This stands out as one of the dumbest books I have ever tried to read. I cannot at this time recall a book with a dumber premise, or a less sympathetiThis stands out as one of the dumbest books I have ever tried to read. I cannot at this time recall a book with a dumber premise, or a less sympathetic protagonist. Some fantasy or science fiction books have a wierd premise that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, but once that bit of wierdness is accepted they maintain a coherent narrative within the bizarre framework the author created.
This is not a book like that.
The first major premise of this book is that there is this town in which the men have all developed telepathy, so that they are unable to avoid hearing each others thoughts even if they want to. This is a cool premise and its possible that some better author could do a lot with it. But instead, this author does a mindless paint by numbers sci-fi coming of age story which in context makes no sense whatsoever either in its broad scope or its minor details.
Since the X-Files popularized the technique, one of the most commmon Sci-Fi plots involves presenting the reader (or audience) with some baffling mystery while dropping tantalizing clues as to the nature of the mystery a long the way. Ultimately it doesn't matter that the clues are forgotten, or prove incoherent, or contridictory, or that the mystery doesn't even exist, or when revealed that it isn't nearly as interesting as the tantalizing hints seemed to indicate. By the time you start wrapping up the story, you'll already have sold the product to the gullible audience. Fans of 'Lost' might be familiar with the successful use of the technique. Certain fantasy authors of long-winded series appear to be employing the technique to good effect as well, and one famous one managed to die without having to spoil his epic plot by explaining it.
Well, not only am I calling Patrick Ness on this, but of all the authors that have shamelessly cashed in on the technique, this is that lamest abuse of it. For you see, while the main premise of the story is that there is this town were the men can unwillingly hear each others thoughts, the other main premise of the story is that this town is filled with secrets that have somehow been hidden from the protagonist his entire life. Not only is everything he knows to be true a lie, but everyone else in the town apparantly knows that it's all a lie and somehow the protagonist alone isn't in on it. How the young man has managed to be lied to the whole time without him seeing the lie the whole time is not explained, nor really is anything else in the story.
But ultimately, even if there is some really good answer for all the laughable nonsense that happens in this story while its attempting to be 'dark', 'gritty' and 'real', I just don't care, because TODD is got to be the least sympathetic and least believable protagonist that I've ever encountered. He's such a total moron that I kept hoping that the comicly one-dimensional over the top stock chauvanist villains would put him out of his misery. When he's not being a total coward, he's a murderer. I got about to the point where the too perfect heroine love-interest was praising this worthless peice of human garbage for not killing the afore mentioned over the top woman raping child killers who are threatening the entire world, because you know, that would make him just as bad as they were, and I had to stop myself from throwing the peice of trash across the room (because it was a library book).
There isn't a single redeeming feature to this book. If I had to compose an all time worst list, chances are this would make it. I could go on and on about the wierd gender politics of the book, the laughable paint by numbers political correctness of the story, the dumb cliff hangers, the non-twists at the end, the wierd lapses of logic of virtually every character, or any number of other things but I'll spare you an actual detailed review because it would probably kill brain cells to discuss the text further much less read it....more
If it's 2am, and I have 120 pages left, and I can read roughly 500 words a minute, do I have any time left to keep reading given that I have to get toIf it's 2am, and I have 120 pages left, and I can read roughly 500 words a minute, do I have any time left to keep reading given that I have to get to work by 8:30am if I don't want to measurably decrease my work performance?
I avoided learning anything at all about this book prior to reading it, because everyone seemed to esteem it so highly and I didn't want to give myself any spoilers. I need not have bothered. The story was nothing like what I've come to expect of a highly acclaimed science fiction story. The story is absolutely predictable. It's as deep as a puddle. It's as dense as a cotton ball. I probably should not have been reading this as a follow up to John C. Wright, because after that hefty multi-course meal, this was made to seem a bit like fast food.
But, it was a lot of fun nonetheless, and I understand completely why this novel has achieved such popularity. Science fiction for the last two decades has basically been lost in a dead end of nihilism, nostalgia, and fantasy redressed in far future tropes. Weir brings back the optimism and adventure and sheer love of science that has been missing from most of science fiction since the early part of the Golden Age.
This will never be one of my favorite science fiction works. On a philosophical level, it's ambitions are small. It's narrator is a highly competent kid who refused to grow up. Most of the book reads somewhere between a 6th grade math word problem and a better than average summer blockbuster. There isn't much reason to revisit the text. But for all that, I can't recommend this work enough, not just to readers of science but most especially to writers of science fiction. For years I've feared that science fiction was a dead genera and that it died sometime around the time the Apollo program. I feared that we as a people would give up entirely on the dream of a bigger future.
