The two most famous social science experiments of the post-WWII era—designed, incidentally, by a pair of former high-school buddies—ended in disaster. Philip Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment had to be shut down when the volunteer "guards" and "prisoners" plummeted into a frenzy of psychotic behaviour. And Stanley Milgram's study testing the limits of compliance with authority, in which subjects administered what they believed to be potentially life-threatening electric shocks to Milgram's confederates, led the American Psychological Association to overhaul their code of ethics.
This message has been edited by chapteraday on May 9, 2008 5:12 PM
The prologue to OBEDIENCE was intriguing enough to convince me to contintue to read the rest of the book.
This professor sounds really creepy. If he was a professor last year, why don't the students know who he is. We always checked out the professors for our courses for the next year -- although usually to find out what kind of grader they were! They should have been able to find someone who had him before.
Obviously, they do try to find the professor. They are searching for his picture in the faculty guidebook on the first page of the novel. (We called this the "mug book" where I went to school.) A big deal is made of how the students try futilely to track down the professor. Some of them are angry that they cannot find him, and are looking through the code of conduct to perhaps take some kind of action against him for "hiding himself."
They simply can't find him. Nor do any of them know anyone who has taken him in the past.
And they can't find him because he's...
Well, I'm not going to give anything away. But if you've read the book you know why they have trouble locating an image of Professor Williams.
I love the way that you began this book, the prologue is interesting and gets you ready for excitement. I love the professors first statement to the class, "theres been a murder". what a way to introduce yourself. I am interested in seeing where this charactor goes.... GIVE ME MORE....
Wendy S posted, "I like the description of the students. "Smart Kids" who 'did not know where they were going in life.' The prison description of the book turned me off, but today's excerpt is interesting."
The Milgram/Zimbardo stuff is not essential to the book, in my opinion. (And the novel has nothing at all to do with prison.)
I wrote the book to be a page-turner. I sort of envisioned a book that was so big on plot that a reader just had to turn the page to see what happened next. In fact, when I first finished the book I wondered if it wasn't too "light."
Now, after publication, many people have deemed the book "heavy" and stacked with big ideas. That doesn't bother me--but it's interesting. I saw it as nothing more than a different kind of thriller.
Thanks Will, I do like the inside of the book. I wonder if the students by the end of the book will learn humility, an appreciation for the less formally educated but intelligent in life lessons people, and find a direction for their lives. I find this as interesting as "who done it".
The book does have an unusual premise, but I think (at least I hope) that the narrative inside the premise holds up.
This is neither here nor there, but I had no idea what was going to happen in this book when I began. All I had was that premise. What you see as the reader is pretty much what I saw as the author as I was writing. No notes, no blueprint, no outline. I just wrote.
Thanks very much, everyone. Really hope you enjoy the novel all the way through. It is a twisty book by design. I had just read Peter Abrahams' masterful OBLIVION, and you can see the influence of that book on mine.
Kim, it's interesting that you went to Vassar. I got my MFA at Bard, and I would drive into Poughkeepsie every weekend to the Barnes & Noble there. Strangely enough, it was as I was at Bard that I really got into suspense fiction. In college I read nothing but poetry and literary novels (Faulkner was my god), but at a certain point I began to see a lot of interesting things being done in the mystery and thriller genres. So I moved in that direction, and I think in OBEDIENCE you can see a lot of my experimental leanings in the text and plot.
I'm really not sure what's next, really. I want to stay in the same genre and write the kinds of books no one has ever seen before. Obviously, I am big on plot and concept. I read voraciously, and I am always walking into a bookstore trying to find a jacket description that really blows me away. (The narrative and writing inside needs to be strong as well, clearly.)
I am hooked! I love the mystery surrounding the Professor. I can't wait to find out how the students are going to solve this "murder" as the clock is ticking. This is going to be an exciting, thrilling and heart stopping read!
Found the opening very interesting and a little eerie. Was ready to add to my tbr list but then read some reviews. The book seems to either be really liked or really not. It seems the consensus of the "really not" reviewers is that the book has a very intriguing premise and tremendous potential but doesn't live up to it -- relys on to much coincidences and is somewhat illogical. Do you have a response to those critics?
S. Kempf posted, "It seems the consensus of the "really not" reviewers is that the book has a very intriguing premise and tremendous potential but doesn't live up to it -- relys on to much coincidences and is somewhat illogical. Do you have a response to those critics?"
No, not really. It's not fair for the writer to "respond" to reviews in any way that clears him or the work. The book needs to stand on its own merit without the author butting in to defend his product.
