for me in every way and is a novel I can highly recommend.
I'm more then half way through reading Darwin's Blade - I received it two days ago -and am loving it. Actually took the day off from work to spend the day reading it. Simmons is one of my favorite writers and while I came to his work when he was writing innovative horror novels, I've stayed with him through a wonderful science fiction series and now into suspense. Simmons last novel, The Crook Factory, was a wonderful read and launched me onto a Hemingway reading spree that has not ended yet. The Hyperion books led me to read the poetry of Keats. What I love about Simmons - besides his intelligent writing, great characters, superb pacing and tremendous talent for story-telling is his ability to teach readers something new with every book. He is clearly a writer who loves learning and loves life. As I said, I started reading Simmons because as a teenager most of what I read was in that genre (Stephen King taught me to love reading) - now I'm willng to follow him wherever he goes. Thanks for Darwin's Blade Dan! Paul Halucha
Quote 'As Lawrence drove, he must have sensed something was wrong with Dar. There is certain bond between men that goes deeper than verbal communication. Men who have known each other for years and worked together - occasionally on dangerous projects- begin to gain a sixth sense about their friend's thoughts and emotions. This allows them to communicate on a level deeper than women could ever understand.'
It's no secret (or soon will not continue to be) that Dan Simmons could be the best writer alive today (I actually mean this, honestly). Just look @ the depth not only in detail but imagination in the Hyperion series (his greatest triumph, followed closely perhaps by Carrion Comfort & The Crook Factory). I may not (yet) be 'old' (only 27) but I've already read enough from the cave scrapings in Lescaux right up to today's newspaper to know that Simmons is the very best writer since the folks who penned the bible. Granted (as always, a grant) there's room for argument & perhaps improvement but his margin is smaller than any other contemporary writer. Let's not forget the fact that this man, this remarkable being didn't start writing (I think) until 'late' & also switches genres as easily as we turn his pages. God, if only more people could write like he does there would be no preceived 'lull' in creativity since the early 90's like we have now. I'm always up for & able to debate, especially when it comes to Dan Simmons, who I consider equal to the Twains, Hemmingways, Tolstoys, Homers...even Shakespeare in the apples/oranges manner. To close, I even named my cat Cantos (not because of Ezra Pound but because of the Hyperion series) & have fallen in love w/John Keats (from the same series)!