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Bookworm 2015: The Disappointments

Posted on | December 22, 2015 | No Comments

Instead of a brutally good or brutally terrible book, the end of 2015 for me will be marked by an insanely horrible design decision by the staff of Goodreads. Out of the blue, they’ve decided they have to do something to “jazz up” the website, and among a series of other relatively poor design decisions, the “something” boiled down to “use a gray shade of the broken Merriweather font on a glaring white background”, making the website nauseating to read. As a former long-time web developer, I’ve made a fair number of accessibility-related blunders, but never in my career have I managed to cause actual physical pain and nausea to users, just through layout design. Even after almost 3000 mostly negative comments on the announcement, the GR team is refusing to back out and seems to prefer having the font to having actual users to read it.

On the other hand, the year in books wasn’t terribly exciting either. There was a lot of drama, there was a lot of hype, but very little actual quality. Most of what I’ve read and loved this year was not released in 2015, and most of the stuff I’ve expected eagerly proved to be a disappointment. Although some of the disappointments were also centuries old – Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, a book I’ve left on the to-read shelf for once I’m mature and ready enough to “truly understand” the most celebrated modern English language novel, proved to be about 500 pages of mind-numbingly boring and severely outdated whale minutia interspersed with 100 pages of fluffy plot that was shat on by the trivial ending.

Among the more contemporary fare the biggest disappointment, perhaps, is John Hornor Jacobs with his Foreign Devils. After the fascinating first book, with its phenomenal world-building and brilliant story, this penny-dreadful pulp sequel just felt like a lot of running back and forth with little purpose or meaning, and even less engagement. The thing is, I am disappointed and angry at Jacobs not because the book is terrible, but because it was just… okay. It is readable, there is a story there, but all that worldbuilding potential just seems wasted. Unlike, for example, Jean Christophe Valtat’s Luminous Chaos that carries the same burden of being the sequel to a brilliant, exciting and otherworldly steampunkish arctic spy adventure… that turned out to be a terrible, unreadable, unimaginative sequel I just couldn’t plod through.

Then again, with Tim Lebbon’s Predator: Incursion I had no big expectations. I was looking forward to a fun, guilty-pleasure romp through the Aliens/Predator universe, but here’s the thing; a Predator novel with the Yautja being unimpressive cannon fodder a la the Xenomorphs in the Aliens sentry gun scene… it just doesn’t work. They’re predators, it’s right there in the name, and Lebbon’s failing to adhere to this basic tenet of the franchise resulted in a curiously non-entertaining novel and thus, needless to say, I will not be reading further into this planned series.

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    Written in minutes and fact-checked in seconds via Google. May contain unsafe levels of self-righteousness. Past cleverness is no guarantee of future results.
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  • Goodreads

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