Review: The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson

September 6, 2014 2 stars, Book Review 22 ★★

Review: The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick SwensonThe Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson
Published by Tor Books on August 12, 2014
Genres: Adult SFF, Science fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

In the twenty-second century, a future in which mortaline wire controls the weather on the settled planets and entire refugee camps drowse in drug-induced slumber, no one—alive or dead, human or alien—is quite what they seem. When terrorists manage to crash Coral, the moon, into its home planet of Ribon, forcing evacuation, it’s up to Dave Crowell and Alan Brindos, contract detectives for the Network Intelligence Organization, to solve a case of interplanetary consequences. Crowell’s and Brindos’s investigation plunges them neck-deep into a conspiracy much more dangerous than anything they could have imagined.

The two detectives soon find themselves separated, chasing opposite leads: Brindos has to hunt down the massive Helk alien Terl Plenko, shadow leader of the terrorist Movement of Worlds. Crowell, meanwhile, runs into something far more sinister—an elaborate frame job that puts our heroes on the hook for treason.

Crowell and Brindos are forced to fight through the intrigue to discover the depths of an interstellar conspiracy. And to answer the all-important question: Who, and what, is the Ultra Thin Man?


I really wanted to like this one, but ultimately when I feel like DNFing a book and I don’t, I feel obligated to be as honest as possible.

The Ultra Thin Man was a bit hard for me to rate, so when I have difficulty rating, I always go to my trusty Review Rubric for help and since I don’t even know where to start with this one, I’m just going to go down the list:

The characters:

Dave Crowell and Alan Brindos are contract detectives for the NIO. Is there anything else about them other than the fact that they are stereotypical detectives (Not married, closed-off, and essentially loners even in this sci-fi environment)? No.

That’s because they have no characterization at all! I’ve read 300 hundred something pages about these guys and I have no idea who they are! I couldn’t even begin to connect to them and not only that, they both sound so similar that often times I confused their POVs. I don’t even know why there was a need for two other than the for the convenient storyline because they have essentially the same personalities.

My dog has more personality than these guys.

Not only that, but the relationships (the little there was) were shoddy as hell. There’s no friends, relatives, and even the romance is so terribly quick and out of nowhere that I actually wish it was taken out altogether (as much as I like side romances). I didn’t feel the connections between the characters; which made the story feel so bland and drawn out.

Side Note: You know by now that I love strong female characters. I can tell this is a guy book when: a) there’s a lesbo scene, b) MC seems to care about Cara, but only seen together when having sex, c) probably because she works at a space brothel, d) Penko’s wife is a RuBy-addict. Another book where females are pushed to the side. And I’m sorry, but I have to have at least one female character to give a shit about.

The plot:

Here, The Ultra Thin Man starts to be a bit more interesting. We have a terrorist trying to break away the system of society, but underneath that there is more. A conspiracy from above unravels before you as you read on and I did enjoy some (but not all) of the twists.

I liked that there was no comment on sexuality. People could kiss or screw whoever they wanted. I also liked the alien culture and description incorporated into the story (I wish there was more of this):

“A Fourth Clan Helk you could talk to without feeling terribly inadequate, but that was it. A light fur covered their broad bodies, and they had legs like small tree trunks, and log arms that rippled with muscle. Their heads were hairless, the skin dark and leathery due to the desert climate of their homeworld.” (20)

“During mating, most Memors morphed male, but those rarer occasions when Memors intersexually assigned themselves female, they were bonded to multiple males, their surnames stripped.” (30)

These aliens were pretty awesome, but they are such a small small part of the story to the point where they were just there for show. I also didn’t like how their descriptions didn’t match their actions. At one point it mentioned that a Helk was super quick and I wondered how that was possible since they were giants. The fact that they were so powerful and heavy makes me believe that they would be either average or a little slower than a normal person.

Which brings me to the worldbuilding. I appreciate the effort when it came to creating this futuristic noir world, but I didn’t like it. Aside from the nice drugs called RuBy, there really is nothing good I have to say.

It’s like if some dude with a huge machine gun aimed it at your mind and went to town. That’s how many plot holes there were. NOTHING that you wanted to know was explained and there were too many random info-dumps that started to drag the story. How can you have cloning or weather control and not explain the hows or the whys?? How can there be so many copies out there infiltrating other people’s lives?? How can you have an association so flawed for so long?? —WHY WOULD YOU EXPECT THE READER TO ACCEPT THIS WITH NO EXPLANATION?

The plausibility of this happening was slim to none because nothing was scientifically explained and there was no purpose for anything. I don’t get it. I would try to explain further but I wouldn’t want to spoil the readers out there because that’s a big part of the book.

