This one was hard. A great many books have surprised me, mostly pleasantly. However, I've already mentioned The Warrior's Apprentice and A Madness of Angels, and I'm saving some for the plot twist post.
If I am to be truthful, then I think Dan Simmons' Flashback wins the prize. I'd heard wonderful things about his Hyperion books for years, so I was interested to see what he would do with an apocalyptic near-future. I was shocked to find that the book, far from being a thoughtful and creative examination of future and past, was a nasty, small-minded, bitterly anti-liberal polemic. Turns out that:
- Global warming was a myth: it was just an evil lie put about by the democrats
- Universal healthcare bankrupted the U.S. and stopped all medical innovation (it may well do so, but that's an issue with implementation, not idea.)
- Loss of American exceptionalism and imperialism and introduction of affirmative action led to the utter downfall of America.
- The one place where the Good Old American Ideals are upheld is the utopia that is the Republic of Texas.
- Evil Muslims have taken over the world; Evil Japanese and Evil Mexicans have taken over the United States.
- Everything is Obama's fault. (Blame is also applied to other contemporary figures.)
Fine. Not necessarily my political views, but that's what makes the world go round.
But the real problem?
Dan Simmons' definition of a dystopia is, very literally, a world not run by white people.
And independent of your political beliefs, independent of whether or not you think Simmons' future is possible or probable, I think that is a problem. There is a sort of hysterical racism that pervades the book that it is hard to convey without quotes, and this post is long enough already.
Yep, definitely surprised by that one.
Lowest rating I've given a book in years.
I pulled the bullet points from my review.