I love Jane McGonigal's creativity in finding ways to reinvent gaming. She is clearly an intensely creative designer with an eye on the bigger picture...moreI love Jane McGonigal's creativity in finding ways to reinvent gaming. She is clearly an intensely creative designer with an eye on the bigger picture of what games might be able to help the human race accomplish.
That said, I felt the potential was being overstated through a glossing over of details. Here's my favorite example (and this is a paraphrasing):
According to a book called Outliers, people who are absolutely brilliant at something have invested roughly 10,000 hours in developing the skill by the time they are 21. Since the 80's, 21-year-olds have on average spent 10,000 hours playing video games. Therefore, many people are brilliant at the skills taught by video games.
Video games, among other things, teach cooperation and collaboration. Therefore, we have tons of people who are absolutely brilliant at collaboration. These people can use their powers of collaboration to save the world if given the right context for doing so.
Here's the problem I'm seeing in sentence 3: As far as I can tell, video games teach a broad range of skills because they are different from one another. While my time playing strategy games has developed a certain skill set, my time playing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game has taught me about timing, and about how many times you have to jump-kick Rocksteady in his head to kill him. Granted, if someone spent 10,000 hours playing World of Warcraft, they would undoubtedly be a brilliant WoW-player, and would know all the ins and outs of raiding, duels, guild dynamics, and a variety of other complex skills.
But if you've spent 10,000 hours playing Resident Evil, you're just good at killing zombies with a knife. This skill could come in handy during the inevitable zombie apocalypse, but it's not collaboration. In summary, it doesn't make sense to say all of your gaming experience is building upon the same skill. This is like saying 10,000 hours spent in national parks makes you a brilliant botanist.
That aside, I really find what I learned in this book invaluable. Reading about the innovative games that have been created for the sake of (a) making people happier, (b) enhancing reality, and (c) saving the world, has given me a lot of new ideas to think about in my search for ways to teach sustainability through video games. Now, I realize that some people are already finding new solutions to environmental problems through creative gaming. This is an incredibly inspiring thought.
My favorite new discovery is the game now known as "Sparked." In this game, you are a superhero capable of rescuing real people with real problems. Players can broadcast their availability to save the day, as well as things they need in order to be 'rescued.' In real life, you are capable of helping people who for one reason or another are unable to accomplish something on their own, and you can gain recognition and "level up" as a superhero through these efforts.
Really, this game does nothing but make it easier and more fun to help complete strangers. And this is awesome.
Jane McGonigal views game design as a dynamic field which has more untapped potential than any other medium for making social change. On this, I totally agree. If you're a gamer, or someone who is under the mistaken impression that games are a waste of time, read this book.
Tyrion Lannister's horse was rubbing him raw as they rode onward, the branches of the trees above them swaying in a branch-like way. Ravens flew about...moreTyrion Lannister's horse was rubbing him raw as they rode onward, the branches of the trees above them swaying in a branch-like way. Ravens flew about among them, and clouds of dust hovered like halos around the hooves of their steeds.
Wiping sweat from his brow, Tyrion spoke to yet another minor character you've never seen before. "I hear that the Morvin and the Shornpel clans have sided with Darvus Farier from the great city of Bee Eff Eee, and are pushing forward late king Baratheon's bastard's scullery maid's uncle's melanoma as the true heir to the throne."
The minor character chortled as he spooned up some of the newt egg soup. It had been spiced with cloves and the lightest touch of pepper, and leaves of cilantro floated like corpses upon its surface. Eating a side of braised elk spleen and a hunk of bread with a cheese sauce, the minor character said, "If so, even more of the action is likely to shift away from the viewpoint characters, and THEN we'll see whether any of the characters from the first volume even make it to the final book, A Trample of Turtles."
"But," Tyrion pondered aloud, eating inch-long prawns from a trencher filled with a hot butter sauce, "If the Starks send nine hundred of their men from the outer borders of ThatoneplaceImentionedOnce, and they move down toward the Lannister forces on Dragon's Fjord before the Lannister forces can unite with the Great Army of the Unwashed Men, perhaps they can defeat the bunjillion soldiers in the south now being ushered in the general direction of King's Landing by that one other guy. I can't remember his name. You know, the one?"
