Unbridled Books - Fiction/Business Thriller
When you stare at the screen for two days solid without coming up with a single word of your intended review, it probably means you're either a zombie or it's time to do a self-interview. Yesterday, I went with the zombie option and tucked my brainless, wobbly self to bed. Today, I'm thinking, "Yeah. Self-interview." Myself and I are going to have a chat, today. If Me interrupts, it's only because she has an annoying habit.
Myself: Hello, self. Today we're going to discuss Shimmer by Eric Barnes. You really enjoyed this book, but for some reason you've had a terrible time writing about it. Why is that?
I: I'm stupid.
Myself: I was referring specifically to the book.
I: Oh. Well, let me attempt to describe the book and perhaps you'll understand the intricacies involved. Shimmer is the story of a man named Robbie who has an evil cousin, Trevor. Trevor the Evil came up with a brilliant idea that would make the two of them rich as Croesus, but without the trouble of actually coming up with a working product.
After selling the first "blue box" for a sinful amount of money, Trevor admitted that it removed information from business computers to free up processing space but would require an even bigger investment to send the information zipping around and then back to the original computer, Robbie knew he had a problem. Because Trevor admitted his product was a fake to Robbie, not the buyers. Either Robbie had to jump into the lie and find a way to support it or admit the truth up front. He jumped into a snowball and ended up riding an avalanche.
Myself: This is beginning to sound a bit complex.
I: It's pretty straightforward, as long as you understand the skeleton of the business design. Basically, Robbie took over his father's honest business and turned it into a new vision built on a Ponzi scheme. The central product sold by Core Communications didn't work (at least, it didn't do exactly what they claimed it did, although there was a certain improvement in speed of downloading); and, Robbie built a shadow network of computers that served the purpose of shifting information, bouncing it off satellites, moving it from country to country and making it appear to work -- the problem being, of course, that you can only do a limited amount of adding to a computer network that's simply moving information before it all comes crashing down around your ears.
Myself: And, Robbie was the only one who knew about . . . what?
I: He had a computer named Shimmer that controlled the flow of money and information. The other executives knew Shimmer existed. They allegedly did not know about the shadow network, the network of computers that did the actual work they claimed the blue boxes handled.
Myself: This is where the book falters a little, right?
I: Yes, in my humble opinion, but don't stop reading because I'm going to end up telling you I loved this book.
Me: I is having issues.
Myself: Would you kindly go do the laundry?
Me: Sure, I love clean things.
I: (Watching Me leave) Whew! Back to the interview . . . It's a bit of a stretch, I think, to say that there's a single computer that nobody has access to but Robbie. For one thing, what if some technical issue came up and he wasn't able to handle it, himself? However -- I'm just reading between the lines, here, because I'm a bumbling old technophobe and I have no problem suspending disbelief. I do it on a daily basis -- and it has nothing to do with books! Plus, even if you're a techie, I think you'll find its worth ignoring those little niggling doubts about plot because the best thing about the book . . .
I: . . . The true joy of Eric Barnes' storytelling . . .
Myself: Spit it out or I will!
I: I am I, you dope. It's all about the dialogue, the characters, the interaction. There is some rocking fine dialogue and I can't even narrow down to a single scene that I love most because there are too many. The conversations between the executive staff members, in particular, make the book believable. They have this wonderful way of bantering that's funny and thought-provoking. Here's a glimpse:
"Do they know you're watching?" Cliff asked.
"No," Leonard said.
"Can you put them on a false trail?" I asked. "Let them jump from internal operations to some kind of fake system?"
Leonard nodded. "My team has already sketched out a number of scenarios to that effect. Initial ideas include false specifications for a Blue Box or inaccurate diagrams of Shimmer."
"A fake set of financials," Cliff suggested.
"The secret formula for Coca-Cola," Whitley said.
"Naked pictures of Perry and Cliff," Julie said.
Perry shook his head. "Not without a credit card."
The characterization in Shimmer is, in my humble opinion, stunning. Characters are quirky and unique in a way that is true to life -- idiosyncratic without crossing the line into caricature territory. And, there are little bits of life that resonate, as well. The atmosphere in the Core Communications building is generally light-hearted. People play putt-putt in the halls, while they discuss work issues. In a crisis, they work round-the-clock to patch together a network to temporarily replace a number of computers fried in a very fun, tense disaster scene that made me think, "Movie! Want to see the movie!"
I: 4.5 - Exceptional characterization and dialogue make this book a winner and the storyline is suitably complex without making one's head throb. Suspension of disbelief only twitched a tiny bit and then went to sleep. There comes a point that the book becomes quite gripping and difficult to set down.
Me: Shouldn't y'all mention the prostitutes?
Myself: There are prostitutes. But, Robbie feels bad about them. So, you know . . . not for the kiddies . . . or read it first, if you're concerned that your children might be warped for life. The sex scenes are not disgustingly graphic but the reader definitely knows what's going on.
I: Someone is usurping my authority as chief reviewer.
Myself: That's the breaks of the big time. I think we're done, anyway.
I: I do?
Myself: Yes. I do.
Me: This is my cue to go soak my head.
Myself: Wait! Photographic pun! Shimmer will leave you panting for more by Eric Barnes.
See? Panting? And, get this . . . Eric Barnes lives in Memphis and this is a Memphis Zoo cougar. It was tremendously hot when we were in Memphis, a few weeks ago. Pant, pant. It's a loooong way to go for a joke.
Enough from this blabbermouth. Next up will be a review of All the World, a children's book that arrived with an extra special surprise in the box.