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Afterburn: A Novel Hardcover – January 10, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (January 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374102058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374102050
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,744,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This tour de force by the author of Manhattan Nocturne is a genre-bending literary thriller that deserves all the pre-publishing buzz it's received. From the prologue, set in the closing days of the Vietnam War, to the denouement 25 years later in the meatpacking district of Manhattan, it crackles with electricity and keeps the reader pinned in place; this is a book that's truly impossible to put down.

Harrison's three protagonists are so well drawn that their individual obsessions rather than his complex plot seem to drive the narrative. Former fighter pilot Charlie Ravich is a wealthy telecommunications CEO desperate to perpetuate his name by any means, including a surrogate mother; his only son is dead and his daughter is infertile. Christina Welles is an Ivy League-educated mathematics whiz who went to prison for her role in a Mafia theft ring. And Rick Bocca, Christina's former lover, is hiding from the mob boss who has arranged Christina's early release to regain the millions he believes she stole from him. Harrison's observations are acute: he can describe the most horrific torture as deftly as he can write a tender love scene. But his ability to weave the separate stories of his main characters together without sacrificing a bit of momentum is truly dazzling; all three of them live in the mind long after the novel's harrowing climax. This is the real "afterburn" of the title, although it may get a second definition if the book makes as rapid an ascent to the top of the bestseller lists as it deserves. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Writing like an angel, Harrison in his new thriller (after Manhattan Nocturne) casts human existence as demonic, in a scenario as fierce as any imagined by Goya. The horror begins as American pilot Charlie Ravich is taken prisoner in 1972 in Vietnam, to be rescued by GIs who maim him in the process. Jumping to the present, the narrative focuses on another prisoner, Christina Welles, suffering behind bars in upstate New York for her role in a mob-directed theft ring. Charlie, too, is in pain; though now a wealthy electronics mogul, he's under attack both professionally, by larcenous contractors and a rival firm (like Harrison's Bodies Electric, this is a finance thriller as well as a crime novel), and personally--his wife is exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's, and he mourns the death of his only son. Then there's Rick Bocca, Christina's lover, inadvertently responsible for her imprisonment; he's hiding from the mob on Long Island, good as dead. When the mob, looking for $5 million that Christina stole from them in her final heist, engineers her release in hopes of snatching her to retrieve their loot, Harrison sets in motion a daringly complex tale of chase-and-hunt, of villainy, sacrifice and redemption, that unites these three main figures, and the gangsters who will go to any length--including monstrous torture, detailed by Harrison to the point of sensationalism--to get their money. As smartly orchestrated as the action is, it's Harrison's achingly real characters who empower the novel, as well as his prose: is there a noir novelist alive who can match his wattage? That's not always a virtue, though, as Harrison too often lets rip passages that, though rhapsodic or acutely observant, retard narrative flow. If not always expertly paced, however, the novel astonishes throughout, as much for its moral force as for its storytelling dazzle. 100,000 first printing; author tour; audio rights to Simon & Schuster. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Colin Harrison writes New York thrillers like few others.
Richard Delman
Not to mention the fact that the three main characters were a greedy, vindictive, unsympathetic lot.
Shane Wong
The violence, as in his other books, is not for the squeamish.