The minor character shrugged, tearing a piece from his bread bowl and dipping it into a small puddle of balsamic vinegar. "You forget about the people beyond the wall, and the dragons in the east, and Bobbert, King Robert's mechanic. He now claims to have been conceived with the king's own cum, and thus has a claim to the throne."
Tyrion scratched his chin. "That does throw a new light on how convoluted things are becoming."
They continued riding, their horses traveling gradually. More branches passed overhead. It felt as if the traveling had gone on indefinitely, and the audience was more than capable of empathizing. Tyrion munched on fresh radishes and drank a bold red wine from a skin hanging from his belt. The wine was rich, with plum flavorings and an oaky aftertaste.
"But," said Tyrion, suggesting another possible set of things that could happen. He made reference to an event that happened nine-hundred pages ago, but remembered it wrong, then postulated what the possible outcome could be. They rode onward. Minor Character munched on some pine nuts.
SUDDENLY, SOMETHING EPIC WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!
Eudaknow An Eudongivafuck, minor noble from Shelbyville, rubbed his temple, filled with anxiety at being introduced as a new viewpoint character 9,600 pages into the series. How would he live up to the amazing characters who had come before him and died so tragically? Perhaps because he had a valid claim to the throne, Having been the barista in King Robert's favorite coffeehouse. Yeah, that was the ticket. Riding his steed/ship across the desert/glenn/ocean/alley, he traveled gradually, wondering when he would arrive. Discussing with the others upon the ship, he theorized about possible outcomes of the conflicts in Westeros, all the while eating a succulent pomegranate, red juices running down his chin like he'd just been chewing on afterbirth.
SUDDENLY, SOMETHING AMAZING WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!
The titties tittied, jiggling with much breastful bosomliness. The oiled girls with Brazilian waxes down below wrestled and licked each other's areolas, but it was only to help you become immersed in a realistic depiction of the ancient world. As the breasts bosomed with titful abandon, Tyrion ate shark flank. It had been buttered, cooked for twenty minutes at 345 degrees, then drizzled with a lemon sauce and allowed to cool for five minutes. The flavor was only mildly fishy, and Tyrion burped, taking another drink of the white zinfandel before digging into the raspberry crepes with a chocolate fondu. "But still, Measter, you must understand the possibilities of that event rely on Stannis placing all of his trust in the moody lords of the upper northwest. They are known for being fickle and not holding to their oaths, and Stannis is more likely to try and seize the Port of Skulls. Will the king's ninth bastard even survive that battle? If so, at what cost to Stannis? Plus, what happens if the Lannisters and the Starks team up, and get Batman to join them, and Stannis can only get Iron Man? What then?"
Measter laughed at the dwarf. "That may be, dwarf. You might be short and a dwarf, but you have a mind as sharp as a blade. But you are very tiny, in case that had escaped anyone's notice. Even so, if Stannis enlists Dumbledore, Gandalf and Belgarion, he will be more than a match for the team-up of Lannister, Batman and Stark. Even if they get Rocky Balboa and Wesley Willis on their side."
Tyrion watched the boobs. "But what about Joshua Lyman? Because he could totally take Dumbledore, and maybe Iron Man."
Tyrion ate a lamb gyro, thinking back to the exciting thing that happened after the last chapter ended, thinking of it in an ambiguous and incomplete way. Since it had been 100 pages since his last chapter, you had entirely forgotten what the exciting thing at the end of the chapter was anyway, so it was not much of a loss. "Well," he said, "Now that all of the titties have jiggled sufficiently, we must needs be back on the road."
They rode their steeds along a road, hooves raising up halos of dust, the ravens flittering about in the branches and saying what words they had picked up from the conversation. "Death!" "Dumbledore!" "Titties!"
The half-man, who was short and a dwarf, wiped the sweat from his brow.
