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Obedience: A Novel Paperback – Jan 6 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (Jan. 6 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030739638X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307396389
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 13.5 x 1.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #683,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 95 reviews
52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
"What you do has consequences." Feb. 28 2008
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In Will Lavender's "Obedience," the students in Professor Leonard William's Logic and Reasoning class are about to embark on a strange and unsettling journey. Instead of following syllabus and plowing through a list of readings, the students are being challenged to prevent a murder that will occur in six weeks. The potential homicide victim is an eighteen-year-old named Polly, and the teacher will provide clues that, if followed logically, will lead to the place where she is being held. Three individuals taking the course become deeply committed to saving Polly. Brian House is a tortured young man who is still in shock after his older brother's sudden death; Dennis Flaherty (nicknamed Dennis the Menace) is a handsome and charming womanizer who has a knack for talking his way out of any situation; Mary Butler is an intense junior majoring in English who becomes increasingly agitated as the deadline approaches.

Williams feeds his students information about Polly's family and friends and provides details about her actions just prior to her disappearance. He states that "the best way to learn logic is to decode a puzzle." By solving the "Polly puzzle," they "will learn to think, and induce, and carve out the blight of lazy thought." Mary, Dennis, and Brian interview various people during the course of their investigation. Their inquiries lead them to the parallel case of Deanna Ward, another girl who went missing back in the eighties. Complicating matters for Dennis is his attraction to Elizabeth Orman, the seductive wife of Dean Edward Orman, a distinguished scholar nearly twice her age. As Mary, Brian, and Dennis gradually become more immersed in their task, they begin to question their instructor's motives. Is Williams an evil man with a hidden agenda? Is he toying with them for some nefarious reason? It may very well be that this is all a macabre and sadistic game that must be played out to the bitter end before the truth finally emerges.

"Obedience" is one of those books with a terrific premise that promises more than it delivers. Readers who like brainteasers may enjoy playing amateur sleuth. As the narrative progresses, however, it becomes dreary and tedious, and when the author at last reaches his startling conclusion (one that requires a major suspension of disbelief), many readers will be quite content to part ways with this convoluted psychological thriller that examines our gullibility in the face of authority.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Could have delivered so much... came up so short March 7 2008
By Elizabeth A. White - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Disappointing. I had read so many great reviews about this book (USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, etc) that I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to the hype. The writing is decent and the premise (which is in the product information above so I won't repeat it here) is very intriguing. However, I was unable to suspend belief to the level necessary to really "buy" this story for several reasons:

1) I just don't see 18-20 year olds actually caring as much about the fictional Polly presented in a college course as would be needed to get as sucked down the rabbit hole as they do.
2) the advancement of the plot depends on WAY too many "coincidences" / events happening at just the right time, in just the right location and, on at least one occasion, something most would consider logical behavior NOT happening.
3) as involved as the students get in the mystery, they leave several very obvious avenues of inquiry left unexplored (because, of course, doing so would derail the whole story).
4) there is no way as many people could be "in" on things as are required without someone tripping up or, conversely, no way as many people could be clueless to such elaborate events unfolding in (supposed) secrecy around them.
5) there are several events that, even after the book is wrapped up, don't make sense in context of the given explanation / conclusion.

Perhaps others will not be as "demanding" as I am about characters' behavior and the suspension of belief required, but I was disappointed that a premise that could have delivered so much came up so short.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
over the top March 2 2008
By David W. Straight - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
There are some books where when you finish and look back over what you've read, the pieces to the puzzle fit and make sense. There are other books where a review of the pieces in hindsight reveals gaping holes--plot elements that seemed reasonable at the time you read them, but in retrospect cannot stand the light of day. Unfortunately, Obedience falls into the latter category. Even at the time I read the book, there were too many places where I would say to myself things like "Why on earth doesn't Mary ask her friend Summer about this?", or "Why not take the obvious next step about the plagerism issue?" In retrospect, addressing these issues might have given the plot away so the author had the characters act illogically--often very illogically--at times.

At the core of the story is a mysterious professor who nobody seems to know anything about--which is certainly strange, since he's been teaching at the school for many many years and is tenured. This makes no sense at all even in a much larger school such as I'm at (27K students), but we'll let it go. He poses a puzzle about a to-be-murdered girl to the class and asks the students to solve the puzzle as he provides clues from time to time. In the book's opening paragraph it says that Professor Williams is in the faculty guidebook, but without a photo. He's indentified in group photos, but you can only see a hand or arm. The college's website gives a brief CV. When you get to the end of the book, if you return to this first paragraph, you'll see what I mean about gaping holes--and this is just one small example.

