This review was written by Chris “Buttery Wholesmeness” French and may contain Spoilers.
The views and opinions of this review’s author do not necessarily reflect those of Atomic Moo’s; Though they should since we’re trading our views and opinions for a smokes and candy bars.
I sat in the Rat Warrens under the scar that is Las Vegas, awaiting my fate. I’d just murdered the Rat King, and had been placed, in his stead, atop the stinking mound of filth that was his throne. The toothless human errata that inhabited those dark places where more sensible men feared to go (without being fully vested in their hobo-stab-insurance policies, at any rate) swarmed about my feet, some of them hopeless, many of them stupefied by their intoxicants of choice. How, could I turn such a rabble into a force to be reckoned with? How could I bend such a mob to my needs? It was then that a package arrived.
Trog had sent me a book to read. He had been completely immersed in his labors, none of which were even mildly reputable, and had, somehow, been entreated upon to spend his time reading this book, and others like it, and reporting to the entire Over-world about the quality of the craft therein. I happily agreed to do the job in his stead; it would provide a much-needed outlet for me. The job of managing the Warren was difficult. In time, it would become easier, of course. Until then, there was a new book to read…
When Michael Crichton began writing, he used a pen name. I don’t fault him this, as many great writers have used pen names (and many others have used ghostwriters, a practice I find abominable, even though the idea of taking credit for another’s work so appeals to me on a fundamental level that I fear the only real, lasting issue I take is that I don’t, myself, benefit from the practice). However, when I hear an artist has used a pen name, I grow concerned; if the sting of failure falls on a fake name, what reason does one have to write powerfully? In this case, though, I need not have worried at all. Odds On is the story of a plan to rob the Reina, an isolated super-hotel complex and resort that has been situated on a sprawling stone outcropping off the coast of somewhere luxurious. You know the place, even if you Have never seen it on a map. San Tropez. The Canary Islands. Think of beaches, and those that have enough money to stay on them forever, and you have the idea.
At this point, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I do love a well-constructed caper story. There’s something about a well-planned heist that sparks the imagination, and relying on a crew of unknowns produces all sorts of potential for drama. What’s more, this story is particularly hard-edged. Not violent, per se; in fact, when the crew eventually has to stoop to violence to get information, it is jarring, unsettling, and is brilliantly used to show how far things have spun out of control. One of the hooks of the plot is that the man responsible for the plan has run the idea through a computer to iron out any bugs. Using a statistical model that allows for an algorithmic run-down of all the different parts of the plan, he has, in his mind, planned for every possible contingency and has come up, eventually, with a plan that is over 89% sure to work. Every step is tied to a ticking clock, with an allowance built into the plan for each step taking more than one attempt to complete. He’s even planned around the failure of one or more of the steps in entirety, although, as he states, “each deviation from the plan makes the entire venture less certain.” Of course, he didn’t plan on the dames. After all, this is a caper story. You need chicks, and nothing throws a plan off kilter faster than a sloppy romance. To Crichton’s credit, he doesn’t fall into the trap of making every woman in the book a dick-devouring fucksponge. Each female in the book who shows for more than a second or two is there for a reason, and, happily, each is a fully-formed character in her own right. One of them is a nymphomaniac, yes, but even she is not defined by this; it is not the sole driving part of her character, and it causes complications for all of the people involved. All three of the main female interests are strong, capable, and independent, in their way. All have their own lives, and can and do interact with the world in important ways.
There is sex, yes, and it is done correctly. It’s hot, and powerful, and usually serves to outline an issue or defining characteristic of one or both of the characters involved. for me, though, a real draw was that the book was penned so long ago that it serves as a window in time. The computer that the mastermind uses, and references so lovingly, is stationed at a University, where you had to buy time by the hour to run the statistical program that allowed him to perfect his plan. There was no memory in the computer, so he had to use thousands of punch-cards to run it (leading to a simply delicious moment in the book where he was concerned about getting the cards back, since someone else could run his program and deduce the entire plan if they ran the program again). True to the type of story, small issues begin to make themselves known the moment the plan begins. The ticking clock, the lack of communication, the distance the primaries in the plot have to keep in order to not be made as a crew; all of these things were planned for, and on a computer, no less, so they should be fine, but each serves to notch the tension up beautifully.
I enjoyed the book. I felt that it had been a long time since I’d read something so enjoyable, but, then again, I have been otherwise engaged. My suggestion is that, if you enjoy a good caper, you could do a great deal worse.
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