What can I say about Double Feature? What can be said about Double Feature? It is the story of (A) a bunch of stereotypes pretending to be characters...moreWhat can I say about Double Feature? What can be said about Double Feature? It is the story of (A) a bunch of stereotypes pretending to be characters who wander into the jungle for abstract reasons and then begin to die violently because of savage, cannibalistic natives and piranhas coated in fur; and (B) the story of a woman who dies because of her asshat boyfriend being a total piece of shit, and then comes back to life as a screwnicorn because of yet another asshat male, and then she is rejected by him, and so she goes on a rampage killing men with the big metal phallic symbol sticking out of her head.
I mean. . . why talk about the plot? These are plots straight out of nightmares, ruled more by the id than by any sense of internal logic. So I'm not going to talk about the plot. These authors don't need plots. They need drugs. Lots of drugs.
Vernon D. Burns seems absolutely obsessed with gender roles, constantly mocking them while seemingly unable to escape them. Some of the scenes are so fucking sexist you have to wonder if he somehow gets off on this. I mean, this IS his second book where a woman is knocked unconscious before being fondled and masturbated upon. And he has so far published 2 books, so 100% of his books include a scene like this. Also, this dude has a serious obsession with cum. Apparently some men can cum so profusely that "it was like he was peeing."
And Albert Clapp? The other author writes almost exactly the same as Burns, and shares the same obsession with gender. In his case, there's a much clearer feminist message, and there is significantly less misogyny related to the female protagonist. But I wonder if this is just because she doesn't have a human-female body, and this renders her unsexed in a way that saves her from the misogyny thrust upon the other females in this novella, whose breasts "bounce like speed bags" when they jump.
Clapp seems to hate women slightly less than men, who he depicts as total mouth-breathers who are in a constant state of pain and turmoil whenever their testicles aren't expelling semen. (Other than the old scientist, who instead of wanting to control women through having degrading sex with them, wants only to turn them into frankenstein monsters and force them to do manual labor at his winery (Yes. He is a scientist and also a wine maker (although he apparently sucks at both jobs))).
So why did I enjoy this more than Gods of the Jungle Planet? This is why: Like Faulkner and many other great writers, V.D. Burns has a style that is hard to comprehend at first, and I now feel like I get the joke. Like, really, REALLY get it.
The joke is that we destroy each other through perpetuating stereotypes--gender and non-gender-based stereotypes--and that popular art does nothing but reflect this violence back upon us in a feedback loop, simplifying us into caricatures that ALSO become a part of our collective identity. Art is, then, both a result and a catalyst for hatred and violence against the social other, whether this is womankind, an ethnic minority, or even an age bracket. By pushing these roles upon ourselves and then reminding ourselves in a constant stream of narratives what these roles are, we are perpetuating the patriarchy.
Vernon's joke--seemingly his ONLY joke--is to go so over the top in social and fictional caricatures that we can still be shocked by them, and to never let up even when the joke has long since stopped being funny. This is Andy Kaufman wrestling. This is Bill Hicks doing the goatboy routine. This is an artist trying his damnedest to be funny in a way that makes you very uncomfortable, and shocks you into thought.
Is it accidentally a glorification of violence? Does it work as a nihilistic satire? Is it an echo-chamber for the neuroses expressed in other popular fiction, or is it just really, really, incredibly bad writing by an idiot?
I can't say what it is for you; for me, this is a meditation on the violence of divisive art, yet it is divisive art, and cannot help but desensitize us further. So, it is filled with more hopelessness than the lives of its shallow and buxom protagonists. This is tastelessly funny, but we're laughing at the hopelessness of our own condition, our own inability to put ourselves in the shoes of others, our constant effort to silence one another through cultural labels. This book....what can be said?
And I love the horse-secks joke on the last page. (less)
Have you ever been lied to by a five-year old? Where the kid starts telling you a story that is obviously made up, but every time the kid starts getti...moreHave you ever been lied to by a five-year old? Where the kid starts telling you a story that is obviously made up, but every time the kid starts getting bored with it, they add new ridiculous details that make it even more implausible? And they have no self-awareness that will help them realize you know they're pulling every idea straight out of their ass? You ever had that happen? That's what reading this book is like.
