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Falling Star Paperback – November 6, 2010
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
About the Author
Philip Chen was born in China in 1944 and immigrated to the United States in 1949. Growing up in Washington, D.C., during the 1950s and 1960s, Philip learned both the pains and triumphs of American society at a crucial turning point in America's history. In the fifties and sixties, Washington stood at the crossroads of southern institutionalized racism and northern false hope; a point not lost on the young Chinese immigrant.
After receiving a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with Distinction from the University of Virginia and a Master of Science from Stanford University, he worked as an ocean research engineer in the development of deep submergence systems. Part of his work dealt with vehicles that could freely dive to 20,000 feet of water depth. He also participated as a hyperbaric chamber operator for manned dives inside a pressure chamber to 1,500 feet. He holds one U.S. Patent for an underwater mooring system.
After his stint as an ocean research engineer, Philip was an environmental and energy engineer, a trial attorney, a public securities attorney, an investment banker, a corporate executive, a private equity manager (in Africa), a strategic consultant, a cartoonist, an illustrator, a website manager, and author. He received his law degree from the University of Minnesota.
One of his mentors once told Philip that it wasn't that he couldn't hold down a job; he couldn't even hold down a career! Philip's biography has been included in Who's Who in America and in Who's Who in the World for many years.
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Top customer reviews
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There is an interesting mix of characters, including a Chinese man who faces occasional hostility from both white and Asian directions, but this is primarily an idea story, of the kind that sold millions of science fiction and technothrillers, but aren't as much in fashion nowadays. If you like a solid story with a great science edge, Falling Star is a great read, and at the time of this review, at a fantastic bargain price.
Another reviewer, James Tepper in his 2 star review entitled "I just don't get it" says this:
[...The "hard" details are often wrong. The author so often misuses jargon and/or mis-describes so many things ranging from ASCII to binary to digital to computer password hacking to biology and physiology to physics that the reader is repeatedly jarred right out of the story by the lack of verisimilitude....]
I would tend to agree with his sentiment; read the rest of his review for more of his thoughts. I do tend to agree with his overall review, but am perhaps being kinder in my score.
I really found that the lack of consistency is the most irksome for me. In one paragraph the author will describe in great detail how the characters are traveling, e.g. got into the car, took route x, then interstate y, etc. but it seems rushed and doesn't convey a sense of time very well. It reads more like a list of directions than a novel. In the next paragraph another character may be in one place and arrives at another with far less detail (and still no sense of duration.) Sometimes in one sentence the character will get an instruction "Come to my office" and in the next the dialog starts "what do you want?" without any mention of travel or passage of time for the character to get between the two places. The author could have been consistent and wrote 'so and so got up from his desk and took the elevator to y's office' and then continued. Or he could have even done the '***' thing between paragraphs to indicate a shift in time and place. The writing style is very jarring as most of the time the author describes travel in great detail, even if it is just from one room to the next.
There are other jarring circumstances such as when two characters are working together. He'll use "Mike" and "Albert" however, Mike is a first name and Albert is a last name. Can't he say "Mike" and "Herb" - it's these little things that separates an experienced author from a novice and makes a story that much more enjoyable.
Some of the situations are also stilted, awkward, or just plain unrealistic. For example, there are a few situations where the agents are interviewing other people. It's like they barrel on ahead "I'm so and so from x agency" then they ask two or three questions, and then "by the way, this is y from y agency" - would anyone talk that way in real life? Probably should start "Hello, I'm agent x from agency x and this is agent y from agency y, we'd like to ask you a few questions..." There was an obvious naivete going on when they were interviewing another character, it was something along the lines of "you don't have to talk to us if you don't want to" -- what kind of secret agent is going to give the person they want to extract information from a way out. If I was the person, I'd say, well I'm not talking to you then and walk off. The agents go back to headquarters - sorry boss we asked if they'd talk to us and they said no, so we came away empty. For secret agents they're very laid back. Many conversations in this book are contrived in this very manner and make it a difficult grind to read on as your mind keeps being jarred by how it expects real people to talk and act in these kinds of situations.
I'm about 70% of the way through the book and I keep saying I am going to put it down, I have other better books to get to, but yet I keep reading. I just wish it wasn't such a struggle, I really want to like this book, but the writing style leaves a lot to be desired and I read voraciously.
There is talk by other reviewers of a sequel. If I ever get to the end of this book, I don't think I will partake unless there is a radical improvement in the dialog and writing style; or the cliff-hanger, if there is one, it simply too irresistible. This book is not bad, but its not excellent either (not sure why the 5 start ratings) However, it's nothing a really serious edit couldn't fix.
Most recent customer reviews
It was entertaining, exciting, and a hard one to put down. Great writing, Phil.