Book Review: “The Golden Gate” by Robert Buettner

The Golden Gate by Robert Buettner

The Golden Gate is a crime novel set in near future San Francisco, amid the overheated tech world. A tech billionaire (trillionaire?) is murdered driving on the Golden Gate bridge, and things get complicated. The authorities find little, and mostly don’t dig too hard. Other parties push the investigation, including an ambitious Homeland Security Secretary and a wealthy investor.

The story itself reels quickly, if incomprehensibly, ultimately ending with a really strange revelation (though the surprise was telegraphed hundreds of pages earlier).

The characters and dialog are pretty two dimensional. The people are not only stereotyped and prejudiced, they insist upon demonstrating their shallowness by annoying asides. (Why do we need to hear- an old man beef—repeatedly—about all those “smelly hippies” who haven’t existed for forty years or more? ) This technique is used to establish the ‘mismatched buddies’ dynamics, but it is really, really irritating.

I read that Buettner has written other “military” fiction, and this shows in the detailed, realistic and sympathetic portrayal of US troops and veterans. His portrayal of civilians is less sympathetic and not especially realistic. At least he has some civilians who respect and admire veterans, even if they aren’t sure exactly what to do about it.

Buettner aspires to the classic science fiction goal, to write imaginatively about ideas. In this case, he tackles Silicon Valley’s recent interest in “defeating death”, through life extension technology. He has studied the topic, and presents it reasonably, including some perceptive comments on the motivations of billionaires and how problematic “immortality for the 0.1%” would be.

Unfortunately, in the end he doesn’t seem to have a good idea what should be about it. In fact, he doesn’t really resolve anything much, not the technological problem, not the challenge of reconnecting civilians and veterans, and not even the main love story.

Basically, I didn’t find this story very interesting, and a lot of the “clever” chatter was childish and annoying. Honestly, this would make a good short story, pared down and shorn of a lot of the talk.

  1. Robert Buettner, The Golden Gate, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2017.


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