Except it's not written by a five-year old. No: this A.D.D.-influenced opus is a randomly-selected wad of cliches all balled up and squashed together, united with the cheap glue of irony. This book tries so hard to be a loving parody of pulp sci fi, yet in this attempt falls on its face and then starts crying like a little bitch. Because, unlike classics of pulp sci fi, it never for a moment is able to take itself seriously. That missing feeling of authenticity is why I can't give this book the prestigious 3 stars of Killer Crabs.
If I could give this book 2.5 stars, that's what it would get. The quality of the writing is a one; the ridiculousness of the storyline is a four; the witty humor is a three; the constant barrage of inept sex scenes is a 1.5. Add them all, divide by four, and add .13 for the faux-book blurbs at the end, and you get 2.5.
And yes, to answer those questions you've been asking yourself: this book was really written by the same Vernon D. Burns who wrote such other classics as Sharkzilla, Cavern of the Diarrhia Monster, and the Gluyns, Elf Warrior Triacontatrology (thirty-book series). So, yes, the book is just as stupid as all those other books.
You haven't read any of them? I suppose that's not surprising. After all none of the books by Burns have ever been published before now. Vernon has been writing one book a week now for the last seventy two years, and he estimates that he has sent roughly 9,000 query letters to presses great and small. Now, at the age of 102, he has decided to go the self-publication route.
Why has he been turned down? Is it because he has no concept of linearity, and dead characters all of a sudden turn out to be alive, important events are skipped over remorselessly, and the world of his novels contain no internal logic whatsoever? Or is it because his sex scenes would make Ron Jeremy feel violated?
No. It's because Gods of the Jungle Planet--and I would assume these other titles as well--break all laws of physics. You see, at a certain point, literature becomes so bad that it's good. This is a law of physics. This is why Evil Dead II and Troll 2 are both scientifically proven to be better than Amistad.
However, Gods of the Jungle Planet is worse than both of these movies, yet does not become so bad it's good. It remains bad in a bad kind of way. It is paradoxical.
Perhaps I'm not the best person to review this book, though. . . after all, I got bored while reading Douglas Adams, and I also helped write Gods of the Jungle Planet. You don't think any real-life parents would be cruel enough to name their kid V.D. Burns, do you?
So, you can't really trust me to be objective, right? It could be even worse than I'm making it out to be. Or it could be better, because books that try to remain funny for 200 pages usually start feeling tedious about halfway through for me. I cannot be a good judge of them.
I suppose if you want to know how bad/good this is, you'll just have to read it. You can buy it right now on Amazon.com, temporarily discounted to whatever price it's at now! (less)
Sometimes as I finish a book I didn't enjoy, I relish the thought of writing the review that will tear the author a new asshole. I had a distinctly di...moreSometimes as I finish a book I didn't enjoy, I relish the thought of writing the review that will tear the author a new asshole. I had a distinctly different reaction as I reached the end of Wolves Dressed as Men, because I didn't enjoy it, AND it was written by a friend.
I was confused. Last year, I read Steve's debut, Muscle Memory, and it narrowly missed being in my 2010 top ten. Literally just missed it; it was number eleven. MM was clever, surprising, constantly funny and poignant, and it ended perfectly.
Then, a few months later, I read this, and it was...well, an unpleasant experience. Werewolves? I fucking hate werewolves! And I'm beyond tired of the whole supernatural romance thing....publishing companies have been vomiting out so many empty calories' worth of supernatural romance that it's quite possibly a fatal disorder, and when it finally suffers a heart attack and dies on its own bathroom floor as a DIRECT RESULT of its own self-destructive tendencies, I'll be first in line to laugh and point. Err, but, back to the book: after loving his first book, this one just didn't leave much of an impression at all.
Despite what some people would tell you, though, I'm not a total jerk: I talked to Steve before deciding to write a review because I wanted to see what was up with this. It turns out this was his FIRST book--written first--even though MM was the first book published. So this novella is fair game to be picked on, because you're SUPPOSED to pick on people's first novels. First novels are usually a teeth-sharpening process, and almost always end up being generic supernatural romance novels. Hemmingway's first book? Supernatural romance. Faulkner? Southern supernatural romance. Even the greatest novelist of our time, Guy N Smith, started his illustrious career with a supernatural horror novel that was basically a proxy of Twilight, only more hot chicks and mutant crabs were involved.