Richard A. Jenkins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Very few of the books that I buy do I not finish. This was one of them. Terribly formulaic in that dark 90's sort of way, off-putting in its bleakness without any kind of redeeming balance. Try Thomas Harris if you like that sort of tale; one winds up strangely admiring his Dr. Lecter. While Charlie in this novel is not the same kind of character, he winds up being disappointingly pathetic. A good review of this book prompted me to buy it sight unseen - an awful mistake. Truly a 0 star.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Raymond K. Pezzi on March 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I read Harrison's earlier novels "Bodies Electric" and "Manhattan Nocturne" and enjoyed them very much, so I was really looking forward to this book. Unfortunately, "Afterburn" was a tremendous disappointment for me. The beautifully descriptive writing style evident in his earlier works is utterly lacking here. Perhaps it was just the shift from the first-person perspective in the earlier books to the third-person here, but the writing here is very plodding, prosaic, and workmanlike. Worse than that though, is the incredibly graphic and gratuitous sex and violence upon which Harrison dwells throughout "Afterburn". Hey, I like reading a nicely written erotic passage as much as anybody--I thought the 'sex scenes' in "Bodies Electric" were some of the hottest I'd ever read--but this book went way beyond eroticism. I'd suggest that, next time, Harrison might do better to leave a bit to the imagination and not provide us the equivalent of a gynecological exam. Violence? Well, after the 3rd or 4th multi-page torture scene, I started skimming rather than reading....as well as wondering if Harrison's apparent fascination with the intricacies of torture were an indication that he's a crazed sadist...or just a burned-out novelist trying to overcompensate for the loss of having something to say.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Incredibly, one of my son's fifth grade friends brought me this book, which no doubt he snitched off the remainder rack of our local independent bookstore (where such stuff is practically given away anyway). Fortunately, he hadn't read it, but mistook it as something I would appreciate (perhaps the cover photo, to a 10 year old, spelled "deep" or "important"). Out of consideration for the the kid's feelings, I spent half an evening with the book, but wished I'd watched tv--or cleaned the gutters--or done anything else instead. This is a lifeless, joyless, altogether artless effort, clearly written with one (jaunticed) eye on a movie contract, the other on fast bucks for a paperback deal. The author, who another reader aptly points out is an editor at Harpers, must have called in his colleagues to promote this, getting it a whole lot more notice than it deserves, and the sort of blurbs usually reserved for serious fiction. I suppose that's the way things go in the publishing world today, but they shouldn't. It makes it difficult for readers to distinguish between serious fiction--or at least a good beach book--and a book so poorly written and edited that it should have never found a publisher. As a lawyer, I feel books of this nature should be published with a disclaimer...it's a scam.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
And now we know the secret underlying the Harrison marriage! A love of torture scenes! An inexplicably grueling read. A case of sensibility train-wrecking genuine talent. It's all too bad.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have read all of Colin Harrison's books, and had eagerly awaited this one. Although the pace is just as driving and the characters as interesting, the violence - expecially the scenes with the drill - seemed gratuitous to me. I know Harrison is drawn to the dark underbelly of society, but in the past any violence or kinky sex was tied to character development. Here Harrison seems intent on providing grisly scenes of torture simply for shock value. As another reader suggested, you would do well to read "Bodies Electric" and "Manhattan Nocturne" before this book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Bruck on October 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In all my years of reading I have never encountered a book that made me feel as though I had been cheated out of a portion of my life. If there was a way to go back in time and not read this I would do it.
The story of bad things happening to miserable people leaves the reader feeling somehow infected by contact with the book.
Harrisson has great command of the minute details of life but misses the big questions,who cares and why should they?
If you can imagine a Quentin Tarantino movie without humor or plot resolution, it would be Afterburn.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Mr. James Fiorenzo on March 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There's nothing wrong with good schlocky escapist beach-book fiction. Ed McBain, Thomas Harris (exception Hannibal) and J. Wambaugh write good, solid stories with good, solid workmanlike prose. Harrison's problem is that he's trying to, uh, Say Something Important About Death and Family, and quite frankly, this novel, with its stretch-the-bounds-of-absurdity-plot, can't carry it. What's worse, Harrison overwrites. He's like a drunk blathering at a bar. The two-bit philosophizing is embarassing, the kind of stuff you hear in freshman dorms. Charlie Ravitch is the least convincing veteran I've ever encountered in any novel (not to mention real life -- I recently retired from the U.S.M.C), and the women aren't much more than sex machines. And I do mean machines -- Harrison writes about sex the way a Bolshevik writes about pistons: as though it's the height of all human aspirations, but the way Harrison depicts it, there's nothing remotely sexy or fun about it. The only other person who writes so awfully, and so unrealistically, about sex is Harold Robbins. The mafiosos are bad caricatures (especially in light of the Sopranos) and the torture scene is not gross, it's stupid and gratuitous. Maybe the editor, seeing there was really nothing by way of a story here, told Harrison to put in something so they could market it to the gore crowd. Anyway, this is the sort of book that'll have a shelf-life of about a month. Then it will disappear. Thank God. My son gave me this book for my birthday. I might cut him out of the will after this.
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