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Darwin's Blade by Dan Simmons
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Darwin's Blade (2000)

by Dan Simmons

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Dan Simmons has won numerous awards in several genres. This book is perhaps a bit unusual: the detective as accident investigator. Dr. Darwin Minor, Ph.D. in physics and ex- Marine sniper in Vietnam, reconstructs accidents, and it seems the Los Angeles area has been hit by numerous insurance frauds. Destitute Mexican immigrants are hired to become involved in an accident. They then receive the services of lawyers and doctors to beat the insurance companies out of millions. Darwin (Dar to his friends), who has a horror of grammatical errors and notes them constantly in conversations with others, links up with Sydney (Syd to her friends), an accident investigator, and several other law enforcement agents to bring down a humongous conspiracy to defraud insurance agents. It all gets a bit over the top by the end with Russian snipers attacking Dar' cabin, but of course, the good guys win with that last incredible shot. What saved the book for me were the often humorous, strange and often grotesque descriptions of accidents. Simmons notes in his acknowledgments that all of the accidents detailed in the book really happened or were compilations of accidents, and the book is peppered with seemingly bizarre events that purportedly really happened. I particularly enjoyed some quotes from accident files. " had been driving my car for forty years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident." Or " guy was all over the road. I had to swerve several times before I hit him." Or, " invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle, and vanished." Another favorite was the Saturn ad that was being filmed. The dealer wanted to show the incredible strength of the Saturn windshield, which was intended to withstand much more substantial impacts than regular safety glass. To impress the audience, the dealer had borrowed an FAA device called a chicken cannon. This device was used to fire chickens into airplane engines -- a dead chicken representing a large to midsize bird in flight -- to test the effect on the engine; presumably, the effect on the chicken, already dead, would be slight. Anyway, the engineers had assured the dealer that the Saturn windshield could easily withstand the impact of the dead chicken fired from the cannon at two hundred miles per hour. When Darwin arrives on the scene, everyone is in a panic — the actress dressed as a nun who was to sit in the driver' seat, in a dead faint — because the chicken had gone right through the windshield, through the driver' seat and out the back of the car. " Saturn lied to us," the dealer asks Darwin. Darwin explains that no, the windshield could easily have withstood a chicken at two hundred miles per hour. " what . . . how did we. . . why. . .how in God' name. . ." said the dealer. Dar decided to be succinct. " time," he said, " the chicken." ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
The protagonist, Darwin Minor, is the most ridiculous Mary Sue character I've ever read. He's brilliant at the physics of car crashes, stalking, shooting guns, wine, cooking, and anything else you can think of. I finished it out of morbid curiosity.
Mind you, this is one Simmons' thrillers. I absolutely adored his science fiction/fantasy novel, Hyperion.
  mulliner | Nov 15, 2009 |
I have come to the conclusion that Dan Simmons doesn't know how to write a bad book. Some authors...fade...over time. Simmons is consistently good, regardless of the genre he's writing.

This novel is firmly planted in the thriller category, and is obviously set up for sequels. Sometimes that's a bad thing, but the characters Simmons establishes here are likeable, quirky and interesting. Just enough of their back story is revealed to give their personalities depth and substance without being beaten over the head with exposition. I'll be more than happy to read any subsequent novels featuring Dr. Darwin Minor and his adventures in accident reconstruction.

Oh. And the story is good too! Mucho mayhem and excitement, some laugh-out-loud funny dialogue, a little romance, a lot of intrigue...nearly perfect.

Read it. ( )
  avanta7 | Apr 25, 2009 |
Having enjoyed Ilium and Olympos I was surprised by how cliched and dull is Darwin's Blade. Maybe it gets awesome after page 185, but that's where I gave up. A vehicle-accident analyst, haunted by a tragic past (dead wife! dead baby!), gets into spectacular car chases in his high-performance sportscar while dodging bullets from the Russian maffia. Meanwhile, yawn-worthy sexual tension mounts between our hero and a female detective. Some boring stuff about insurance fraud. Stilted dialog, unbelievable characters who seem to have no inner life but just do stuff that moves the plot along. Felt like I was reading a halfhearted book rendition of a mediocre action movie.

Instead of 0 stars, I give it 1 star because it contains math formulas along with an explanation of the forensics of a hit-and-run accident, which I thought was kind of cool. ( )
  juniper | Jun 24, 2006 |
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Occam's Razor: All other things equal, the simplest solution is usually the correct one.
-William of Occam, 14th Century
Darwin's Blade: All things being equal, the simplest solution is usually stupidity.
- Darwin Minor, 21st Century
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0380789183, Mass Market Paperback)

Genre-jumping novelist Dan Simmons makes a splash no matter where he leaps. His 1985 horror debut, The Song of Kali, garnered the World Fantasy Award; the vampiric Carrion Comfort took the Bram Stoker Award; Hyperion, the opening volume of his Hyperion saga, snagged the Hugo. In 1999's The Crook Factory, Simmons spun fact, fiction, and Ernest Hemingway into a ripe WWII spy thriller, and with Darwin's Blade, Simmons dives headlong into the suspense pool.

The country's foremost accident investigator, Dr. Darwin Minor, reconstructs automobile accidents for his friends, Lawrence and Trudy Stewart, whose firm specializes in uncovering lucrative, yet unremarkable, insurance fraud. Odd, then, that two Russian hit men in a souped-up Mercedes E 340 attempt to murder Dar in a 160 mph car chase that results in an airborne Mercedes and two dead Russians.

Sydney Olson, the California state's attorney's chief investigator, who's investigating an accomplice-murdering fraud ring, plans to release a story highlighting the Russian mafia's involvement and Dar's name, and then to spend a lot of bodyguard-time with Dar.

Dar returned her challenging gaze. Suddenly she did not look like Stockard Channing to him anymore. "You're staking me out like that goat in the dinosaur movie... Jurassic Park."

"Exactly," said Sydney Olson, smiling openly at Dar now.

Lawrence raised his hand like a schoolboy.

"I just don't want to find my friend Dar's bloody leg on my moon roof someday, okay?"

As the bond between Dar and Sydney grows, so grow the assassination attempts, a gruesome body count, and the realization that a state-wide charitable organization funded by the country's most famous defense attorney is behind the murderous ring.

With its tight plot, memorable and likable cast, and brisk, intelligent narrative, Darwin's Blade has "series" written all over it. Better make room on the Edgar dais now. --Michael Hudson

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:37 -0400)

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