I like amusement parks. I don’t necessarily like a lot of the rides -roller coasters and other popular “thrill” rides don’t interest me – but I like some of the shows and tamer rides. At Universal Studios, I particularly liked the new Harry Potter Diagon Alley section, in part because of how immersive it felt. So how about a book set in Utopia, an imaginary theme-park made famous for its immersive visitor experience?
Utopia is a park with four themed sections: Boardwalk, Camelot, Victorian Gaslight, and Callisto/space station. All visible crew members dress in theme-accurate costumes based on whatever section they’re in. In fact, theme/historical accuracy is so important, that the park creators hired historians and specialists of all sorts; even the plants/landscaping is theme-accurate. If Utopia was real, I would go on a pilgrimage to get there.
I liked and cared more about Utopia than I did about any of the characters. So naturally, Lincoln Child used Utopia not just as a setting, but as a hostage. The bad guys and good guys duke it out behind the scenes, the bad guys killing people by tampering with/blowing up rides and the good guys quietly trying to stop them. All the while, the park guests are blissfully ignorant. So now I can’t fully enjoy imagining a park like Utopia, because I remember that Lincoln Child is having tourists die there. And the next time a theme park ride breaks while I’m on it – which has happened (Men In Black at Universal) – I can pass the time wondering if it’ll blow up.
The book was fine for what it was. I can’t say there was anything particularly good or bad about the plot, characters, or story-telling. The only part that really stuck out in my mind was the park itself, but that was marred by the whole burning-and-killing-tourists thing. Is my reaction to the book logical? Probably not, unless Lincoln Child intended for readers to consider the Utopia park a character in and or itself. But that’s ok; reactions and opinions don’t have to be logical. I read it, it was fine, and it’s time to move on.