Harbor Paperback – 2006
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
My only comment to those who haven't read it is that the book requires VERY close reading to get the most out of it. 2/3 of the way through, when I was eager to charge through to the climax, I realized that I was confusing some of the characters and/or had not retained necessary information about them. Some, but not all,of this is attributable to the fact that most of the characters had unfamiliar names. At one point, I was as confused as the FBI agents as to who was who --- Rafik, Ghazi, Kamal, etc. I went back and carefully re-read the first 2/3 and it was well worth it. I do have to say that the chapter where Aziz first joins the rebels in the army camp is extraordinarily difficult to follow, and could have been edited better for comprehension. I read it about 5 times very rigorously, trying to follow what was going on, and it remains very confusing.
An extremely enjoyable novel that rewards the unusual effort that it demands from the reader.
Some of the strongest scenes are early on, where Aziz (an ex-soldier from Algeria) jumps off a ship and swims into Boston Harbor. Of course, Aziz doesn't know the language and isn't in good health, and Adams does a wonderful job conveying his sensory disassociation from the world around him. Aziz never really loses that disassociation though, it's as if he spends much of the novel with earplugs on. Even when he's reunited with friends and later his brother, and begins to suss out what he thinks may be a terrorist plot, Aziz seems remarkably casual about what's happening. We also get flashbacks to Aziz's life in Algeria, where he - mistaken for another man - falls in with a band of mercenaries before escaping....again, Aziz seems carried along by events. Anyone not familar with Algerian politics will have a hard time figuring out some of these scenes.
I thought the end of the book was the weakest, as point-of-view ping pongs between several characters, including the FBI, and characters from early in the book are suddenly reintroduced.
Still, I think HARBOR is a very promising debut, and I hope Adams continues to tackle subjects of such relevance.
Perhaps it's my ignorance of Algerian history and events, or maybe it's my preference for more details...but many of the scenes (particularly the flashbacks to Algeria, and the bar scenes in the U.S.) were hard to follow. I found myself scanning over paragraphs to get the general gist of the story, until I could get back to the more interesting parts. Reading over the many reviews of this book, very few reviewers mention this fault...although one called some of the text "unwieldy."
Incidents in the past are alluded to, for example, hashish dealings and one character's shady experiences in Paris and Morocco, but the story is not ever adequately told.
The intelligence services are depicted as clueless and apt to jump to conclusions without proving their theories. I hope to God that intelligent services are really not as inept as they are portrayed in this book!
The first part of the book was fascinating, and I was immediately drawn into Aziz's adventures. But the author eventually lost me as a committed reader. I did finish the book, but mostly because I was away for the weekend and didn't have other books to read. Otherwise I probably would have put it down.
I am disappointed, because I really wanted to like this book. I wanted more detail and a more thorough narrative of what was going on. I believe that the author has potential, but she needed a harsher critic before the book was published. I realize that I'm alone in this opinion of the book, but that's one reason I was compelled to write a review and state my opinion.
And life is going at least OK when the F.B.I. starts to get involved with suspicions of terrorism both his and our assumptions about what is going on suddenly get much more complex. This is especially true as we realize that this is the time leading up to the 9/11 attacks. I find myself wondering just how Ms. Adams was able to develop such an interesting and complete character from a culture (Algerian) so different than ours. I think we have a new major player in the fiction scene.