So, when I write my debut, you ALL have permission to pick on it. Unless I never manage to get anything published, in which case I'd appreciate it if you just softly tell me I'm truly an awesome writer and it's what's on the inside that counts, or some crap like that to make me feel like less of a failure.
Back to the book. I've had a lot of caffeine, btw.
I shall recount for you the reasons this book didn't work for me.
1. The lack of humor. This book took itself surprisingly seriously considering it was a supernatural romance. And, the characters were archetypal in...well, in much the same way the characters in my first novel were archetypal. I had the good fortune of being turned down by all the publishers, though, so I don't get to be publicly humiliated.
2. THE BACK COVER IS PINK. Pink. I'm not a homophobe or anything, but I don't want to carry a goddamned pink book around Phoenix.
3. As seems to happen increasingly, I knew what was going to happen before it happened with all of the plot points. I'm not sure if this was the result of foreshadowing or the use of these archetypal characters, but either way, I prefer my reading experiences to be surprising. And to not be populated with werewolves. Or detectives. I kind of hate detective fiction.
Those are my bones of contention, and I don't really want to click the "Save" button now, because this is the second time in a row I've read a book by a friend and then written a negative review of it. But, dammit, if I don't give them honest ratings, I might as well not even be here reviewing them. I DO NOT LIE unless money is involved.
But I can assure you I'll be buying the next thing Steve publishes--I can't wait to see what comes after Muscle Memory.
By the way, the official day for burning Muscle Memory is July first, so I suggest buying several copies before then so you don't get left out on all the fun! (less)
What would I do if I woke up with breasts and a vagina? This is the ethical question Steve Lowe wrestles with in his opus, Muscle Memory.
Actually, th...moreWhat would I do if I woke up with breasts and a vagina? This is the ethical question Steve Lowe wrestles with in his opus, Muscle Memory.
Actually, that's not the only issue he wrestles with here. This is a book about guilt: the guilt of having neglected a person who loves you and not having the chance to take it back. It's about coming to terms with loss, and accepting loss, and accepting your own failures. These issues are just as important as ones having to do with waking up genderly resituated.
This book laughs with you, and tells you funny jokes, and very clearly came here to party. Then, it stabs you in the fucking head and you die before your death even registers. That's what this novella does. Which is a combination I LOVE: comedy by itself feels like angel food cake, but when you mix some real emotional resonance in with humor, you end up with the recipe for my favorite kind of book. This combination is often pulled off by Vonnegut and sometimes by John Irving, but I can't think of many other authors who I've felt truly made it work.
A lot of the humor comes from the fact that this book is a hilarious modern update of the "who's on first" joke, only in technicolor and with dick jokes. Main character wakes up in his wife's body. His own body, laying next to him, is stone dead. He quickly discovers that almost everyone is in someone else's bodies, most of the time spouses trading skins. Almost all the characters are in bodies that aren't really theirs, and they're trying to keep track of who is who, and figure out whether they should refer to the name of the BODY or the name of the person INSIDE the body, and figure out whether a man in a woman's body should be referred to as a he or a she...is all bizarro about gender identity? Anyway, this dynamic adds a lot of hilarity. So do bestiality humor, hiding-the-body humor, and a bunjillion other genres of humor.
I can tell that I should've started reading bizarro much sooner, because I've loved all of it I've read yet. Before trying it out, I was expecting something much closer to splatterpunk, but clearly that's not what bizarro is about. Lowe's main character is in an unbelievably strange world, yet the story really revolves around his attempt to come to terms with his wife's death and how he treated her before she died. The peripheral characters are also struggling with relationships in various ways, some of which are very funny. But, these characters are mainly foils to the main character's maturation.
