Solomon the Peacemaker by Hunter Welles

Solomon the Peacemaker by Hunter Welles: The structure of this book is rather unique: it is told as a series of interviews with a prisoner named Vincent as he tells the story of his crime. However, the interviewer’s words have all been struck, leaving only Vincent’s answers. Most of the time you can kind of intuit what the interview had said, but at other times it just feels like a convenient break in the narrative, not a place where someone would naturally speak. But that’s all right. It works far better than I was expecting, actually. Somehow a detailed story gets across even with such sparse dialogue and description. Not that I’m entirely clear on what happened, mind. World peace is controlled by a powerful and intelligent computer known as the Peacemaker. This computer is so complex it must interface with a human mind, so a host is chosen once every seven years. Vincent and his wife become involved with a man known as the Preacher, a kind of revolutionary who believes humanity is enslaved by the Peacemaker. It’s all very strange but my biggest issue is that I want to know what happened after the very last page. Did Vincent’s actions change anything? What exactly was he trying to accomplish, anyway? Was Preacher right after all? What happens to the hosts when they’re connected to the Peacemaker? And given the existence of a drug that erases memories, how much of Vincent’s tale even happened?

In short, I was waiting for an “ah ha” moment that never came. I suspect the author was hoping for this novel to serve as a kind of conversation starter. And indeed, I think I would have really enjoyed reading this alongside a friend and discussing it as we went – assuming, of course, that they picked up on more clues than I did. I feel like I didn’t absorb enough information about the world in which the story was set to truly grasp what happened, but I’m also willing to accept that this might be, like Neal Stephenson’s later works, the sort of book that I don’t understand but other people love. I’d recommend this book to someone who prefers their science fiction esoteric and experimental.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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