20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2010
During the first 75 pages or so of "The Thousand," I was intrigued by Kevin Guilfoile's unusual approach to the metaphysical thriller. During the last 75, I felt disappointed by it.
I knew from the jacket that the book was going to be about a group of Pythagorean cultists who had operated behind the scenes in human history for the past 2500 years. I was eager to meet them. But Guilfoile seemed to be in no hurry to introduce these sinister string-pullers into the narrative. Instead, he spun subplots involving a Johnnie Cochran-style defense attorney, a talented violinist who had completed Mozart's unfinished requiem before he died, a security guard at a casino, and a woman named Canada Gold with almost supernatural sensory powers. All of this stuff was interesting and well-written, but where (I wondered) were the Pythagoreans?
As it turned out, the Pythagoreans were so peripheral to the narrative that at times they took on the aura of a MacGuffin, Alfred Hitchcock's name for a throw-away plot device. Throughout the book, Guilfoile mostly tells us about the Pythagoreans rather than showing them to us. Sure, a few of them make an appearance, but there's nothing really that interesting about them when they do. The interesting characters, in fact, are all non-Pythagorean. Imagine a Harry Potter book where most of the good characters are muggles and you never even arrive at Hogwarts, and you'll see what I found disappointing about this book.
My other beef about the book is there are two groups of these cultists, the acusmatici and the mathematici, who are at war with each other. To me, these names and the concepts behind them were a stumblingblock. I often found myself having to think hard about which group certain people belonged to and why it mattered.
Guilfoile's a good writer and the book's a fun read. I did find myself caring about the characters, particularly the enigmatic Canada Gold. It's just that to me the book felt like a typical cop thriller with a Pythagorean cult backstory pasted on. I might have felt differently had the author taken us inside the cult, to meet some more interesting members (an albino acusmatici flogging himself, for example, would have been just fine by me!), to witness their rituals--anything but another recital of off-stage events and the history of cult politics.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2011
"The Thousand" shares a genre with Dan Brown's intellectual history enhanced thrillers - Angels and Demons, the DaVinci Code, and the Lost Symbol, as well as a number of other recent thrillers featuring archaeologists or historians pursuing lost secrets of the past. It also share genre tropes with TV series like VR.5, Heroes, Lost, Kyle XY, the Bourne Identity, and even the X-Files, with the inner workings of secret society playing itself out as our protagonists propel themselves forward with a life or death interest in penetrating its secrets.
Dan Brown's novels are heavy on the art history and historical lacuna, but have flabby plots and flat characters. Guilfoile's characters, in contrast, are delightfully tragic, flawed and well fleshed out. Heroine Canada Gold's flawed mental health (she and her father had intense ADHD) and the flawed blessing of a cure that gives her extraordinary talents but fails to deliver friends, wealth or more than a modicum of happiness, make for fine psychological drama. Her late father's lawyer who is tormented at having exonorated a murderer, the middle aged self-destructing cop who won't let an old case go, and even bit characters like the succession of people who pick up Gold's hitchhiking boyfriend as he flees false murder charges, have great depth, delivered artfully and not a moment too soon.
But the plot device of the Pythagoreans fail to meet the test of Chekov's gun, that "one must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." "The Thousand" promises us an answer to the question of why twenty-five hundred years ago, a thousand souls in an Italian village would give up their lives for this mystic mathematician. The scene is more fully realized on the book jacket than any place in the novel itself. There are no historical flashbacks, despite an "eye of God" narration style that would have allowed for such a scene, even if no character had experienced it first hand. The math professor revealing most of what we learn about them is one of Guilfoile's worst realized characters. We are told in the abstract what drives these people and what knowledge binds them, but not shown it with emotional depth. Guilfoile has offered us the equivalent of a thumbnail sketch of the history of Christianity in a shadow world where it was suppressed instead of thriving, without a mention of the Gospels whose powerful story set it all in motion, and without any testimonials of people whose lives were transformed by their faith. Were his story about the Pythagoreans as compelling as his story about flawed minds, genius and the guilt of those who were caught up in their web, and told in both the past and the present, this could have been a masterpiece. Instead, it is merely a good read with some memorable characters, and insights into how we perceive the world - better than a lot of genre fiction, but not award winning quality work.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2010
To my annoyance, since I had other things that needed doing, I couldn't put this book down. Even with shadings from "The DaVinci Code" and "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," along with a brief whisper of "Rosemary's Baby" during one critical phase (all books that I enjoyed), this story is an excellent thriller on its own.
There are those who have kept a secret for centuries, a secret that could destroy humanity if it were known. Among those descended from the original cult and who still keep the secret are two factions at war with each other, and Nada Gold is stuck between them. She is beautiful, lonely, an observational savant who probably has a photographic memory thanks to a neurotransmitter installed in her brain when she was a child.
