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The Swarm: A Novel Hardcover – May 23, 2006
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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For more than two years, one book has taken over Germany's hardcover and paperback bestseller lists, reaching number one in Der Spiegel and setting off a frenzy in bookstores: The Swarm.
Whales begin sinking ships. Toxic, eyeless crabs poison Long Island's water supply. The North Sea shelf collapses, killing thousands in Europe. Around the world, countries are beginning to feel the effects of the ocean's revenge as the seas and their inhabi-tants begin a violent revolution against mankind. In this riveting novel, full of twists, turns, and cliffhangers, a team of scientists discovers a strange, intelligent life force called the Yrr that takes form in marine animals, using them to wreak havoc on humanity for our ecological abuses. Soon a struggle between good and evil is in full swing, with both human and suboceanic forces battling for control of the waters. At stake is the survival of the Earth's fragile ecology -- and ultimately, the survival of the human race itself.
The apocalyptic catastrophes of The Day After Tomorrow meet the watery menace of The Abyss in this gripping, scientifically realistic, and utterly imaginative thriller. With 1.5 million copies sold in Germany -- where it has been on the bestseller list without fail since its debut -- and the author's skillfully executed blend of compelling story, vivid characters, and eerie locales, Frank Schatzing's The Swarm will keep you in tense anticipation until the last suspenseful page is turned.
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After FINALLY finishing this table-breaker of a book, I thought I might post my thoughts here.
+I have to congratulate Mr. Schatzing for his amazing dedication to research. It's clear that he spent a lot of time and effort in trying to make this story premise feel grounded in reality, and it shows in his writing. The scientific explanations are quite thorough, and anyone with an interest in chemistry, biology or various Earth sciences will likely find something to be impressed by.
+Some of the characters are well-written and likable, especially, in my opinion, Dr. Sigur Johansen and Leon Anawak, arguably the two primary protagonists of the story. They're nuanced and interesting. Special mention goes to Jack Greywolf, whom I started out despising, but really enjoyed by the end of story.
+Scenery descriptions are nicely done. On a specific note, the destruction of various story-specific areas almost make you feel like you're there to witness them.
+The first half of the book is engaging and definite binge-read material. The build-up to the big reveal is laid out in such a way that you're always left wondering just what is going on, and wanting to know more.
+The yrr are really unique, and even after finishing the book I want to know more about them. I've read a lot of sci-fi, but I've never seen anything quite like them.
-While some characters are great, there are some that are *hilariously* bad stereotypes. Whether this is the result of a personal bias on the author's part, or just a lack of research into the non-scientific side of things, it results in some characters that are glaring caricatures. In particular, a CIA Director and the American president. The Director is obsessed with America's stance as the "absolute power" in the world, and what starts as a confident if misguided woman's attempts to do right by her own ideals slowly turns into a Bond villain scheme that had me rolling my eyes so hard I'm pretty sure I saw my own brain.
The President is just as bad, being portrayed as ultra-religious to the point of ridiculousness. Frank Schatzing appears to have the belief that the entirety of the US government, including the military, exists as one branch with no oversight whatsoever. The dedication put into deconstructing the US as some power-mad super villain is absurd. On the other side of the coin, every European character is nearly flawless and cares only for the world as a whole. This comical schism ultimately ruins a fair portion of the book, and was the biggest turn-off for me.
-The length. Good God, the *length* of this story makes it feel like a slog at several points. Honestly, you could have cut away two hundred pages and had the same story unfold. We're 'treated' to overly preachy stanzas about the environment, religion, national interests, and other such topics on a relatively frequent basis, especially in the latter third of the book.
I felt myself starting to nod off a few times after getting through the eighth straight paragraph about the tiniest details behind amoeba DNA. I'm all for hard science, but even I reach the point where I'm sick of reading every little bit of minutiae.
There's also an abundance of back story on every single character. We don't need to know the complete history of everyone we meet! Just give me enough to go by, enough to know who the character is, and I'll be happy with that.
Most glaringly of these segments is a chunk of the book where Leon Anawak travels back to his ancestral home. It adds almost nothing to the story as a whole, except to spoon-feed us yet another pseudo-spiritual couple of moments where a character will *vaguely* recall some mumbo-jumbo later on.
-The ending is too long and mostly uninteresting. It genuinely feels like it's dragging, and it was a chore to finish the last several chapters where a relatively grounded story turns into a Hollywood blockbuster.
Ultimately, The Swarm is worth a read. It's a story that can glue you to your seat during one section, then make you wish you were doing something else in the next section. While it does feel unfocused at times it's a solid story told well, with a lot of research behind the scenes. Not a bad investment.
Be that as it may, it does make for an interesting read, and the immense amount of scientific research that has gone into it makes it a book that will definitely open your eyes to our dependency on the oceans for our survival, but an above-average interest in marine sciences is probably helpful. If made into a movie, it would be the ultimate disaster movie, with the added chill factor, that all of the destruction could happen, if not quite for the reasons in the book.
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"The #1Blockbuster German Bestseller about an intelligent life force that takes over the oceans and exacts revenge on...Read more