Solomon Bull: When the Friction Has Its Machine, a Book Review
“Solomon Bull: When the Machine Has Its Friction” is a book by Clayton Lindemuth. The title comes from a Henry David Thoreau quote. The main character in the book references people from Camus to Native American leaders and comes from a conflicted, complex background and lands in a situation all the more complicated – while his end goal is simply to win the most difficult race in the nation.
The Strengths of “Solomon Bull: When the Friction has its Machine”
A book that manages to have multiple WTF plot twists gets points for being surprising. It also involves multiple plot lines with legitimate reasons for people lying and doing what they do that leave you guessing until the end. And more than one twist occurs right before the end.
This book is interesting for featuring a Blackfoot Indian as the book’s main character, neither romanticized nor demonized. You see an average working class guy training for an insanely difficult marathon for the pride of having accomplished it on its own. That and he wants to find out what happens to people who disappear after the win, to find out whether the rumors they are signed up for a secret paramilitary group.
“Solomon Bull” is laced with humorous lines like “Voters will abide a lot of dishonesty and stupidity, but the upper limit cannot be broached. As soon as a politician looks like a guest on Jerry Springer, he becomes a guest on Jerry Springer.” “I must have accidentally hit the frosty bitch button.” “Do something useless like read a newspaper.” You find lines like this regularly to break up the tension and occasional lectures in the book.
The Weaknesses of “Solomon Bull”
At roughly 300 pages, I found it could have been shorter because of the volumes of detail added that don’t specifically add to the story. Many other scenes have several sentences of extra descriptive phrases as if that enriches the story.
The book falls for the trope that when you want to make someone evil, they have to be a child molester, as if corruption and torturing women isn’t considered really bad anymore.
There are events in the book that happen quickly for the sake of pace and to ramp up the drama. To say “We’ve taken ages to infiltrate this, I’m going to take away everything you hold dear in days if you don’t achieve what we couldn’t” is not only patently unfair, but even for a government agent, unreasonable. And if the race is the likely way of recruiting people, why threaten and harass instead of letting him win the race and spend time getting on the inside? This is explained at the end, but there are moments that require suspension of belief.
The sex scenes and violence in this book definitely make it rated R.
The book is written as a self-contained story but leaves it open for a sequel. This author has written several other books such as “My Brother’s Destroyer” and “Nothing Save the Bones Inside Her”. Those books are darker than this one is intended to be.
“Solomon Bull” presents several conspiracies centering on the main character and the personal struggle for identity of the same. I’d summarize it as James Bond meets the Southwest and militia conspiracy theories to create an inventive novel. I give the book five stars on complexity and novelty.