I usually don't like short stories, and this almost qualifies as one. But, Steve packs a lot into sixty pages, keeping the story moving, showing us his character's internal struggles, and finally reaching a climax that I will say nothing about, because the last two pages are haunting and perfect. If you're lucky enough to find a copy of this, I would definitely recommend it. And if you can't find a copy, I still have Caris's signed copy at my apartment, and I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I gave it away. (less)
There's that moment in the shitty middle Matrix movie where out of nowhere, hundreds of copies of Mr. Smith come pouring in. It's visu...more
Caris done good.
There's that moment in the shitty middle Matrix movie where out of nowhere, hundreds of copies of Mr. Smith come pouring in. It's visually my favorite moment in the trilogy. It's wonderfully over-the-top and surreal. This book is like that.
It's also like when, in Timecrimes, you realize that the hero has royally fucked himself irreparably by dicking around with time, and you have a dawning sense of horror that things cannot, will not go back to how they were at first. (If you haven't seen this movie, GO GO GO GO GO! Wait, stop. Read The Egg Said Nothing. Then, GO GO GO GO GO!)
But, it's also a little like the sweet romance from Amelie, love spewing up believably from the dirty streets of Paris or wherever, and with both parts of the pair interesting and independent, neither just a foil for the other. It's like that, too.
This book proves that the inside of Caris's head is just as bizarre and unusual as the outside. We've always suspected this, but only now has it been proven.
First, Mr. O'Malley avoids all of the stumbling blocks I would've expected a bizarro book to trip over and crack its skull, and then lie there, bleeding and twitching on the pavement of mediocrity while everyone just walks past, with briefcases full of more pressing literary engagements, until some kids who watch too much pro wrestling come up and jack it for its Nikes....I don't know how that plays into the metaphor. Whatever. This book is chock full of murders via shovel, and YES, it's gratuitous. But, the gratuitous violence is secondary to a wicked-awesome plot that moves at five hundred miles an hour, steered with the precision of a skilled wordsmith until it runs at full speed into the brick wall of the inevitable conclusion.
And it's fucking hilarous. I completely disagree with Christy's review: I think the dialogue isn't entirely believable, but the awkwardness of the dialogue reflects the characters, and adds another kind of humour to an already hilarious book. The way our protagonist speaks to the guy who just tried to murder him?! The stilted conversations between the lovers?! the casualness with which the character brings up silent film stars?! It doesn't make the character believable, per se, but it makes the character vividly unreal, like the characters in the Gormenghast trilogy. (If you haven't read this, GO GO GO GO GO!) I mean, this motherfucker's day job is fountain diving for change. That alone had me laughing pretty much every time it happened.
Why only four stars? Well, this novella does a good job of exposing the confused, soggy underbelly of time travel, by giving us a story where there's literally so much time travel going on that, for a portion of the novella, I couldn't figure out the semantics of how any of it was working. I get lost in action sequences anyway, but when you have an action sequence with five versions of the same person involved, GAAAAAH! Confusion will strike me upside the head. Like a shovel.
And, although the book caught me off guard at numerous times, the ending seemed inevitable from early on. Also, as a reader, the egg didn't really do anything for the plot, other than serving as a symbol. (Granted, I might have guessed this from the title...)
And Meredith is down in the comments, screaming at me that the egg is the most important part. This is something I'm not sure I buy. Let me see if I can freewrite myself to understanding WTF she's talking about...after all, the egg is the beginning, the germination of Manny's idea about gender equality, and is also clearly a symbol of his femininity, a symbol of motherhood, which is his ability to take care of and nourish someone else--hence his newfound ability to love homegirl. But, then, it gets broken inadvertently, and there's a DVD inside of it that has himself from the future on it. I guess, from the point the egg breaks, I lose track of how it functions symbolically. But, Meredith is a smart cookie, and I read most of the novella while a little bit intoxicated, so I might just not get it.
Anyway, I'm also trying to take into account my fanatacism for The O'Malley himself...I may not be the president of his fan club, but I have fed him pasta and played with his baby. So, I'm trying to view my own love for this book with a grain of salt.
