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by Jonathan Raban

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2231096,966 (2.99)2
Lucy Bengstrom lives in Seattle with her 11-year-old daughter, Alida. When she is asked to write about August Vanagas, a reclusive international bestselling author, Lucy becomes intrigued by his story of an orphan adrift in Europe in the Second World War.

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
I was really liking this book up to about the last 10 pages. Although the dust jacket reviews talk only about the post-9/11 world in which it is set, to me, all that was only a back drop. People cope as Homeland Security, local police, the FBI and who knows who else become more and more visible. If its security checks to get on a ferry (which I've experienced) or Homeland Security home movies to frighten the wits out of every one, you eventually cope. I felt that the story was more about the characters. Frustrated free-lance author Lucy who finally gets a plum assignment but can't really believe that the author she is to write about, August Venags is real. Lucy's friend and neighbor the actor Tad whose left-wing fantasies seem to be getting the better of him. Lucy's 11-year old daughter Alida (the best character) who copes with 6th grade, her mother's attitudes and algebra homework by trying to add it all up. August Venags the professor who hits it big with his memoir of Nazi prison camps as a child. I really liked the development of all the characters.

But as I neared the end of the book I started to get concerned about how the author was going to end the story. I read a lot of science fiction and I've gotten good at predicting when a novel is the first part of a new series. Generally the plot has too many loose ends. Will Lucy finish (or even start) the article? Will Tad go crazy? Will Finn get arrested? Will Mr. Lee tear down the apartment building? And on and on.

One other reviewer thought the book was setting up for a sequel. My problem with a sequel was that this didn't seem like a story that needed a sequel to finish. And certainly not every loose end needs to be tied up. But the author chose an ending so jarring and so from-out-of-nowhere that he might just as well as have had Martians attack or the sun go nova.

I felt cheated. And there won't be a sequel. The ending made all the questions and loose ends irrelevant. ( )
  capewood | Dec 8, 2014 |
This book wasn't bad until the end. A little weird but not bad. Ugh, I read this book 10 months ago and I still get angry thinking about it. How lame.
  walterqchocobo | Apr 8, 2013 |
Boring. ( )
  denmoir | Dec 29, 2011 |
I did not really enjoy this. I found the ending contrived, I did not discover for myself what, in fact, was the reason for the book. I am sure I have read better books by this author. ( )
  anotheranne | May 30, 2011 |
This is a dark tale of post 9/11 Seattle which I initially thought was dystopian but appears to be in the present with hopefully an exaggerated level of government surveillance. The book was entertaining but not great. The ending was abrupt and I was puzzled why the story just ended. Upon reflection , I can see why the author thought that certain issues had been resolved, but it certainly did not feel that way when I ran out of pages.
Still, it is worth reading. ( )
  bhowell | Oct 20, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
The very relevance of “Surveillance” to the present moment, in a culture where nearly every surface is hyper-reflective, threatens to amplify the noise and weariness of the day and, paradoxically, actually drown the novel’s own relevance out. To his credit, Raban seems to understand the gamble and make the most of it, though not without an occasional misstep — most noticeably the tendency of characters to stagger beneath the metaphorical load. What the book offers in its auditing of the national dialogue contains no surprises. The talking heads talk. The characters also bloom into their bodies, lives and loves. The insufferable weather turns nostalgically clement. We look in the mirror — here we are — and look away, puzzled or embittered or cocksure.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Bob Shacochis (Jul 13, 2011)
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Lucy Bengstrom lives in Seattle with her 11-year-old daughter, Alida. When she is asked to write about August Vanagas, a reclusive international bestselling author, Lucy becomes intrigued by his story of an orphan adrift in Europe in the Second World War.

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