The readers who are in the "really not" camp seem to be customers on Amazon and other various websites. The book has done extremely well in terms of published criticism; the only mediocre review I've seen, of the many that the book has received, was in Entertainment Weekly. You can see my website for more on this.
The idea of the events being "somewhat illogical" has come up quite a bit. And it's certainly a fair point. Some readers have asked various questions about the novel: could the premise actually happen, does the ending work, would the characters act the way they do. (Some readers seem to have gotten flat-out angry, which is really interesting to me.)
None of those questions or concerns bother me personally, because I see the book not as a subtle slice of realism (it isn't), but as a sort of nightmarish scenario that becomes, by the end, blown up to the point of horrific unbelievability. One comment that Milgram and others received was, "I would never do what your subjects did." One comment that I've seen about the book has been, "People would never act the way these characters do."
Yet people DID act the way Milgram theorized they would act.
Sometimes we don't know for sure what we would do if a situation like the one described in the book actually occurs. We think we know, but we likely do not.
I want to thank the above poster. I certainly wanted to write a book that made the mind exercise, but I also hope that people see the book as what it is: a thriller that is meant as pure entertainment. I love the genre and definitely did not want to threaten it in any way with this novel. Detective stories, espionage stories, missing persons tales, forensics examinations, cop narratives. I love them all. These writers are why I write and why I love books so much. I just wanted to see if I could pull off something different with this book...
...and, in full disclosure, I am completely and shamefully ignorant about cops and forensics and the law, so I relied on the little information I had at hand while writing the novel.
Wendy S. posted, "Could it be possible those who became so angry saw something negative in a character that is negative in themselves but they don't want to admit it?"
That's possible, but I think part of it might have to do with the fact that the novel is manipulative by nature. I admit to twisting the reader up and throwing in misdirection that is meant to cast everything in doubt. (Booklist said that the novel had enough red herrings to choke a pod of whales!) Some readers don't like being led around like that.
The main thing, of course, is that the novel explodes in the end. The ending is a real risk, and we knew that going in. Some folks want to find the loopholes in all that happens in the last few pages; they might have come to a point where they just threw their hands up -- or threw the book across the room.
I've found -- from talking to people online and in the real world, from speaking to editors all over the world -- that those who get into the original premise usually (though not always) follow me to the end. Those who believe that the original premise is unbelievable obviously aren't going to stay with the book very long.
This obviously is not a response from the author and I do hope we get one from there too.
Here is what I think about critics' reviews: They may or may not reflect how you end up feeling about the book, the only way to find out is to read the piece yourself. A critic can really only give you an opinion from their own point of view and it may not 'jive' with yours.
I am truely enjoying this book, it is making my mind work. It is as though I were one of those students. I read mostly to get away from 'reality' once in a while. So far, this book is doing a great job in that department.
I'm among the "hooked"!
So far I am fascinated. NOt only is the premise intriguing, but the descriptive writing is superb! The mental picture of someone standing behind glass, looking out on the "real" world, made memories of my years at seminary at the University of Toronto, gazing out on the quad. I was a "mature student" with many obligations "back at home", and my solitary room which I occcupied 4 nights a week gave me "space" for the first time in 25years of marriage and family-rearing. My "room" was actually a former closet (honest) 6 feet by 8 feet, provided for a pittance to some of we who were older and had other "commitments"
But, enough! Idigress! I tangentialize!
I LOVE IT...What a read! What a ride!
I can hardly wait.......
Above post: "The mental picture of someone standing behind glass, looking out on the "real" world, made memories of my years at seminary at the University of Toronto, gazing out on the quad."
Interesting that you point that out! I, too, spent a lot of time looking out windows when I was in college. And I've found, strangely, that this kind of distanced observation -- watching through windows, listening through walls, putting one's ear to air vents -- is a common theme in all my fiction. It might come from my obsession with sitting back and watching. (I could sit at a shopping mall and people watch for hours.) Or it could be something that stuck from being an only child for much of my adolescence. Seems like most of my youth was spent waiting on something interesting to happen to other people.
You see? You see what I did there? I can digress as well. ; )
And thanks again, everyone, for this great discussion. Please keep in touch. You can find my e-mail address on my website. Feel free to e-mail anytime. I make it a point to respond to every message I receive.
I am a voracious reader too, I choose my books by the jacket description if possible. Sometimes that doesn't work and I need to read the first chapter. If that doesn't hook me the book is never finished.
I will go out and buy Obedience! I'm so glad I joined the book club, I needed ideas.
Thank YOU Will for writting it!