There are those who would remove the transmitter to suit their own purposes. To Nada, that would be tantamount to performing a lobotomy. There are those who would protect Nada, those who love her and those who don't care if she dies. The real problem for Nada? She doesn't know who to trust.
This book is action-packed and never drags in the telling. It is complex, however, and more than once I asked myself, "Wait, who is that character again?" Recommended, though. And can't wait for the movie! (There will be a movie, right?)
UPDATE: I just read a review by Alex Berenson in the "New York Times," in which the reviewer expressed disappointment that the bad guys were revealed too early in the story, diluting the tension he might have felt.
A completely different reading experience for me. As Alfred Hitchcock well knew, the thrill isn't in the reveal of the bad guy, it's in knowing what potentially awaits the innnocents that makes for a good scare. It's not a perfect book -- agreed -- but as conspiracy-style thrillers go, it's a very good read. Enjoy!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
In an odd way, there was much that I admired about Kevin Guilfoile's preposterous new thriller "The Thousand." Ultimately I did find the novel entertaining, with some terrific action sequences, but the entire set-up is so "out there" (that's my nice way of saying nonsensical) that it detracts from the elements that do work. Principally a conspiracy tale having something to do with a secret sect based on the teachings of Pythagoras, "The Thousand" attempts to weave mathematics as the backbone of EVERYTHING in the world. With long passages about art and music and loads of math--it is as if Guilfoile has thrown everything but the kitchen sink into his plotting. If the focus of the book had been slightly smaller--not EVERYTHING in the world--that might have given the reader a bite sized entry into this labyrinthine mystery. But as presented, it's all too much. Heck there isn't even one secret society! No, there are rival factions within this nefarious group!
The story is a little hard to describe succinctly. We've got Canada Gold, the daughter of a slain musical genius, whose brain is literally wired. She's got enough individual character quirks to fuel a dozen novels! Her lover who is almost stalking her, her father's lawyer with a huge secret of his own, local law enforcement hot on the trail of new murders, a disturbed artist who may be the key to unlocking a greater mystery--these are a few of the random plot threads that are followed throughout. To Guilfoile's credit, he does juggle a lot of interesting characters quite effectively. "The Thousand" is never dull, if anything it is overstuffed.
I genuinely liked most of the characters--and that, in itself, is a recommendation. Individual sections of the book can be riveting and the action sublime. But you can't take pieces out of the whole. Even as the novel comes to a madcap conclusion that involves a city-wide riot (nothing is small in this book), I kept wishing I didn't hate the very foundation the story was based on. It's not only that I didn't believe it--I can suspend belief for some pretty ludicrous things--I just found the main conspiracy to be far less compelling and interesting than some of the smaller interactions. The big picture ruined the little pleasures of "The Thousand" and it's unfortunate--I'd have been happy to follow Canada and her cohorts into a better overall book. KGHarris, 8/10.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
When I heard about this book, I knew there was no way I could pass it up. OK, so it's another variation on the "secret society controls the world" scenario. Still, this time it's not a religion or political group that is pulling the strings, it's a group of mathematicians. As a long time teacher of math myself, it seemed a nice change of pace.
Here's the background: Pythagoras (the Greek geometer of right triangle theorem fame) revealed the secrets of the universe to a group of followers some 2500 years ago. Since then, these followers have used these secrets to enrich themselves and control the world. Unfortunately, there are two sects within the Pythagoreans who periodically battle things out between them, with plenty of murder and collateral damage.
The modern day battle takes place in the pages of this novel. And though I couldn't quite shake the sense that the entire thing is quite ridiculous, Mr. Guilfoile saves himself with some solid writing. Much of the action takes place in Chicago and the city seems to just jump off the page, speaking as one who has lived there. His characters are well-drawn and memorable, particularly Canada Gold, the girl with the "spider" in her head, and Reggie Vallentine, the lawyer with secrets. And there are plenty of twists and surprises to drive the story forward.
As a math teacher, I was a little irritated by the ignorance of so many in the novel of who Pythagoras was, even if I wouldn't have expected them to know about his religious aspirations. And the ending of the story comes on awfully fast with only a quick attempt to tie up loose ends in the last few pages. Still, if the plot pushes the envelope of suspension of disbelief, it is a fun, fun ride, and different from the typical fare. I enjoyed it.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2010
I started reading THE THOUSAND, Kevin Guilfoile's new novel, under the worst possible circumstances: I was busy and on the road. But even when I was otherwise occupied, I could not get the book or its characters out of my mind. All I wanted to do was find a well-lit corner and read this riveting work, which is equal parts courtroom thriller, police procedural and antiquity hunt, with a dose of conspiracy and paranoia thrown in for good measure. And when I did, all else ceased to exist.
