The themes and issues are timely enough and important in themselves, but Pamuk's treatment of them seems ham-handed at best. The characters are more like cartoon figures than people, the scenes are like overly dramatized stage sets and the storyline is just implausible, because the characters aren't realized as people. Instead, they are stalking horses for the tumult of ideas and political and religious impulses that they wear like fashionable winter coats.
Some critics (see amazon's reviews) say the broad and ever increasing dis-satisfaction with Pamuk, of which my view is a part, is a result of a Western prejudice. I doubt it. Others say that the translation may be at fault; but after six years and lots of evidence, it seems the translation (whatever its flaws) is at least as good as anything Pamuk has to offer in the original Turkish. Many native speakers/reviewers have come forward to testify that it doesn't get any better in the mother tongue. Truth might just be the old dodger is a better journalist and social observer than fiction writer. For example:
"Then Ka and the hook-nosed agent got back into the army truck and set
off down the road. A pack of timid dogs walked alongside them, but the
only other signs of life were the election banners and the anti-suicide
posters. As they continued along their way, Ka's eyes were drawn to the
restless children and anxious fathers twitching their closed curtains to catch
a glimpse of the passing truck." (Pg 191)
Riddle me this, Batman. If there were no signs of life, were do the children and anxious fathers fit in? BTW, since when do election banners and posters constitute signs of life? (Are we to understand that the truck, which they entered from a building, was in a wasteland without habitations, streets or other signs of human presence? If not, then again, what's with the no signs of life angle?) And why would any writer intent on describing a lifeless scene follow this in the next sentence with the acknowledgment of the presence of the children, etc.? Was he even thinking about the scene when he wrote this? Frankly, I think not!
Pamuk is likely a nice guy. So is Al Gore. But they both received Nobel prizes for shoddy polemical work done in areas of expertise in which they have no claim, no right and no real interest.
If I didn't know better, I would guess that this kind of writing is what Pfeiffer gave up writing Doonesbury comic strips to pursue.