Screaming Planet

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Bookworm: Midlist to Bottom

Posted on | December 29, 2011 | No Comments

[flickr]photo:6593357233[/flickr] My awesome fucking car and lack of proper job are making me stupid.

I remember a time when a book per week was the minimum.  Time for reading was distributed across three distinct slots: before sleep,  on the shitter and in public transport on the way to and from work, with the latter being dominant with a minimum of two half-hour stints, often significantly more, what with the vagaries of public transport in Belgrade.

The current annual grand total? Twenty six finished, and a tiny crack in number twenty seven. That’s precisely one book every two weeks. Though the car and the lack of proper job are not solely to blame. Alistair Reynolds and Elizabeth Bear bear (ha!) some of the guilt, as well, but more on that later. Most people would  stop here, and list merely the best, but I am not such a lovely person and will start with the  mediocre and shitty first, believing it important to warn people away from crap, as much as to draw them towards the light, and then I will list them all (with the exception of a couple I’m reading for research purposes), secure in the knowledge that none of you will bother to hang around ’till the end.

Snuff by Terry PratchettA few were merely good, decent books, such as Pratchett’s latest, Snuff - he is a wonderful storyteller, but thirty-something books in, reading him feels like listening to a good, old friend, slightly tipsy after his third beer in the local pub, telling the exact same story he’s been telling you for the past five years. There’s Vimes, and Lady Sybill, and much the usual cast of characters and the obligatory minority in distress, with a lovely message, but it’s come down to “another one of those books” with a warm nod and smile, but distinct lack of laughs.

Rule 34 by Charles StrossCharlie Stross’ Fuller Memorandum is much alike the above, though the books are significantly fewer in the series. The Lovecraftian spy joke-thing is starting to feel overstretched after this many pages, while on the other hand, Rule 34 still holds up, but only barely – after Accelerando I do love him dearly, but the books are starting to feel more and more like overextended smart-assish  blog posts with a plot resolution almost unintelligibly compressed into a single-page vague infodump. 

Tau Zero by Poul Anderson has a cool concept, and it was probably amazing back when it first came out in 1970, especially as a cornerstone of hard sci-fi, but the paper-thin characters are seriously annoying and, honestly, distracting from the intriguing scientific concepts.

Move Under Ground by Nick MamatasMove Under Ground by Nick Mamatas is one of those books where I just couldn’t decide if it was absolutely, gorgeously brilliant in its psychedelic Lovecraftian ‘fifties road trip, or just a shitty mish-mash of famous names and disjointed concepts, but by the end, I leaned heavily towards the latter, since the book committed that one horrible crime I cannot forgive – it started to bore me, with much of the psychedelic adventuring of its celebrity protagonists feeling like disjointed non-sequiturs.

Heart Shaped Box by Joe HillA few of the books were disastrously dull and uninteresting, to the point that I stopped reading, despite the slight bookish OCD that makes it a torturous effort to drop a book mid-way through; such were Joe Hill’s Heart Shaped Box, its voice tired and uniteresting and unable to evoke the chills it promised, or the annoyingly pretentious and void Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, and finally, Cipher by Kathe Koja, a short story idea at best, stretched  torturously to novel length by the whining of its annoying and, again, pretentious protagonists. As tweeted, this is probably a lovely book, if you are an angsty, depressed teenager, but if naught else, I’m sure as hell not a teenager any more. I did make it to the end of Company by KJ Parker, a book that started full of promise, with a lovely premise (grizzled vets after the grand medieval-style battle is over), but fizzed out into uninteresting drivel roughly half-way through, leaving me with absolutely no payoff for the time invested.