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The Silk Code Hardcover – Oct 7 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (Oct. 7 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312868235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312868239
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14.4 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,023,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Paul Levinson mixes LARGE ideas, from Amish scientists manipulating genetics the old fashioned way, to immortality and worldwide encoded plagues and immunities. The novel focuses for the most part on Detective Phil D'Amato, who is trying to determine why seemingly healthy people, including some Neanderthal-esque folks, are keeling over to violent allergic deaths.

There is a detour that takes us back in time to Neanderthal's, the Silk Road and some further clues. This break in the narrative threw me at first, leading me to see this first part as one short story and this as a second. But the last half of the novel moves quickly and pulls all of the ideas together nicely, while leaving events open for a follow-on story (I haven't yet read the rest of Paul's books, don't spoil it for me!).

Excellent hard-core sci-fi, especially in describing the Amish scientists doing in-depth gentics without lab equipment. The lanterns are especially cool.

Skipping ahead to read Paul's "The Plot to Save Socrates", then back to the other Detective D'Amato books.
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Format: Hardcover
Judging from the previous reviews, this is a book you either love or hate. I happened to like it very much, although I can understand why others might not. The book has its flaws (what do you expect from a first novel?), but its intellectual strength carries the narrative.
The Silk Code" is a novel of ideas masquerading as a cross between science fiction and police procedural. Levinson takes current thinking on genetics, speculation on the relationship between homo sapiens and Neanderthals, and archaeologic discoveries on the Tarim Basin in China and then mixes them with a little bit of Amish culture, virology, and Basque history. At times the mix gets a bit out of control, but overall it coheres fairly well, certainly better than some conspiracy theory novels I've read. The idea of moth genes in the human genome is not as far-fetched as some readers have suggested--it's already known that viral and bacterial sequences make up part of our genome and that we share some genes with other animals.
The weaknesses in "The Silk Code" are a direct result of the book's focus on ideas and its origin as a short story. The characters are wooden, especially in the modern sections of the book. They have a tendency to make brief appearances and then vanish. There were times when the narrative was too sketchy, and I wished that Levinson had gone into more detail. Who, for example, was Amanda really? How did the Amish get involved in an ancient conspiracy? There are enough loose ends and unexplored backstory here for a sequel, although I don't know if Levinson intends to write one.
At any rate, if you're looking for a novel heavy on character development and world building, this probably isn't the book for you. However, if you care more about the speculative elements of the plot, it might be more to your liking.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am always delighted to find a new science fiction author. There are simply not enough of them being published these days to suit me. I found "The Silk Code" in an airport bookstore, where the science fiction pickings were very slim, and was delightfully surprised. This one came with recommendations from Stanley Schmidt and Connie Willis, so I had to give it a try.
Levinson is still new at writing novels, and it occasionally shows. I sometimes wanted a section to move faster, and occasionally felt that the dialog dragged a bit. Overall, it was was too interesting to put down. The annoyance of an extra-long morning in the airport and an aching back disappeared by the end of Part One, and it kept me engrossed until the very end.
"The Silk Code" is is a solid first novel, and I very much hope to see more from Paul Levinson.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The premise of Paul Levinson's "The Silk Code", subcultures exploiting low tech but high science genetics through the ages, provides more than enough interesting material around which to tell just about any kind of story. But, like so many other first-time science fiction novelists, Levinson writes in first person and never shows you something when the main character can think it instead. Sometimes even that's too much: "A soft, pervasive light engaged us as we walked inside---keener than flourescent, more diffuse than incandescent, a cross between sepiatone and starlight maybe, but impossible to describe with any real precision if you hadn't actually seen it, felt its photons slide through your pupils like pieces of a breeze." (p. 35, paperback). Levinson seems to take the "science" part of "science-fiction" a little too literally. The dialog isn't any better, and is often indistinguishable from a character thinking to himself: " 'Ah, we come full circle--this is where I came in. Alas, we unfortunately are not the only people on this earth who understand more of the power of nature than is admitted by your technological world. You have plastics used for good. You also have plastics used for evil---you have semtex, which blew up your airplane over Scotland.' " (p. 38)
Levinson spends far too many paragraphs with the main characters simply wondering what'll happen next, summarizing what's already happened, and stating the obvious. Read the sample from Amazon, it might be all you can stand.
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