The blurb on the back cover by the San Francisco Chronicle describes this stand-alone novel as "Michael Chrichton meets Robert Ludlum, with a big scoop of The Manchurian Candidate thrown in for good measure.... [it] will keep you guessing." Well, it certainly kept me guessing - among other things, I still can't figure out why Bear switched his first-person point of view midway through the book to a different character, after 196 pages (paperback) of solid writing with the primary character. It may have been the only way to tell that particular part of the story, but it felt incredibly awkward, and the quality of the story went nowhere but downhill after this point. The viewpoint switches a few more times throughout the book.
If Michael Chrichton ever met Robert Ludlum, it would be in a dark alley, and Ludlum would clock Chrichton upside the head for not being able to write decent endings, among other things.  Vitals does have some of the weird science aspects of Chrichton, but it also shares Chrichton's annoying tendancy to write himself into a corner towards the end.  Vitals does not, in any way, shape, or form, compare even remotely to Ludlum's mastery of espionage.  In the first half
of the book we are tantalized with the possibility of the main character getting trained to avoid assasination, but it falls through.  The rest of the book is like this - possibilities of interesting things just around the corner, but the author never takes us there.

Vitals certainly has its creepy moments, and the first 196 pages are excellent.  But overall, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone other than a die-hard sci-fi fan, and even then only if they were stuck in an airport for five hours with nothing else to read.  It will pass the time.  There is certainly a lot more sci-fi out there that is drastically worse; I can't complain about Bear's prose, though it also has nothing outstanding about it either.  But there is
certainly a lot more sci-fi out there that is obviously better.

This entry was published Sat Jun 03 09:16:14 CDT 2006 by tsarren@infodancer.org and last updated 2013-08-14 08:34:14.0.

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