Book Review: The Alienist

I was flipping through some of the audiobook selections at my library, and I came across a curious book that had a sci-fi sounding title and a –

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD IS THIS A THEODORE ROOSEVELT FANFIC

Renting the shit out of this.

The Book

51jxil0exalThe Aleinist
Author: Caleb Carr
1994
Amazon Link

I hadn’t heard about this book, but I was pretty little when it debuted in ’94 (which means I’m older now, btw).  Regardless, I was looking for sci-fi about aliens and stupid computers thought this was what I meant.  I was disappointed to see it was about the 1800’s.

But then I saw it was supposed to have Theodore Roosevelt as a character.

Y’all know I’m a complete and total sucker for presidents.  I had to read this thing.  I checked that audiobook out, regardless of any regret I may later feel.

Non-Spoiler Review

I really enjoyed this book, though at times it got a bit graphic for my rather tender tastes.  I think what kept me engaged was their interesting techniques, not all of which worked (and some of which I found absolutely ludicrous from a technology perspective).  The main character, John Malone, was really a good perspective to write the book from.

One thing that I found very satisfying was the representation of characters that weren’t white men.  While it was apparent that white men were the power brokers in the world, the agency of boys, women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals was not overlooked.  The character of Sarah, especially, was done so very well.  I think Carr did great with characters from a wide swath of backgrounds, and I think people should read this book for that reason if nothing else.

Also, the historical elements were fantastic.  Sometimes it felt like Carr put things in just to include historical references (for example, the characters ate at Delmonico’s and described the restaurant in detail like 5 times).  They met people like Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and Jake Rhiis. It felt a bit forced at times, but still it added to the overall effect of the book.

Overall, I would recommend, but there are some rough places that aren’t really for the faint of heart (and probably surpassed my own abilities).

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

The story was really good.  The main characters used psychology – at least what was available in 1896, with a little help from having an author in 1994, to determine the characteristics of a murderer, find him, and stop him from continuing his spree.  It was deeply complex, intriguing, and full of action.  The emotional twists and turns were astounding.

The only low point in the book was, if you ask me, a bit at the climax. Kreizler, the titular alienist, quit the investigation when his girlfriend was killed by a mob boss.  He then came back at the end, almost deus ex machina, and solved the case.  As well, the mob boss was following him and ended up being important in the final showdown. To me, that final coincidence felt a bit too large, and it ignored a lot of the contributions of Sarah and the Isaacsons.  It wasn’t a bad way to do the climax, but it didn’t quite feel satisfying to me.

Supposedly there are follow up books, and I’m intrigued enough by this one to think they might be worth reading.

Next week:

This is a 5-Monday month, and what timing!  Next week, the 30th, I’ll be making a post describing my reading journey.  And what a journey!  I’m excited to share what may be my most successful reading year in a LONG time.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Alienist

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