The Bookworm by Mitch Silver
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I've been struggling with my rating of The Bookworm for more than a week. On one hand a lot of the book is very compelling and had me flipping page after page not wanting to stop. However, the ending was so anti-climatic and nonsensical that I just can't justify giving it a high rating. So I've settled on 2 stars, although it might be more accurate to give it 2.5...
Mitch Silver's concept in The Bookworm is really cool. It puts forward a theory that there is a specific, plotted and planned reason that Hitler changed his plan and targeted the USSR when he did during WWII. From a purely tactical point it absolutely makes sense that he changed his focus at this time during the war and Silver gives us a really cool reason why it might have happened. But don't kid yourself this is still fiction. As far as anyone knows there was no 'bookworm' or planted Bible that Hitler was influenced by. But I did enjoy the premise. I also enjoyed the way the story unveils itself. We learn as the researcher learns the situation as described in recordings from WWII. It worked well to look back at the time here, as opposed to being 'in' the time period.
What book lover doesn't want to read about how to make a fake of an old book? Or how to create hundred year (plus) ink? Or what bugs eat away at what paper over the years of storing a book?
For me this was easily the best part of the book. Unfortunately it's a very small part of the story, although critical to the plot. But I certainly enjoyed learning about dust mites, paper eating bugs, lead ink and other things that tip off historians or scientists to whether something is a genuine artifact or a fake. I hope all the science was accurate, and am trusting that Silver did their research here. According to the thank you notes at the back of The Bookworm that appears to be the case.
For me, almost any book (fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) that has a well done prophecy scenario as part of it's story line is intriguing. Nostradamus and some of his fellow prophets over history are very interesting to me and I'm constantly watching those TLC documentaries and what not about what one prophecy could (or could not) mean. The most interesting piece for me was the alternate interpretation of the fall 'the two towers' Nostradamus prophecy. Since 9/11 this prophecy has been attributed to the events leading up to and the result of the World Trade Center towers being brought down. I'm not sure why Silver chose to use that piece of prophecy in a new context. If it was just because it worked, or because it's some of the better known prophecy; I couldn't say. But it was certainly interesting to see a different spin on those lines from what has been the standard for the last 15+ years.
Oil Story line
I know this plot line put a lot of readers off; and I totally get why. It's not relevant until the very end and it feels unnecessary throughout the whole book until the very end. If I wasn't well versed in the oil and gas sector and how international sales of oil affect the worldwide economy then I think I would have felt the same. Ironically I really enjoyed the beginning of the story that focuses on the 'sour' aspect of the oil and why that is odd to the inspector. However, I knew exactly what was being discussed and so it didn't add complexity to me the way it may have for others. It's definitely a complicated scenario that is used and likely makes things more elaborate than needed to fuel the story forward.
While I rated this book low, it is actually worth reading if you love this type of story.
There are two main reasons I disliked The Bookworm so strongly by the end:
1) If you're going to heavily imply certain Presidents or famous people as main characters then just use their names. I assume that Donald Trump is never written out in the book due to legal concerns, but it just drove me insane. Like we were dancing around what the book was trying to really tell us.
2) There is a lack of an 'ah-ha' or satisfying moment in the final pages and it really did ruin the rest of the book for me. Silver takes a number of complex issues and mashes them all together to make a political point at the end. It's almost like wishful thinking about how the existing political situation in the USA might resolve itself. That wasn't my expectation even at the halfway point of the book and so I was annoyed to feel cheated out of a brilliant ending and instead find myself reading political propaganda for today's politics.
If the ending could be re-written this book would easily rate 4 stars for me. But I was so disappointed in the outcome that it left a bitter taste in my mouth; and that is why I cannot in good conscious give it a higher rating.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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