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Bookworm 2012: The Nerd’s Rejects

Posted on | December 12, 2012 | No Comments

At this point in the chronology of this year’s reading I hit my first tosser, i.e. a book that would have been tossed across the room half way through, had it not been in my e-reader and/or smartphone. It was not, unfortunately, the last, and  since I would not want to expend too much of your effort or mine on these bits of dreck, here they are, all on one handy pile.

David Moody - HaterDavid Moody received a lot of praise for his horror fiction, but judging on Hater alone, I can’t understand what the deal is. It is a book about an, apparently, alien space bat induced syndrome whereby ordinary people become “haters”, i.e. vicious mad bastards with nothing but killing on their mind. With flat and uninteresting characters and a twist that was obvious from a satellite overview of the plot, this felt like a short story forcibly stretched to a few orders of magnitude more than it deserved, a sentiment I likely hold because Aleksandar Marković did,in fact, write that short story, crisply and with a lot more punch, ages ago, and it only took him a page and a half to do so.

Alastair Reynolds - Blue Remembered EarthI had a rocky start with Alastair ReynoldsRevelation Space sequence, mainly due to the deprecated cyberpunkishness that felt old and overused by the time I got around to reading it a couple of years back, but once it kicked in, the series had me going to the very end. With Blue Remembered Earth, the feeling of old and overused never let go, it merely found another friend in Mr. Clunky. It felt like everything that was put into the book was put there to make the reader go “wow”, from the non-western people-of-colour protagonists (heirs to an African space-age millionaire trying to unravel the mystery of her legacy), through numerous digressions along the quest intended to show off neat technological ideas or just loose concepts that seem to have accumulated in the writer’s notebook and needed a place to be blurted out (the ultraslow-motion robot battle), the story never hooked me because I could see the wires and cogs diligently working backstage, trying to breathe life into dull people going from one dull event to another, attempting to advance a story that was not really a story, just a series of boring events.

Adam Roberts - By Light AloneThe same could almost be said for Adam Roberts’ By Light Alone. Exhilarated by his New Model Army, a lovely and lively book that despite being conceptually a bit over-the-top showcased his skills in creating vivid characters and guiding the reader through a lovely story arc powered by an intriguing concept, and having loved his Yellow Blue Tibia, a gorgeously poignant and poetic atompunk love story,  I picked up By Light Alone and found myself utterly indifferent to the fates of its flat, dull, spoilt rich protagonists in some kind of antiutopian society bumbling around after they lost their status-symbol child to kidnappers in a third-world resort, being forced to step outside their comfort zone and face the “real” world. I kept waiting for the novel to actually start, but then I realized it already did, but failed to go anywhere.

Mira Grant - FeedOn the other end of the unreadable spectrum we have another highly touted novel, Mira Grant’s Feed, a horrorish-political-action tale of a zombie apocalypse and the society its survivors live in. I really, really gave it a hard push, because, yes, zombies, but there is only so much pathetic Mary Sue literature I can slog through before reaching for the barf bag. I understand why it was so highly touted – because Grant did not write a wish-fulfillment fantasy for herself. Instead, she made a Mary Sue for the myriad bloggers who would be reviewing her book and generating positive online coverage. The plot overview should have made that clear – the zombie apocalypse occurs, and traditional media and the army are powerless, but a horde of whippersnapper bloggers help bring news to the people and, using Romero’s movies as primers, help the population survive, becoming heroes to the people. However, I am a sucker for a good zombie romp and so I bought into the extremely undeserving hype so fortunately, you don’t have to.

John C. Wright - Count to a TrillionFinally (thus far – I may have another tosser on my hands right now), I come to John C. Wright’s Count to a Trillion. A tale of a savant gunslinger-lawyer who rises from a postapocalyptic America under the yoke of Eastern superpowers to become a member of the first interstellar expedition only to undergo alien intelligence augmentation and wake up from the posthumanizing coma in a psychodelic far future world (and that’s just the first fifty, or hundred or so pages, before I gave up), this book is chock full of ideas that could have made for awesome books, had they been diluted a bit and given to a writer who can actually write believable human characters. Diluted? Yes, diluted, because there comes a point when just tossing ideas on a pile turns from being awe-inducing to being a class of purple prose all on its own, a sort of techno-scientific nerdporn wordsoup that quickly becomes tedious to slog through in vain attempts to hold on to the storyline. And then, after the sudden leap into the far future nineteen-fifties retro sci-fi world-of-tomorrow, the story itself goes from flat and uninteresting to just plain stupid and naïve, marking high time to toss the book into oblivion.

Piers Anthony - ChthonUPDATE: Yes, there was another tosser, Piers Anthony’s Chthon. It would seem to be a varied mileage kind of book, with people either loving it or hating it. Well, I didn’t exactly hate it, it just never grabbed my attention. About twenty percent in, I got fed up with the retro “the planet of …” trope and not giving a fig about any of the characters simply quit the book and moved on to much, much greener pastures.

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  • Goodreads

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time
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    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
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    Crackpot Palace: Stories
    The Fractal Prince
    The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter

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