I have an uncle who is a songwriter down in New Orleans, who does really clever and well-written countryblues songs, but I would've probably given his CD three stars initially. Quite a while after I first listened to it, my parents had it on at their house, and it was playing in a different room, so I couldn't really hear the vocals, but it sounded SO FUCKING GOOD. And I said to dad, "What are you listening to? It's really fucking good!" (Except I didn't drop the 'F' bomb, because if I dropped it around my dad, he would've hit me in the face with a shovel. That's how my parents dealt with swearing.) And he said, "That's your uncle Jim's band," and THAT'S when I realized it really was a five star CD, and I wasn't just inflating my opinion of it because my uncle is awesome.
So, I might be doing a little of that here. Then again, Caris got five stars from just about everyone, so he can fucking deal.(less)
In Michael Springer's review of Ship Breaker, he uses a narrative account of his experience working at Rally's Hamburgers as a parallel to the type of...moreIn Michael Springer's review of Ship Breaker, he uses a narrative account of his experience working at Rally's Hamburgers as a parallel to the type of work the book's characters are engaged in, and follows this lengthy digression with a political rant that goes on in one seemingly endless sentence for several hundred words. The actual time invested in discussing characters or events from the book come in a brief paragraph at the end, almost as an afterthought to the rants that have come before. This is fairly typical for the reviewer's style, although it's a vast improvement over his review of the children's book, In the Night Kitchen: in that review, he entirely avoids the book itself, the author of the book, and any themes contained in the book.
That said, what can we say about the quality of this review of Ship Breaker? If one were interested in deciding whether or not they'd enjoy the book, it's hard to imagine how the reviewer's multiple experiences wounding himself while cooking hamburgers will help us determine whether we ought to read it or not. Likewise, the reviewer's ravings about the madness of the political system in the United States, and his accusations that "all of us, every one of us on this website, all of my goodreader friends, are just pawns to the American Empire, forever blinded by the superficial bickering of political hacks while those with the money lurk behind the scenes, pushing an agenda that subjugates those in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and all of the middle east, those most of us would rather embrace than marginalize..." and he continues in that vein for quite a while.
It seems that overstatement is the rule of the day, considering the reviewer chooses to portray his own mediocre job at a fast food restaurant (which he admits he only worked at for two months) with the slavery-like conditions experienced by the children in the book. At their jobs extracting copper from abandoned ships, they ran the risk of death on a daily basis, whereas Michael's worst experience involves a fairly mild burn on his finger. Similarly, he portrays the United States government as filled with conspiracies to systematically take all the money from all of those who aren't in the wealthiest 1%. In one of the few evaluative statements in the entire review, Michael states that, in comparison to Paolo Bacigalupi's previous novel, The Windup Girl, "This book gargles donkey cum." If anyone was inclined to take Michael's views on this book seriously before reading that statement, this crass overstatement most likely changed their minds.
When attempting to actually review the book in his final paragraph, Michael proves himself inept: he relies on blanket statements, such as "The book was, overall, okay." Thank you for that amazing insight, Michael. He mentions the book is part of the science fiction movement known as "biopunk," but quickly moves on to other territory without defining this term, or explaining why this term matters in our understanding of the book.
Perhaps, if the reviewer were to view this "review" as a rough draft, or a brainstorm for ideas, he might eventually develop something worth reading. However, the review seems to have happened as a stream-of-consciousness rant that only tangentially has any connection with the novel in question, and then attempts to flesh out a review at the last minute before fizzling out ambivalently. If one is inclined to read a review of Ship Breaker on the goodreads.com website, one would be much better off reading the reviews written by Eric or Kathleen. In comparison to these reviews that actually contain substance, Michael's review clearly gargles donkey cum. (less)
In the city of _______, the end of the world is quickly approaching, instigated when a/an _______ gets stolen. Genero, the undistinguished protagonist...moreIn the city of _______, the end of the world is quickly approaching, instigated when a/an _______ gets stolen. Genero, the undistinguished protagonist, all of a sudden discovers a new world when he's ________ by a ________ and then rescued by a ________. It then turns out he is a hero sort, a necessary element of the battle between a ______ and a/an ___________.
Jeff Vandermeer: Alright, Mieville, the name of a city.
