Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens


Rating: WARTY!

This audio book was about Vanessa 'Michael' Munroe, a young and tomboyish investigator, who is called an informationist because it sounds much more cool even though it's nonsensical. Some reviewers have drawn a parallel between this characters and Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander, but Munroe is no Salander, despite the penchant for both to ride a motorbike. Salander would never bring harm on the downtrodden.

To me, Munroe is more like James Bond than ever she is like Salander. She has guys fawning over her as women fawn over Bond. She travels the world as Bond does, and has very convenient contacts wherever she goes. She's always potentially in danger but can fist-fight with the best of them. In contrast to Bond, however, Munroe's story moves at the pace of an arthritic snail (if that wasn't a contradiction in terms), and she isn't an agent of any government. What she does is dig up information on developing countries allowing capitalists to exploit them. While she doesn't do this exploitation herself, it can be argued that she facilitates it, and is therefore not a very nice person since she evidently has no qualms at all about what will happen to the people of those countries once western big money starts pouring in.

But then Munroe is very much a capitalist herself. Recruited by a rich Houston oil baron to find his missing adopted daughter, Munroe is offered two point five million, but demands that it be doubled before she will dirty her hands looking for the lost 18 year old. So she gets five million and a year to search and she keeps the money even if she uncovers nothing which has not already been uncovered by other investigators, official and otherwise. This is not even her field of endeavor, but she doesn't mind raking it in, exploiting a grieving father.

My feeling in beginning was that this story of Emily's disappearance would end up tied to the fact that she's adopted, or it would have to do with so-called white slavery, or perhaps to do with some secret related to her adoptive father's oil business interests in Africa. Taylor Stevens is evidently an escapee from a religious cult, for which I heartily congratulate her (for the escape, not the membership!). She anchors Munroe in Texas because that's where the author lives, so maybe there's some wish fulfilment going on here. Apparently Stevens began writing because her children bored her? I don't know how anyone can find children boring, but that's what I read. Maybe the interviewer misunderstood her? Anyway, Munroe zooms off to Africa to begin her investigation with your usual hottie ex-special forces guy by her side - someone assigned to her against her will be her employer. She has no respect for him and crudely rufies him one day after they arrive in Africa so she can go off on her own and do her job without him tagging along that day. Like I said, she's not a nice person and I neither liked nor admired her.

The wonderful thing about audio books is that you can listen to them while driving and get through a lot of books if you have any sort of commute worth the name. The downside of them is that you have to put up with whatever reader is doing the job. Hillary Hoben was the reader here, and her voice was so mind-numbingly monotonous that I was ready to buy Amway products form her. In short, I really disliked it after an hour or so. There is no inflection in her reading and while she makes passable attempts to modulate her voice to the characters, it's still flat as a pancake. Worse than this, the story stubbornly refused to move. It was less of an action adventure than a no-action misadventure. It went along at a leisurely pace when I was wanting it to get going already. It was at this point that I realized Vanessa and I were destined to part ways. I can't recommend this novel based on the portion (about 30% ) to which I listened, which discounted for skimming, was quite substantial.


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