· Hardcover: 288 pages
· Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (November 7, 2000)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 0679463321
· ISBN-13: 978-0679463320
· Genre: sci-fi/thriller
· Target group: adults (preferably geeks)
This book, a first-person narrative, takes place in the year 2023, in a world heavily polluted and racked by violent warfare all over the globe, an era that has seen almost all: plague, a global economic crash, and the 2018 assassination of the US President Emily Forrester. The protagonist, Dr. Gideon Wolfe, is a psychiatrist, expert criminologist and an expert in history. He learns quite accidentally that the assassination of Ms. Forrester five years ago was digitally altered to trick the public. The widely viewed web page containing the killing is very popular but has split an already divided nation further.
Gideon meets a group of scientists and military experts who were the professional manipulators behind much of the official public misinformation floating on the Net. They are led by the Tressalian siblings, Malcolm and Larissa. They have one important goal: to prove to the world that the Information Age has enabled both governments and corporations to dupe the average citizens into believing anything that they see in the mass media. This explosive discovery will lead Gideon Wolfe on an electrifying journey from a criminal underworld of New York to the jungles of Africa and on a quest to find the truth in an age when all information can be manipulated. Initially, Wolfe eagerly joins the group in their cause. He soon begins to have second thoughts, however; are the motives of the group as pure as they seem to be? Or do they, themselves, seek to manipulate the populace to their own ends?
What I liked:
The novel’s premise – “information is not knowledge” – is indeed timely and intriguing, especially when you take into account the present E.Coli controversy in Europe. Killing Time is mainly about the ease with which large numbers of people can be deceived and manipulated. It’s a rather fearsome but fascinating take on the Information Age.
Some of the characters are lively, especially the brilliant but slightly mad Malcolm or the morally troubled Dr. Wolfe, who is not sure that he agrees with Malcolm’s theories, no matter how brilliant they are.
What I didn’t like:
In this novel, Mr. Carr tells us virtually everything through Gideon, the narrator, not allowing to see the events and motivations of the characters. After a while I found it a bit boring, especially that other characters had big potential. Potential never fulfilled I must add – few of these develop beyond superficial character tags, most of them remaining merely sketched and laughably 2-dimensional. We know precious little about them or their motivations and it is a pity.
I was especially disappointed with the character of Larissa, the only woman in the group full of male scientists. She is beautiful, deadly and…very shallow although we are repeatedly told otherwise. You almost wonder why such an intelligent guy like Wolfe falls in love with her ( and he is not the only one of course). Given another hundred pages or so Carr might have fleshed out her character and the whole plot enough to create a definitely better heroine and a more readable novel.
The book’s major weakness is the melodrama that seeps into the plot, which, at times, seems too contrived to be believable. The romantic development might be a showcase here: Wolfe ends up in bed with Larissa in record time even though we’re not given the slightest reason why she is attracted to him (ok, she heard of him and saw his photo on the cover of his book and fancied him instantly; great reason for a mature, responsible, intelligent woman, no?).
Finally it seems that the only solution for the world destroyed by technology is…technology. While such an ambivalence might have its merits maybe it would be better to focus on the human factor a bit more?
Say what you want – despite some obvious flaws Killing Time gets the reader thinking and this is its ultimate value. After reading it you will ponder twice before believing completely in any broadcast story, appearing in the media or on the Internet. I do not regret reading it but I must admit I enjoyed The Alienist loads better.