It has been five years and a chunk of significant chronological change since CAST OF SHADOWS, Guilfoile's brilliant debut novel, was published. It is not so much a limited attention span (though that is part of it) as it is the sheer number of things that compete for a reader's precious time that produce a near-imperative for an author to publish on at least an annual basis. A three-year absence of a new book from the shelves can be an eternity; five years and, in the words of Roland of Gilead, the world has moved ahead. Guilfoile's work is so unique, though, that it is difficult, if not impossible, to forget it, and THE THOUSAND is an excellent example of why.
THE THOUSAND is driven by a plot too big for one city and propelled by enough interesting characters for three different books. The most compelling one is a young woman named Canada Gold, who uses her uncanny talent for observation to ply the Las Vegas casinos (at least those that will still allow her entrance) by night and to work as a paid consultant to the Las Vegas District Attorney's office by day. Canada will immediately put you in the mind of another literary character --- a tattooed girl, if you will, who kicks hornets' nests while playing with fire --- but her talents are far different. An almost irresistible job offer, however, brings her to Chicago, the city of her birth and the site of a multitude of unhappy memories for her. Her father, Solomon, was a renowned composer who was rumored to be working on a composition for the ages --- the reconstruction of a lost work of Mozart --- when he was mysteriously murdered. The only tie that Canada still retains to Chicago is the residence of her mother, from whom she remains estranged.
Yet the job offer, which involves determining the legitimacy or otherwise of the work of a seemingly deranged but brilliant painter, is too intriguing for Canada to refuse. What she comes to learn, though, is that she is slowly being drawn into a conflict between members of The Thousand, a centuries-old group that has followed and preserved the teachings of Pythagoras and is dedicated to the search for the mathematical theory on the unification of everything. It has also served as a hidden hand behind a number of world-changing events. But a schism has occurred in the group, with one side wanting to exploit the knowledge they have acquired and the other wishing to preserve it and keep it close. Canada's return to Chicago and her discoveries regarding the group and her own history lead to a conflagration that envelops Chicago and threatens to reveal the existence of The Thousand to the world.
Meanwhile, Canada's erstwhile Las Vegas lover engages in a dangerous cross-country trek to find Canada and protect her from the a madman who has claimed the lives of three of her friends and appears to be pursuing her as well, and a world-famous Chicago defense attorney holds in an undistinguished office safe what all of the parties are seeking.
If that sounds like a lot, it is. Consider, however, that Guilfoile, like a truly talented musician, plays the spaces while reining himself in. THE THOUSAND could easily have been one of those 500-page books that collapses under the weight of its own gravitas. Guilfoile doesn't let that happen. He demonstrates, for example, his understanding of the teachings of Pythagoras without turning the novel into a treatise. He also doesn't skimp on plot, characterization, or action, particularly in the last half of the book. Heck, the offal is still hitting the Dyson Air Multiplier right up to the last sentence of the final chapter. Like CAST OF SHADOWS, THE THOUSAND is really special and unique.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2010
Source: Received from publicist. Many thanks goes to Dana from Kaye Publicity for sending me this book for review. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: 4/5
Canada Gold has spent the last several years working in the casinos and the courthouses of Las Vegas. She returns to the city where her father had been murdered and she is swept up in the violence and scheming of a secretive organization. She is nothing but a puppet for the organization and is in a race against time to find her father's killer, and to save her own life. With everything at stake, she must decide who to trust, who is out to kill her, and who is willing to use her capabilities for their own gain.
Canada has had a tough life. Her father was murdered, and her mother left her, leaving her all alone. She is a character that I felt empathy for. She has no one, except for a few close friends. She is definitely a character that I can relate to.
The Thousand, is an organization that has been around for centuries. They are a secretive group searching for mathematical theory in everything--philosophy, music, art, and science. They are an elitist group divided, at war with themselves with Canada sitting unwittingly in the line of fire.
This book had an excellent blend of history, philosophy, science, music, and art without detracting from the suspense and mystery. The characters were memorable, and the tension was palpable throughout the novel. The plot was intricate in detail, and fast paced in execution. I was drawn in almost immediately and enjoyed the many dimensions of the book. It was a thoroughly engaging read which captured, and maintained my attention.
All in all, a phenomenal book which marries history, math, science, music, art, and suspense together for a thought provoking, detailed, and well executed read. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Dan Brown's work, as well as James Rollins. Guilfoile is an author to watch.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This was a four star idea but only three star execution of it. Over and over I put the book down but then picked it up to try again to finish.
