The Resort

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iUniverse, 2005 - Fiction - 304 pages
1 Review
Cliffhaven--Magnificent new resort near Big Sur. Surrounded by redwoods. Guarded by Oceanside cliffs. Protected from prying eyes. By reservation only. Cliffhaven--Founded by a man with very special interests, catering to a very special clientele. Margaret and Henry Brown, vacationing New Yorkers innocently driving down the sea-washed coast of California, are just the right sort of people. Cliffhaven--It has a spectacular entrance, a three-star restaurant, lavish accommodations--and no exit! "This novel should do for California vacation retreats what jaws did for swimming in the Atlantic."--"Los Angeles Times" Book Review "A thrilling nightmare...A Dante's "Inferno."..more than fulfills the remark "I read it all in one nail-biting session."--Eli Wallach "Not only a thriller...a parable and a warning to all who say 'It can't happen here.'"--"Jewish Post and Opinion"

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Although well written, this book seemed more like the attempt of a man to describe a place he'd never been based on hearsay and rumors, than a well researched novel.
Even excusing the absurdly
unlikely premise, a Nazi run resort operating in Big Sur with the consent and appreciation of the nearby townsfolk, the book still lacked an essential authenticity that would be required to make "The Resort" stand out from a multitude of other meaningless drivel available.
Most notably, the book gave the impression of someone who had never been anywhere near California, let alone Big Sur, trying to write a descriptive narrative about the areas ambiance and fauna.
During an important event in the book, the main character, discussing redwood trees, exclaimed something to the effect of "This forest is dry as a bone, we'll light up these branches without any trouble and we can use them to start the rest of the forest ablaze."
Although admittedly misquoted, my attempt captures the general idea.
If it were almost any other kind of forest this would be perfectly acceptable, as almost every forest type is dry for at least part of the year. However, the author either failed to realize or simply ignored that Sequoia Sempevirens (Coastal Redwoods), whose bark is by its very nature extremely fire resistant, only grow in very moist places, and that, during the drier seasons, they release stored water in the form of mist to keep their roots wet.
The combination of these three facts makes redwood forests almost completely immune to fires, and although one could probably start one with an accelerant, it would be very difficult to build to a point where it was self sustaining.
This particular error may not bother the majority of people, but as a resident of the redwood forest, it pushed an already unbelievable premise into the realm of near impossibility.
In addition, the sheer overwhelming number of people in the story who were racist was a bit staggering. I make no claim to be Jewish, and therefore lack perspective on the amount of racial abuse they persevere here on the northern California coast, but I guarantee that you will never find an F.B.I. agent who, while on duty would say to a Jewish man "Well, you certainly go against the stereotype that all Jews are cowards," or a town in northern California where you could successfully run a resort targeted at capturing Jews and removing them from mainstream society without causing at least half of the residents to have enough of an issue to report it.
Glaring imperfections and believability issues aside, the book was at least well written and interesting enough to be worth giving a try if you're ever bored out of your mind and lack any other diversions.
If you're in the mood to read an unresearched, uninformed, illogical, and unlikely story, this is a pretty decent choice.

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About the author (2005)

In 1999, a distinguished panel convened by the Modern Library published a list of the 100 best nonfiction works of the century. Two books edited by Sol Stein were in the top half of that list. Stein was in his twenties when his play "Napoleon" won the Dramatists Alliance award as "the best full-length play of 1953." He is the author of nine novels, which have made bestseller lists as far away as Moscow. He is also an anthologized poet, the author of nonfiction books, screenplays, and TV dramas, and the creator of the award-winning computer software WritePro(R), as well as FirstAid for Writers(R) and FictionMaster(R). Webster Schott, writing in the "New York Times Book Review," said of Stein's novel "The Magician," "Beautiful and gripping. I cannot recall a novel of this type with greater pleasure." On another occasion, the "Times" said, "If you bury yourself in a Sol Stein book while walking, you'll walk into a wall."
Stein has lectured on creative writing at Columbia, Iowa, UCLA, and the University of California at Irvine, which presented him with the Distinguished Instructor Award in 1993. His on-line columns appear on America Online, the Writers Club on the World Wide Web, and elsewhere on the Internet.

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