The Doubt Factory - Paolo Bacigalupi

I'm torn. I like many parts of this novel, but there were others that I just couldn't get past, namely the romance. The political and social commentary were particularly poignant and relevant, but I felt that the full impact of those elements was overshadowed by the superficial love story between the protagonist and her kidnapper. But I think I'm getting ahead of myself... Let's start from the beginning!

Synopsis: Everything Alix knows about her life is a lie. At least that's what a mysterious young man who's stalking her keeps saying. But then she begins investigating the disturbing claims he makes against her father. Could her dad really be at the helm of a firm that distorts the truth and covers up wrongdoing by hugely profitable corporations that have allowed innocent victims to die? Is it possible that her father is the bad guy, and that the undeniably alluring criminal who calls himself Moses--and his radical band of teen activists--is right? Alix has to make a choice, and time is running out, but can she truly risk everything and blow the whistle on the man who loves her and raised her?

Alix is an interesting character, and fairly well rounded as far as fictional individuals are concerned. Where the whole thing falls apart for me, however, is when Alix falls for her stalker, and then things become cliche for that portion of the novel. I liked so much about the political and social intrigue throughout the book, but every time Alix and Moses are together, the romantic interludes just fell flat. Another character, Cynthia, is also quite stereotypical as the over-achieving and mathematically inclined Asian-American who achieves perfect SAT scores. I realize some twists slightly alter the stereotypical nature of Cynthia's character, but overall I really question the use of such cliche throughout the novel.

I may have been able to look at the relationship between Alix and Moses as more of a Stockholm Syndrome type of situation if it wasn't for all the descriptions of hotness from both sides. I mean, really? You've got a creepy guy you don't know looking through your window at midnight and stalking you at school, and your first thought is to open the door and talk to the guy because there's just something about him that's super intriguing? I don't know...

I enjoyed the commentary on corporate greed and the use of real cases to support the fictional twists and turns that Bacigalupi uses to increase suspense in the overall story arc, but there were just too many flaws for me to get fully behind this text. While I'm not as vehemently against this book as some online, I'm also not able to look past the character flaws to give the text as much praise as Publishers Weekly with their starred review. I suppose I'm stuck in the middle.

(Note: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out October 14, 2014)


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