Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Flashback by Dan Simmons
Little, Brown & Company, 2011
Hardcover, 560 pages
ISBN-13: 9780316006965

The United States is near total collapse. But 87% of the population doesn't care: they're addicted to flashback, a drug that allows its users to re-experience the best moments of their lives. After ex-detective Nick Bottom's wife died in a car accident, he went under the flash to be with her; he's lost his job, his teenage son, and his livelihood as a result. Nick may be a lost soul but he's still a good cop, so he is hired to investigate the murder of a top governmental advisor's son. This flashback-addict becomes the one man who may be able to change the course of an entire nation turning away from the future to live in the past. A provocative novel set in a future that seems scarily possible, FLASHBACK proves why Dan Simmons is one of our most exciting and versatile writers.

My Thoughts:
In Flashback, a dystopian novel by Dan Simmons, many current citizens in a future, fracture United States take flashback, a drug that allows users to revisit past memories in real time as an unseen observer. Former Denver police officer Nick Bottom, is among the citizens addicted to flashback. Rather than living in the present after his wife's death he sent his son to live in L.A. with his father-in-law and is taking flashback to re-live happier times with his wife. Now Nick is out of funds and needs to take on a case as a private investigator in order to earn money to feed his addiction.

Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Nakamura hires Nick to investigate the murder of his son, Keigo. The crime was never solved and Nick was one of the officers involved in the investigation six years earlier... before his wife's death and the onset of his flashback addiction. While Nick is just looking for a way to score some more flashback and re-live memories with his wife, Nakamura has other plans and has Sato, his body guard, closely follow Nick and the investigation. But, as in all good mysteries, everything is not quite what it seems to be.

Flashback is part science fiction, part murder mystery, and should appeal to fans of both genres. It is a long novel, 560 pages, but I thought the action in Flashback made the novel move along quickly. (In spite of the fact that it appears I took a long time to read it, in fact, I took a long time to get this review written.) 

I was looking forward to reading Flashback, but kept putting it off as the reviews kept rating it lower and lower. Now I know why that likely happened and why I shouldn't have waited. Simmons takes current political and economic events and projects a future based on potential outcomes from these events. Most of the low reviews are seemingly based on people upset that Simmons is blaming the current administration for everything. The thing is Simmons never names names or points fingers - he just extrapolates his future events based on current factual events.

So, what I'm trying to say is that Flashback does not deserve the bad reviews and low ratings. Plenty of other authors are allowed to take conservative or religious ideology and put their own fictional spin on outcomes. Simmons certainly deserves the same right to examine a fictional future outcome. He is also a writer who is talented enough to do it better than most.

Flashback is very well written. The characters are all well developed and believable. Simmons' insights into this future dystopian society are well reasoned and chillingly realistic. Will this future world happen? Most likely not. This is fiction. So, even if you would call yourself a liberal, set politics aside and enjoy this futurist murder mystery. If you are a student of political history who enjoys fiction do yourself a favor and read Flashback.

Obviously Flashback is very highly recommended.


Japanese Green Zone Above Denver— Friday, Sept. 10

"You're probably wondering why I asked you to come here today, Mr. Bottom," said Hiroshi Nakamura.

"No," said Nick. "I know why you brought me here."

Nakamura blinked. "You do?"

"Yeah," said Nick. He thought, *uck it. In for a penny, in for a pound. Nakamura wants to hire a detective. Show him you're a detective. "You want me to find the person or persons who killed your son, Keigo."

Nakamura blinked again but said nothing. It was as if hearing his son's name spoken aloud had frozen him in place.

The old billionaire did glance to where his squat but massive security chief, Hideki Sato, was leaning against a step-tansu near the open shoji that looked out on the courtyard garden. If Sato gave his employer any response by movement, wink, or facial expression, Nick sure as *ell couldn't see it. Come to think of it, he didn't remember having seen Sato blink during the ride up to the main house in the golf cart or during the introductions here in Nakamura's office. The security chief's eyes were obsidian marbles. opening

Nick took a breath. He'd had enough of playing by Nakamura's script.

"No, sir," he said. "Those aren't the reasons you're considering hiring me. If you hire me to investigate your son's murder, it's because I'm the only person still alive who — under flashback — can see every page of the files that were lost in the cyberattack that wiped out the DPD's entire archives five years ago."

Nick thought to himself — And it's also because I'm the only person who can, under the flash, relive every conversation with the witnesses and suspects and other detectives involved. Under flashback, I can reread the Murder Book that was lost with the files.

"If you hire me, Mr. Nakamura," Nick continued aloud, "it will be because I'm the only person in the world who can go back almost six years to see and hear and witness everything again in a murder case that's grown as cold as the bones of your son buried in your family Catholic cemetery in Hiroshima."  pg. 5-6


Nick pronounced the old acronym "buy-ought-if" the way everyone did and always had, but Nakamura's expression remained blank or passively challenging or politely curios or perhaps a combination of all three. One thing was certain to Nick: the Nipponese executive wasn't going to make any part of this interview easy.

Sato, who would have spent time on the street here in the States, didn't bother to translate it to his boss.

"Before It All Hit The Fan," Nick explained. He didn't add that the more commonly used "die-ought-if" stood for "Day It All Hit The Fan." pg. 10-11

"So your dismissal from the Denver Police Department, after a nine-month probationary period, was for flashback abuse."

"Yes," Nick realized that he was smiling at the two men for the first time. pg. 12

Today the halls of Val's high school near the Dodger Stadium Detention Center had almost as many armed guards as students in the halls, the local militias protecting the kids stupid enough still to be going to and from school, and even the damned teachers were required to pack heat and take regular target practice at the LAPD's firing range in the old Coca-Cola bottling plant off Central Ave. pg. 25

"So if I fail in this investigation -  a case you couldn't solve five years ago in eighteen months of trying at a time when the witnesses' memories and clues were fresh," he said over his shoulder to Sato, "a case you couldn't solve with twenty-seven operatives working for you, more tech than the FBI has, and Nakamura's budget of billions of dollars behind you - you're going to disembowel yourself?"
The security chief nodded and closed his eyes. pg. 41

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