three-stars
By: 
Dan Simmons
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0

A-FlashbackAward-winning horror and SF novelist Dan Simmons is the author of nearly 30 books, including Hyperion (1989), the Hugo Award–winning first novel in the Hyperion Cantos series; the Locus Award–winning Ilium/Olympos series; and, more recently, The Terror (4 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2007) and Drood (3.5 of 5 Stars May/June 2009).

The Story: Unable to recover from the economic crisis of 2008, America is completely bankrupt and on the verge of collapse by 2032. Its status as a world superpower has ended; millions of Mexican reconquistas have swarmed its southern borders; and a sleek new mosque--built by the powerful New Global Caliphate--sits atop Ground Zero. Worst of all, most Americans are addicted to flashback, a powerful drug that allows them to relive the past in vivid detail. When former Denver homicide detective Nick Bottom is hired by a wealthy Japanese businessman to solve his son's murder, Nick takes the job to fuel his flashback habit. But his investigation may shatter what little stability America has left.
Reagan Arthur. 560 pages. $27.99. ISBN: 9780316006965

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"With Flashback, Simmons gives us a noirish thriller set in a grim, broken future where the only relief comes from a drug. ... Murder plots, conspiracy and global meltdown are a lot to handle--but if you've ever read Simmons before, you know that he's adept at constructing immense, complicated frameworks, and Flashback is no exception." Nick Owchar

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"If all this extremism seems a bit much, Simmons makes it all feel relevant to today. ... Call it a wake-up call about America's decreasing world power or just a very entertaining, highly engaging ‘what-if' piece of historical fiction." Carol Memmott

ScienceFiction.com 3.5 of 5 Stars
"There is no doubting Simmons's commitment to his message but sometimes it comes across as merely gratuitous (whatever you may think about anthropogenic global warming, it's certainly not a ‘hoax'--which implies a deliberate intent to deceive by the whole scientific community). ... Scenes are described with vivid impact, characters and dialogue seem effortlessly real (we know how much work that takes!) and the narrative-journey seems as authentic as a flashback experience itself." Dr. Nigel Seel

SF Signal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"A bleak story that's part murder mystery, part family drama and part cautionary tale that succeeds when it's not being overtly political." John De Nardo

Onion A.V. Club 1.5 of 5 Stars
"That twist isn't nearly enough to redeem Simmons' leaden exposition, inconsistent voice, and histrionically ridiculous vision of a broken America--not to mention his moth-eaten bag of genre stereotypes. ... In Flashback, Simmons ... [populates] his workmanlike plot with rants against liberal academia; the Ground Zero ‘mosque,' rendered here as a jet-black version of the Taj Mahal; slang-dropping degenerate teens cribbed from A Clockwork Orange; and stock Japanese samurai-businessmen who can't get their Ls and Rs straight, a fact he constantly, jarringly reminds readers in print. ... On the plus side, Simmons is a veteran storyteller, and there's a baseline of solid competence in Flashback." Jason Heller

Barnes & Noble Review 1 of 5 Stars
"With all this [violence and degeneration] going on (and on), there hardly seems room for a plot, and yet there is one, balky and encumbered by jeremiads though it may be. ... In the end, the novel's real mystery remains:  How could the witty and potent imagination that produced The Terror and Drood wither to such smug and censorious dullness?" Katherine A. Powers

Critical Summary

Taking on everything from global warming to national health care and suicide bombers, Simmons's politically charged dystopian vision (in the book, a direct result of the Obama presidency) polarized the critics, whose reactions reflected their own views or their ability to separate the story from the author's impassioned critique. Nonetheless, the novel's inventive (if bleak) imagery combines with its serviceably suspenseful plot to create an interesting, genre-bending twist on the traditional detective story. Also on display are Simmons's talents for constructing sympathetic characters and authentic dialogue. The critics were uniformly intrigued by the idea of the drug flashback, though his detractors felt he explored it only cursorily. Timely warning or outrageous invective? Readers will have to decide for themselves.