4 stars, with reservations.
As a kid, I would scan the movie section of The Western Catholic most wanting to see the films that had been given the Condemned rating and those in a category called For Adults with Reservations. The value of the Condemned category to this pervy kid was obvious. The For Adults with Reservations rating was not as self-evident, and for me, seemed to indicate that the films in this category, while not generally a good idea for catholics to see, were at least OK as long as the adults had planned on seeing them (i.e. made reservations) and not simply wandered into the theaters unaware. The logic of childhood.
After reading The Last Samurai, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this new novel. I should have considered my own limitations and the statement in my profile (“rarely, if ever, do I read a title as it's published”). For me, snatching up the latest from an author I’ve admired all-too-often leads to a disappointment that is avoided by giving a work some time before jumping into it. I wish now I’d let this one wallow in my unread pile allowing it the chance it deserved. What bugs me the most about this unfortunate tendency in myself is that I’ve it in other readers and resent it: Of course, A Spot of Bother isn’t Curious Incident II: The Sequel. In any case, for me the rush to the newest or latest doesn’t always work, and I should have prepared for that—my reaction is neither a reflection on an author nor the work.
My second reservation with this one is its own history. Apparently, it was written, or largely written, before The Last Samurai. I find myself wondering why it has taken so long to be published. Has the author been busily revising and or editing the text? Is she crafting another masterwork in the tradition of TLS, and this one is to serve as a place-holder until the next novel makes its appearance? There’s something about this one that just seems ephemeral, something that will prevent it from stealing TLS’s thunder (lightning?).
A warning that really won’t be very helpful/useful: The image of the delivery system that Joe invents along with the product delivered might seem
gashly ghastly to readers with delicate sensibilities. You’ve been warned.