China Mieville: This will be a London sometin'.
JV: Alright *writes it in* Now, we need a noun.
CM: Ah. . . squid?
JV: Sure. Why not. *Writes it in* Verb?
JV: Past tense?
JV: *taps forehead with pen* You know, Mieville, I kind of like the idea of basing our next books off of Mad Libs, but I can't help but feeling like this particular storyline is just unavoidably plain. I mean, you could use this framework to generate The Dark Is Rising, or Un Lun Dun, or-
CM: I AM CHINA MIEVILLE. I WILL MAKE IT WORK.
CM: Uh. . . gangster.
JV: *Writes it in* The Lord of The Rings, even. I mean, this looks kind of Tolkeinish in its framework-
CM: I'M CHINA MIEVILLE, BITCH.
(1 year later. . . )
JV: Hey, China, congratulations on Kraken!
CM: Did you like it, Jeffy?
JV: It was quite funny! Collingsworth was a terrific secondary character. And when you brought in that guy who figured out how to teleport, man, that was vintage. And so was the Tattoo.
CM: Cheers, Jeff!
JV: The idea of competing armageddons is a fun one. And you have the detectives over here, the friend over there, the protagonist here, and they all meet up at the end . . . it's a terrific way--
CM: Yeah, thanks--
JV: Of getting around a fair-to-middling plot.
CM: . . . . .
JV: And a dull, flat main character.
(Mieville turns, looking out of the review at the reviewer.)
CM: Where do you get off judging my book and giving it a star rating? Not to mention impersonating me, and claiming I said inane things.
Michael: *Leaps back from his computer, startled* Uhh. . .hi. I'm a big fan.
CM: Fuck you, a big fan! "Big fans" appreciate the elements that work in a book, they don't spend time nitpicking because it didn't reinvent the genre. You're docking me two bloody stars because it's a hero's journey?
M: . . . First off, I don't give five stars to anything that didn't stun me with its brilliance. So, that's kind of like an "extra credit" number of stars. So, really, I'm docking you ONE for the hero's journey thing.
CM: But you gave five stars to "The Monster at the End of This Book."
M: So I did. Did you read Keely's review of Kraken? Did you pick on him?
CM: He didn't call himself a big fan.
Jeff Vandermeer: Do you still need me? Can I go home now?
M & CM: Shut up, Jeff!
M: It's just that I expect a lot from you. . . That's all. The Bas Lag books were technically speculative fiction, but they surpassed that, and I think qualified as literary fiction. Kraken is pulp fantasy, isn't it?
CM: You say "pulp" like it's a bad word. I wanted to have some fun with the genre of fantasy, and write a humorous book, and I did both.
M: Good job! Doing that gets you three stars from me.
CM: WTF! Not that I care about how many stars you give me on your social networking site. What have you written?
M: . . . .
M: You don't have to shit on my self esteem just because I gave you three stars. We can still be friends.
CM: Feast on my dung. I'M CHINA MIEVILLE, BITCH. I REST MY CASE. *Returns to his blog.*
JV: *Shrugs* I don't know what to tell you.
M: Somebody's having a bad hair day. I mean, you can't fill your book with stock characters who never develop, follow a traditional pulp storyline, and expect to write something that moves your readers deeply. He HAD some good ideas in the book that made it a very entertaining read. But I can't give him extra credit for being China Mieville, right? You see what I mean?
JV: Last time you wrote a review with me in it, you had me murdered. Don't expect sympathy here.
M: Yeah? Well, my reviews are sometimes violent. It wasn't personal.
JV: *Shakes his head and goes back to Ambergris*
M: I guess there's a downside to being a meanspirited cynic who disses books all the time. I mean, really, books are my closest friends. Because real people are such assholes.
Harold Bloom: Maybe you're just using book reviews as a way to avoid working on your real writing project. Perhaps you're afraid this novel will turn out to be less edgy than you hope for, and that fear is making you find ways to avoid working on it. Perhaps your rough treatment of China Mieville is really the result of your own insecurities.
M: Goddamn you, Bloom. If this is going to become a review of ME, I'm fucking leaving. (less)