eBook ARC Review: Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin

I'm not sure I've ever had such an aggravating experience in reading a book. What I had was an electronic review copy with the editor's notes in the margins. Interesting, sure, but that meant an already unwieldy format (DRM protected PDF) was almost useless on my Sony. The text was too small to read at normal size, and once you zoomed in . . . not only did the lines break in awkward places (as PDFs tend to do), but the editor's notes merged into the body of the text, making for some really confusing passages.

With all that to consider, the fact that I persevered is testament to how engaging the story was. Despite the frustrations, I wanted to see where it was going next, and how it all would end.

I usually try to avoid comparing works or authors, but the best way I can think of to describe Strindberg's Star is as a mix of Dan Brown and Clive Cussler, with a little Stieg Larsson thrown for good measure. It's a great adventure story with some deep mythology, a truly fascinating puzzle at the heart of it all, and a villainess/heroine in Eva Strand who rivals Lisbeth Salander in terms of darkness and diversity. It was so refreshing to read a Dan Brown type thriller that wasn't mired in Catholicism, and as much as WWII history is very much not my forte, what Wallentin does with the Nazis, their experiments, and (most of all) their symbolism is genius.

In some ways, this is a difficult read, in that it blurs the lines between good and evil. There is no one shining example to latch onto as a hero here. Instead, we have a lot of broken, damaged, tainted individuals who often do very bad things for very good reasons . . . and vice versa. Don Titelman is an interesting character, a drug-addicted ex-doctor who lacks only the biting sarcastic wit to be a proper homage to Gregory House. He's a hard man to admire, and an even harder one to like, but he does provide an interesting vantage from which to experience the story.

As for the central mystery of the ankh and the star, the oddly well-preserved body from which they're retrieved, and the bloody (but fascinating) history of their original discovery and loss . . . well, I won't say much at all, other than to promise it's a mystery/puzzle well worth investigating. Personally, I found it much more fascinating than anything Dan Brown or his clones have attempted, and it really made the book for me.

All-in-all, a solid read, and one that I'd very much like to revisit in a more manageable paperback format, without the headaches of the electronic arc. I rarely invest the time in rereading a book, but this is one I would like to sit down and enjoy all over again.