3 out of 5 stars
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The basic concept of Final Notice is a creative and interesting one. It explores what peoples' reactions might be if they know they have a short time to live. While many characters appear at different points, two main characters carry the story from start to finish. Most of the characters are "good guys" and would be more real if they had a few flaws. Nevertheless, they have interesting personalities and backgrounds, which are detailed when each character is introduced.
The author unabashedly pushes a liberal point of view and a critique of current conservative viewpoints. I happen to agree with him, but feel it's done in a way that is too obvious and proselytizing. No one in high office is mentioned by name, but by stating the characteristics of a person, or the way that person is perceived, one can deduce who it is, and from that, what time period the story covers.
The story deals with a range of important issues, from ageism to hatred of minorities and unfair treatment of the handicapped. The pro's and cons of gun-control are wrestled with throughout the novel. One of the fascinating lines of plot development is the rejection of gun ownership on the part of the main characters, a reversal of this attitude when bad things happen to them, and an interesting ending which involves unexpected moral choices.
Central to the story is a watch which detects the health level and possible imminent demise of the wearer. The intention in building these watches is positive: to allow people to be sure their wills and other papers are in order, and to alert them to the need to see loved ones while they still have time. But in a twist, the company which produces them faces a serious and unexpected dilemma when confronted by evidence that their product is being used in a very dangerous way. To counter this, the company attempts to better publicize the good effects, but they are hard to measure or to even know about. Steps are taken to correct the flaws in the product, but I think in the real world CEO's are much less empathetic and more concerned with their bottom line.
The ending has a twist and presents a refreshing take of the dilemma facing both of the main characters. It makes the point that decisions are not always rational, nor are they always based on predictable behavior. I think this last part is particularly well done.
I would rate this book a 3 out of 5 stars. The plot idea is interesting. I was grabbed enough by curiosity about what would happen at the end to keep me reading until I found out, and was pleased by the characters' final choices. I would have given the novel a higher rating except for three things. The first is the uncritical "good guy" liberalism mentioned earlier. The second is that I was sometimes distracted by over-explaining of technical details, whether it be the watch itself, a gun's characteristics, and so on. These details can be interesting, but sometimes they diverted me from the plot and kept the story from flowing with the excitement the plot really does create. The story would not be hurt by the reader not knowing every technical fact about the items being discussed. The third is that there were several formatting problems and a misspelling which should have been more carefully checked. However, it's a creative story with interesting characters, good plot twists and is worth reading.
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