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Devil's Plaything by Matt Richtel
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Devil's Plaything (edition 2011)

by Matt Richtel

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Member:MartinElk
Title:Devil's Plaything
Authors:Matt Richtel
Info:Harper (2011), Mass Market Paperback, 448 pages
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Devil's Plaything by Matt Richtel

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I picked this book up because it was the iBookstore pick of the week and I hoped I'd be introduced to a new author whom I'd enjoy.
I don't think Matt Richtel and I started off on the right foot, though. I just couldn't get comfortable with Nat Idle, his main character. He seemed like a real douche bag, very smarter than thou, standoff-ish, not terribly interesting. And he was meant to carry the entire book. You were supposed to be rooting for him, but between him basically just being a piece of detritus, carried upon a sea over which he largely had no control, and the loving detail spent going over the various neighborhoods and scenes in San Francisco and the valley below it, I just couldn't stomach it. I don't quite get many people's love affair with the city in the book, so maybe it wasn't really meant for me, maybe it's more palatable if you *do* love it.
But I do find it hard that anyone is going to find the tone deaf and emotionally stunted main character someone with whom they want to spend a lot of time.

Matt writes a page turner well enough, it's just the characters I found really uninteresting, and I think I was turning the pages just to get it over with by the end of the first quarter of the book. ( )
  mhanlon | Apr 25, 2013 |
okay - 1st and last ( )
  WinonaBaines | Jan 27, 2012 |
Nate Idle had gone through med school but found the idea of being a doctor too stifling for his adventurous spirit. He’d dropped out and currently works for a medical blog site but his real passion is uncovering the bigger medical stories. He’s close to his grandmother whose dementia is getting worse at a rapid rate that surprisingly isn’t affecting her physical abilities. The two are shot at when he takes her for an outing at Gold Gate Park, followed by a phone call from the attacker telling him to drop it. This is immediately followed up by the receipt of a package containing an encrypted flash drive which gets his blood flowing.

Something grandma has buried in her mind is at the heart of a conspiracy, as is a company that put computers with artificial intelligence in nursing homes to allow the residents to record their memories for their descendants. Listening to Lane, Nate’s grandmother, record her memories is at first cute as she interacts with the artificial intelligent software, but turns scary. Both Nate and Lane are in danger and a number of attempts are made on their lives. It’s difficult to determine who to trust.

I fell in love with Lane Idle as well as Nate’s relationship with her. Anyone who has dealt with a friend or relative with memory problems will connect with the story.

I didn’t find it quite as “captivating” and “absorbing” as the quotes from other authors on the front and back covers would leave you to believe. I actually put the book down twice to read other books. Parts of the story are flat out boring as Nate (his name is also spelled as Nat in the book) spends a lot of time with his grandmother in a car trying to uncover clues and dodging assassination attempts.

Nate’s internal evaluation of signs of disease or conditions in others was interesting, although somewhat annoying as for a while he seemed to be doing it constantly. It does turn out to be useful. And explaining what’s happening in the brain as Nate understands what the conspiracy is about is shared with us in an easy to understand manner.

The entire premise seems to be totally plausible and will make the reader think about their own use of computers and electronics and how they might be affecting them. And that’s the scariest aspect of all.

Reviewed for Amazon Vine Voice. ( )
  dearheart | Jul 10, 2011 |
First Line: My big toe is exposed and my companion lost in the world beyond.

Nat Idle is a freelance writer spending most of his time writing blog posts with medical angles. He's got more on his mind than his next post, however. His beloved grandmother, Lane, now in a nursing home, has been having problems with her memory, but those problems have been snowballing. Nat doesn't want to accept the inevitable, and he vows to spend more time with her. He's in Golden Gate Park when he makes that promise, and minutes later he's almost gunned down.

It was no random attack, and as he pursues the truth through a warren of technology and paranoia, he learns that this may all be linked to something called the Human Memory Crusade-- something his grandmother has been participating in at the nursing home. Realizing that-- whether she knows it or not-- Lane holds the key to the mystery, Nat smuggles her out of the nursing home, and they go on the run to find the answers.

Although this is the second book in which the character of Nat Idle appears, it stands completely on its own. There were no annoying references to past events that made me wonder what had happened before.

My favorite character in the book was Nat's grandmother, Lane, but once she is taken away from him, the book almost completely loses its momentum. With the real threat gone, there are glimpses of the evil behind the Human Memory Crusade, but there is no real solution or an attempt at one in sight. The first half of the book was excellent; the last half limped home. ( )
  cathyskye | Jun 25, 2011 |
Matt Richtel, author of the superb novel "Devil's Plaything," is a Pulitzer Prize-winning technology reporter for the New York Times. "Devil's Plaything" is far and away among the very best thrillers released this year. It's timely, insightful, and disturbingly prescient.

San Francisco in present-day late October is the setting for a breakneck plot twisting around attempts to hijack an elderly woman's memories under the auspices of a seemingly benign government-sponsored endeavor called the Human Memory Crusade. On its surface, the Crusade is designed to preserve for future generations the life stories of the elderly before dementia or death wipe them from mankind's record. At a time when mean human life expectancies inexorably rise in virtual lockstep with the ever-increasing onset of material memory impairment among the aged, the Crusade appears a noble pursuit. However, under the untoward influence of potentially sinister multinational neuro-tech companies, quasi-sentient computer software, suspect elder care facilities, shadowy venture capitalists, and even menacing dental offices, the pursuit's nobility is subject to question.

Richtel tells the story well and almost entirely in first-person, present tense. This gives the novel a breathtaking sense of immediacy, and makes the action insistent and compelling. A mood of deep, gnawing paranoia almost drips from the book's pages. No one and nothing are as they appear, except when they are, and it's no easy task for readers to surmise which is which until the novel's conclusion. Like his crisp dialogue, Richtel's characters ring true. The author is particularly masterful in presenting the narrator's elderly grandmother, a principal character who braves the ravages of dementia as she tries to help her grandson navigate multiplying treacheries and deathtraps. Richtel's portrayal of this unduly tormented old woman is deft, sensitive, accurate, and alone worth reading the novel.

At its core, "Devil's Plaything" is a story about memory, duality, and the intercourse between the two that pulses in us all. It's a fantastic thriller, and I can't recommend it strongly enough. ( )
  RGazala | Jun 1, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061999695, Mass Market Paperback)

We all keep secrets, but what if someone wasn't just stealing our secrets but changing them . . . and our brains?

Journalist Nat Idle is nearly gunned down in Golden Gate Park. He quickly learns it was no random attack. Suddenly, in pursuit of the truth, he's running for his life through the shadows of Silicon Valley, a human lab animal caught in a deadly maze of neurotechnology and institutional paranoia. And his survival rests entirely in the hands of his eighty-five-year-old grandmother, Lane, who's suffering from dementia and can't remember the secret at the heart of the world-changing conspiracy.

Author, technology reporter, Pulitzer Prize winner, Matt Richtel has dreamed up an exquisite nightmare firmly grounded in true science. The future is now, the possibilities endless . . . and positively terrifying.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:17 -0400)

"Journalist Nat Idles is nearly gunned down in Golden Gate Park. He quickly learns it was no random attack. Suddenly, in pursuit of the truth, he's running for his life through the shadows of Silicon Valley, a human lab animal caught in a deadly maze of neurotechnology and institutional paranoia"--Back cover.… (more)

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