Most descriptions of the book were somewhat misleading. From what I read, I thought that the story would go back and forth between ancient Greece and modern times. References to the secret society "The Thousand" reminded me a little of the Knights Templar. In this case, the Thousand hold knowledge of mathematics related back to Pythagoras and his theory of numbers. This knowledge gives them almost supernatural powers. There are several places the story just didn't work for me. For a start, there's conflict between two factions of the Thousand and they end up fighting like two Greek gods manipulating events and the only victims are the humans.
Solomon Gold is an egotistical musician (and member of The Thousand) who has supposedly completed one of Mozart's unfinished works. Gold says "Many believe God once took the form of man. What if I told you He could take the form of music?" Gold's completion is supposed to be so perfect that if it was played - well, here it was a little vague. Would the world end? Would we see God? I'm not sure. Gold is murdered and his work disappears so we never find out.
I did like his daughter Canada (Nada) Gold and found the descriptions of her brain implant - her "spider" -- quite fascinating. As a child, she was AD/HD and this experimental device allowed her to make connections and see patterns whereas before she could barely hold onto a thought. Nada lives on the fringes of society playing cards for money. Eventually, she's banned from all the casinos in Vegas for card counting, something she does without even thinking about it. Eventually she goes on the run because some people in the secret society want her "spider" removed. I wasn't clear why. Maybe they wanted it for themselves although everyone except Nada who had the implant had a breakdown and/or committed suicide.
By the end, I just didn't care about these unanswered questions and I was glad to put the book on the shelf.
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This review pertains to the advance reader's edition. I'm hoping that the book will be properly edited, with all of the little mistakes removed, by the time it gets into the hands of paying readers because there were quite a few typos, poor transitions, and plot holes that needed filling. However, I think the author is talented and shouldn't be penalized because of editorial problems in the advance reader's edition. Anyone who is slightly well-read has heard of Phythagoras. He was a Greek philosopher and mathematician who started a religion whose followers were known as Phythagoreans(who knows, there may still be some of them around today). He was shrouded in mystery. He was said not to have written down anything and admonished his followers not to write down his words, either. In this the author stays true to Phythagoras because his book is also shrouded in mystery. In fact the reader will not learn very much about The Thousand, the secret society the book is named for. Instead the story focuses on Canada 'Nada' Gold, daughter of Solomon Gold a renowned conductor who was acquitted of murdering one of his violinists and subsequently shot and killed by the violinist's father. As a young girl Nada suffered from a learning disorder and a neurostimulater was implanted in her brain. Due to the stimulator she started displaying certain abilities like being able to read a person's lips from across a room, thereby 'hearing' private conversations. She also has a photographic memory and has an uncanny ability with numbers, therefore she's anathema at most casinos in Las Vegas where she lives. It was at a casino where she met Wayne Jennings who worked security. He was smitten with her and allowed her to perform her numbers magic every once in a while at the casino in exchange for her help with identifying potential troublemakers among the casino's clientele. Nada also hires out to do private jobs for those willing to pay for her ability to read people. She is lured to Chicago on a job such as this only to learn that she is involved in a web of lies that ties in to her father's death. When Nada turns up missing (she didn't tell him she was off to Chicago on a new job), Wayne is worried about her. Unbeknownst to Nada the chips that she neglected to cash in at the casino where Wayne works has tracking devices in them. Wayne tracks her to Chicago via the chips. After stumbling upon the murder of Nada's ex-boyfriend, Wayne believes her life is in danger. And since his prints are all over the murder scene, he is the prime suspect. Hence, you have Wayne trying to get to Chicago to rescue Nada while eluding the authorities. He goes through hell trying to get to her. That's why I said the book should have been called Poor Wayne. Yes, the story is convoluted. Yes, there were plot holes you could drive a big rig through. But it entertained me. The characters were interesting. I loved Wayne. And I would read another Kevin Guilfoile novel.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This book started at a good clip as what I assumed would develop into some sort of legal thriller because of the opening scene of a successful young lawyer establishing his career with the acquittal of a pivotal character. However, this was only the beginning. Canada Gold, the daughter of the murder defendant, is actually the ingenious protagonist who moves this story along.
An ancient intellectual cult comprised of warring factions sought to neutralize Canada Gold and her special mental abilities that she acquired after a pacemaker-like device was implanted into her brain. The story is fresh and imaginative. The City of Chicago is almost a character itself in this novel. The descriptions are so vivid, the locales so determinative.
The references to the ancient cult's special knowledge of world-ending secrets, though, are a little too vague and underdeveloped. It is for this reason that I am giving the book four stars instead of five. The specter of such a group's existence, though, haunts the entire book and is deftly woven into the intrigue.
This book has a fast-moving plot and characters who are complex and richly drawn. I really enjoyed this book!