Revelations and clues send the 3 student protagonists--Brian, Mary, and Dennis, scurrying back and forth trying to figure out what's real and what isn't, and things grow steadily more sinister and more confusing, and it becomes apparent that there are a lot of mind games going on and a lot of people involved. There's a dramatic denouement which gets spoiled only if you think back on the pieces of the puzzle that led up to it--a short memory span would be useful here--stopping and thinking is a no-no!

At the end, I was reminded of Alistair MacLean's Where Eagles Dare, which has lots of drama and action to compensate for a truly idiotic plot line--the risking of many lives and material on the remote chance of unmasking a suspected traitor in England. Why not just stay in London and torture the suspect there? I thought. There's nothing quite that consequential here to be sure, but as you chug along in the book, everything gets more and more elaborate. "Is this necessary?" I kept asking. "Could we get where we're going more simply?" A quieter and simpler approach, without lots of bells, whistles, and flags, might have been more effective. In the movie Jaws, there was great drama and tension long before the shark finally came into full view--leaving unseen things under a mundane surface could help. The ending of the book supposedly wraps everything up, but it actually raises more questions--money, academic policies, etc. So the book is interesting, but not satisfying.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Waste of time March 16 2008
By Baking Enthusiast - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover

This is clearly a case of hype. The premise is great--that's what tempted me to get this from the library--but the execution failed. When Obedience ended, I had more questions than I had answers.

(1) Who financed Elizabeth Orman's scheme? There was a roomful of characters in the know who had to be paid off. Where did the money come from? That's a ROOMFUL of actors - that must have cost a fortune over six weeks!

(2) What does Elizabeth's nymphomania have to do with the story? Or is this clearly a case of gratuitous sex? So what if Elizabeth and Dennis are having an affair? What does that have to do with the story?

(3) Why did Mary, Brian, and Dennis go traipsing all over Cale? Why not just call the police? As a matter of fact, why didn't anyone call the police when reality and fiction were blurring. If Elizabeth's contention is true-that we're more apt to rescue a potential victim than one who's being killed in front of us-then why not call the cops even if you're not 100% sure? Why not tell them there's a girl who's been abducted, we don't know where she is, and all clues point to this being real. (At the very least, calling the police would bust the scheme wide open.)

(4) EVERYBODY knew this was a set-up (exactly like the movie The Game) and no one, absolutely NO ONE told Mary and Brian what's going on? Not even their peers or even Dean Orman, who's supposed to uphold the policies of their school? So we're supposed to believe that the Dean will allow the students' safety to be jeopardized so he can support his wife's dissertation? The best he can do is to tell them to stay away from Prof. Williams? What the ---?

(5) I find it extremely difficult to believe that 20-year-olds would behave as the author has written. Some of their conversations don't even ring true. One minute they're teen-speaking and the next they're erudite.

Furthermore, these are students who have other classes and yet they're supposed to be so wrapped up in this one class that all their time and energies can be directed to it. All? I know it's been a long time since I've been in college, but I'm pretty sure you can't devote 100% of your time to one class unless you want to fail that term.

(6) When this convoluted exercise ended with the death of an actor, the university does NOT hold Elizabeth Orman responsible for putting all this in motion? She has no culpability? Neither does the Dean? Mary's and Brian's parents do nothing about it? This is preposterous!

I have many more questions, but even typing this review is sucking the very oxygen out of my body. If this drivel is any indication of what's to come from Mr. Lavender, I'm afraid this is the first and last for me.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Sanity has been restored May 23 2008
By Fleurcat - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I would rarely, if ever, bother to write a review of a book that has already been covered by so many others. I still don't understand what is going on here. Why are so many professional reviewers praising this book? I've stopped giving authors' blurbs any credence. I think they exchange praise without sincerity. (OK, not all of them, but how are we to know which are honest?) If a few precocious kids read this book and liked it, I could understand that. But I don't understand how anyone with any knowledge of academia or criminology could possibly praise this book. I did purchase Obedience. I read every word. Like another one-star reviewer (see above), I was put off from the first page, with that nonsense about students seeking out prof's photos. I did not guess the surprise ending at all, because it is preposterous. I'm not an academic, no MA or PhD, but no university would permit this to occur. The premise of the thesis is also preposterous. The supposed course on Reason and Logic has nothing to do with either. The book is so absurd (and I've read a lot of stinkers) that I am still in shock. I am, however, immensely reassured to learn that I am not alone. The world is divided into 2 groups of people. I am gratified to learn that many besides myself know that the Emperor is not wearing clothes.

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