Dunn’s Conundrum by Stan Lee
A conundrum is a puzzle, a mystery, a problem to be solved and I am real puzzle fiend – this is why I love mystery novels and spy and crime fiction. I like to work who did it. But here the character Dunn is trying work out just who is the Doctor? The spy in their midst? And there is a lovely twist on this we find at the end.
Now I really loved this book, my first 5 star of the year – and I don’t give them out lightly. It is right in my field of expertise and research – information and knowledge management and the contradictions and issues that are raised by them. The book eloquently shows that there is a tremendous difference between the two, and in the end, as knowledge is informed by intuition and leaps into the unknown that then demonstrates new linkages and understanding, it shows that you cannot just rely on information. Intuition, is also linked to that ‘gut’ feeling , and now that we know that humans have a mini brain in their stomachs, (see http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/10/26/the-brain-gut-connection-for-mental-well-being/ and https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201110/your-backup-brain) we can be better sure that when our stomachs indicate we may be doing something wrong, then we may well be doing something wrong!
I was slightly confused when reading it as it did seem a little dated in parts and then getting to the end, I found out that not only did the author die in 1997 but that the book was written in 1985 (I found an original review of the book form 1984! https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/stall-lee/dunns-conundrum/). Interesting how such scenarios, if well written, can stand the test of time. Update the technology a little and what might be the difference? I suspect that as time has moved on we actually empathise more with the scenario then they did then when such computer links seemed very implausible. After all the personal computer was in its infancy in 1984/5 and we certainly had not yet thought of information management as a main business tool.
There were some very interesting quotes that I would like to put in here as I found them amusing or illustrative or otherwise significant of the writing style or content:
‘Ives was a design-center American: hew was within all tolerances. Medium height, medium weight, not handsome, not ugly, a white Anglo-Saxon Catholic who didn’t practice but had a daughter doing time in an ashram.’
‘Dunn had considered hiring a novelist for the job. They were born undercover agents. Voyeurs, secretly making notes.’
‘Nobody knew everything, which cut off countless possibilities for cross-fertilisation. And prevented any kind of sensible control.’
‘We inevitably think of information, data, facts, as inherently good. An asset. Something positive in our lives… information gathering permitted the advance of civilisation….some information is clearly negative…..negative information is that which, immediately upon acquitting, causes the recipient to know less than he did before…that which subtracts from one’s store of knowledge and wisdom…’
‘…You’re never going to understand the world. Know why? Because you’re ignoring everything that doesn’t fit.’
Now garbage is also interesting. Because, of course, what you throw away does say a lot about you. Especially today when we are urged to recycle so much. Although if you allow for a compost bin you will get a very limited view of what we eat. It also only works for single-occupancy households, not flats, as if you all share the same dustbins (UK word here) who know just who throw away the whiskey bottles? But in the scenario posited here in the book, they were monitoring single occupancy houses and presumably the servants had separate bins.
Now in our flats we have different bins. Blue, grey and green. The green covers the garden and also food waste that cannot be home composted including meat and bones. The Council takes this composts in their machines which go to very high heat and produce wonderful very strong material that you need to adjust 3 parts soil to 1 pat compost otherwise the plants will burn. The blue is for recycling and the grey for general rubbish. All 4 flats use the same bins so that would definitely confuse any Garbageman.
So this book is basically a Hawks Vs Doves story with political connivance and convenience thrown in. And as stated in the book, the Hawks in the US can always tell a good story to try and convince John Doe.