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Bookworm 2013: Hype Machine

Posted on | December 24, 2013 | No Comments

Warren Ellis - Gun MachineI’d like to say I’m mad at Warren Ellis for Gun Machine, but it wouldn’t be true. I am disappointed, though. It was a book seriously hyped last year, and I grabbed a copy as soon as one was available. The beautiful trailer, the weird concept, the intriguing opening chapter – all of this promised something truly original and different, something weird and, well, ellisian. What we ended up with was a middling crime thriller with way too many chance meetings and occurrences (particularly for a city the size of New York), plotlines too hastily resolved, characters that not only seem like single-dimensional cardboard cutouts, but like single-dimensional carbon copies of the author – it’s as if the world of Gun Machine is populated with a billion little Warren Ellises of varied shapes, sizes and occupations, all thinking and speaking like he does. This is one novel that starts off with a radical bang, only to fizz out bit by bit, to the point where just about everyone I talked to was just glad it was over with.

Kij Johnson - At the Mouth of the River of BeesOn the other hand, Kij Johnson’s At the Mouth of the River of Bees failed to evoke any emotion. A collection of mostly uninteresting stories that try oh so hard to evoke a sense of otherness, but for me, fail to do so. The biggest dud to this effect was a story attempting to lean heavily on a romanticized vision of feudal Japan transplanted into a magical realist fable setting that just felt forced and was, ultimately, too long. I can see that I am in a minority here, since this collection is praised left and right, and to be honest, there may be something that would tickle my fancy among the second batch of stories, but this was one of those occasions where I was bored enough to abandon the book halfway through.

MC Planck - The Kassa GambitHype was, once again, the reason why I took up M.C. Planck’s The Kassa GambitEverything about the book was indicating it was just a very light little space opera, but so be it, I can read light little space operas, provided they are well written and at least slightly amusing. And of course, congratulations are owed to the author of the cover artwork, if I’m fair, it was his (or her?) work that ultimately sold me on giving it a shot. What a mistake. Yes, it is a light space opera, no surprise there, but the counterpoint, the hook that would keep me flipping the pages was thoroughly missing. It is one thing when authors writing in the genre ignore technological breakthroughs that occurred during the past couple of decades and keep imagining spaceships that are functionally no different from the cushy early nineties space-triremes. That I can swallow, with enough lubricant. It is a completely different matter when authors writing in the genre ignore writing breakthroughs that occurred during the past fifty years. Novels have evolved, genre novels have evolved, and the competition is simply too steep – what used to be top-notch adventure sci-fi in the sixties would end up dropped from the slush piles of today, and I’m surprised this one made it through. Though again, the second half of the book might justify this, but I simply could not find the will to push through to the end.

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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
    The Ophiuchi Hotline
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
    Green Eyes
    Crackpot Palace: Stories
    The Fractal Prince
    The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter

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