Saturday, November 12, 2016

Book Review: The Boys from Brazil, by Ira Levin

Ira Levin's novel The Boys from Brazil was published in 1976, adapted into a major motion picture in 1978, and has been sitting on my "to be read" shelf since at least 2009. Having picked it up at a used book store nearly a decade ago, I'm pretty sure my reasoning came from having read his earlier work Rosemary's Baby and absolutely loving it. But year after after, the Nazi Hunting themed book sat on my shelf, waiting to be picked up, and last month, after having suggested it for one of my book clubs, I finally gave it a read.

Like The Odessa File (1972) and Marathon Man (1974), Ira Levin's The Boys from Brazil focuses on underground Nazi War Criminals who have escaped capture after the second world war. Unlike those previous novels however, Levin decided to use actual war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele (who was still at large at the time of publication) as the principle villain. The novel begins with a plot in which 94 men around the world are chosen to be assassinated by Mengele and a small group of killers, and much of the novel focuses on the fictional Yakov Liebermann (based on real world Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal) as he attempts to put together the reason why these men are targeted and attempts to figure out how to stop it.

The novel works as a straight-forward thriller, in that many of the pieces of information are available to the reader, but not to all of the characters, and the various twists and turns in the novel definitely kept me interested and reading.

It's kind of funny, although the largest scientific conceit of the novel (trying not to spoil it here), must have seemed rather far-fetched in the mid-70s, it does come a lot closer to modern science than I was comfortable with. Although a little dated, the novel was a lot of fun, and has me interested in both reading more by Levin and in seeing the film.

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