I only know that this wasn’t my cup of tea, but I hope you guys give it a chance and see how it goes for you.

Anyway, in order to make me more sane and comfortable with my rating…what do you believe a good sci-fi has to have? What contributes to your rating (for this particular genre)?

22 Responses to “Review: The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson”

    • Kat

      I do, she is a Dachshund named Joy and my husband’s dog is a Corgi named Duke 😀 Shih Tzu’s are so friggin cute. I put a picture of her up on my GR review! Yeah the blurb sounded much better, which is why I requested it from Tabitha :/

      The aliens were pretty interesting! I wish there was more attention to that.

    • Kat

      I’m not usually too picky, but characters and plot are a must for everything. Including sci-fi.

  1. Wendell

    Sounds pretty boring. As for what makes good sci-fi, it is just the same old thing: interesting characters with a intriguing story. The more books I review the more important those two simple things become. New world’s are great. Cool technology intrigues me. Awesome ideas will make me say “Wow.” But what makes me want to keep turning the pages is characters I’m interested in and a story that I have to see resolved.

    Oh, I totally understand your need to have at least one strong female character now. After reading a fantasy with no strong male characters, I can see where it would be . . . annoying. So new rule for all writers: at least one strong male and female character in each book. No exceptions to this.
    Wendell recently posted…HOUNDED (THE IRON DRUID CHRONICLES #1) by KEVIN HEARNEMy Profile

    • Kat

      I couldn’t agree more, I love awesome futuristic or dystopian ideas but the characters are what drive the book. Which is why I think it’s so hard for me to enjoy something when I don’t care about who they are or where they’re going.

      Which fantasy did you read? Just curious. I’ve never seen it on the other side like that, it must have been an urban fantasy lol. I think that’s a rule that’s mandatory.

  2. Joy (Joyousreads)

    I don’t blame you for not clicking with these characters. They sound so clinical, and cold. And that’s the first indication that you will not be able to enjoy the rest of the novel, isn’t it? If you can’t find anything remarkable about the characters?

    I hope your next read will be better.
    Joy (Joyousreads) recently posted…Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 119My Profile

    • Kat

      I think that characters are a big part of the story, BUT there are some cases where I don’t really like the characters all that much. Which is where the story/plot and writing come into play. This was just a mess for me in all areas.

    • Kat

      LOL, that’s what I tell myself when I read something I’m not too fond of. I think characterization seems to be the key element for everyone. The connection to the characters is a necessity.

  3. Molly Mortensen

    The concept of this book sounds good, but it looks like the author doesn’t know how to tell a story yet. It could’ve been so good too! I rate scifi the same way I do fantasy, they both have their world building and plausibility and weird words, but when it comes down to it the story has to be interesting and I have to relate to and like the characters.
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…My Father’s Favorite BooksMy Profile

    • Kat

      That’s pretty much exactly what I’m all about. I really thought this one was gonna be good from the blurb, but I feel like it could have been so much better for me if there was more focus on the characterization.

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy the book! But yours is not the first tepid review I’ve seen for this book from the blogs I read. The publisher actually sent this one unsolicited for me to review, I’ll probably still read it but only if I have some time to fit it in. The lack of personality in these characters worry me, as characters are so important for my enjoyment.
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…Sunday Musings: Sunshine and SnifflesMy Profile

    • Kat

      Well I do hope that you enjoy it. I always feel weird when I rate something this low, because I feel like I’m the only one or that maybe I just didn’t “get it”. But really, when I don’t feel a connection to the book then I just don’t. It happens all the time with readers, I’m sure.

  5. Danya @ Fine Print

    I feel so validated reading this, Kat! Sometimes when I really didn’t like a book I worry that there’s something I was missing when I read it…good to know this wasn’t one of those times. And I completely forgot to discuss the weirdness of the brothel in my review, but what was it’s purpose? Why a brothel as opposed to a bar? Or an office? Disappointing book but hilarious review, as always. 🙂
    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted…Review: The Scroll of Years by Chris WillrichMy Profile

    • Kat

      Oh thank goodness I wasn’t the only one, that’s all I have to say. We stuck it out together. Anyway, I saw no purpose in the brothel at all…I guess it was just there for show, like those aliens. >_> We’ll never know for sure.

      Ps. I totally saw your review on GR and commented on it. I just remembered now, lol.

    • Kat

      Yeah, this definitely wouldn’t be your cup. There’s a lot of info-dumping involved and it can get pretty confusing at times. Thanks for the input Lexxie!!