Well, someone at least is fighting back.
Most of all what I loved about this book was what was missing from my other favorite book about Mars, KSR's 'Red Mars'. In fact, if somehow you could cram 'The Martian' together with 'Red Mars' you might well have a perfect novel. Each complements the other and is weak where the other is strong. Whereas Robinson's book read like it was written by someone who'd never even been camping and so was unable to imagine life with out lattes much less in a hostile alien environment which was continually trying to kill you, Weir gets that on Mars the real inescapable story is always Man vs. Nature and everything else is always at all times secondary to that. While it's probably stretching it to call this realistic fiction, given its obvious adventure story aspirations, I can give no real complaint against Weir's repeated attempts to kill his protagonist. It's not completely realistic, but it has sufficient verisimilitude of realism that it is the sort of book that instills the spirit and desire to be one of those path-finding, trail-breaking, colonists and face those dangers in a way that 'Red Mars' just utterly fails to manage. Weir may make it too easy at times for the sake of continuing the story, but you can't fault him for making it so easy that one can pretend that the obstacles will be easy to overcome and handwave them away. This is hope not for some imaginable far future were all the hard work as done and we reap the rewards, but a hope for a nearer and more attainable future where the hard work is imaginable and possible.
For that, he gets a star I'd probably not otherwise give the work. Let's see more like it....more
So I picked up the text and started flipping through it and got very bored very early on. Horror stories are usually like that for me, because they arSo I picked up the text and started flipping through it and got very bored very early on. Horror stories are usually like that for me, because they are so darn predictable and so filled with pent up teenage hormones, gasoline fumes, and slimy body fluids. Maybe back when I was 16, all this horrorshow ultra-vee with a John Mellencamp soundtrack might have charged me up, but at some point after 30 I stopped worrying about how badass I am or might be and the whole adrenaline pumping thing turned into a real yawner.
So you don't scare me.
By page 27, I've got every twist in the book figured out. I know where it's all going. Sure enough, there on page 83 you pop your first complete non-shocker. The only thing I'm even the littlest bit surprised by is how quickly you go ahead and give away the game. A normal author is going to savor his twists and turns, but I'm thinking, "Of course you know how jaded and sophisticated story readers are now days. You are giving away the first twist so that you'll distract the readers from thinking about the next one and the next." And it's pretty clever and it just might work, but you don't scare me.
See I've been thinking the whole time just stupid your puny fictional town is with its wimpy little fictional Halloween game and just how stupid the punks in your fictional little town are compared with even the inbred toughs I grew up with. And I've been thinking the whole time, "Is that all you got? Is that all they have to deal with? That ain't nothing. I've been through worse than that. This is child's play. I had more friends killed than that and no body thought it was a fun game. I've seen longer odds than that and been deeper in the corn field than that." I've already been there. You're like the Chuck Palahniuk of horror stories, trying to convince me of just how great it would be to go into the office with a broken ocular bone when it’s clear you've never actually been punched hard in the face in your whole life. Save your crap for the pampered suburbanites. So no, you ain't going to scare me with your lame pumpkin heads and spooky stories.
But somewhere around page 117 it clicked with me that you know that. I mean, you'd been screaming out that most obvious fact since page one and here I was too busy judging your story to hear you. Here I was caught up in thinking this was a horror story because that's what you told your publisher, and that's how they marketed the book, and it's what they painted on the cover, and that's what probably 99% of the people who read the book thought. And maybe that's all what 99% of the people who read the story got, and maybe they didn't see the twists coming because well they hadn't been there and no blame on them for it. They just hadn't walked in those shoes and taken those steps through that town, and maybe you did scare them gently and good for them. It's just shotgun blasts in the graveyard - good clean fun so long as it isn't pointed at anyone. It's not turning off the headlights and plowing through the turns in the wrong lane, or playing chicken with the train where the first one off the tracks has to take another drink. It's not mangled bodies, or burying whole families. It's not the real thing. It's pumpkinheads and candy, and you know that can't scare me.
Of course you do know that. You don't scare me and you don't mean to. I guessed all your twists because you were never trying to hide them from me. You knew you couldn't hide them from me, and what would have been the point of doing so anyway? I lived the real story. I know this isn't a horror story. I know that this is really a war story. I know you have to write it as a horror story because if you told a true story, most people would either not believe it or fail to understand it. When you put it down on paper, even if you write it in blood, it isn't quite the same as being there. It never can be. So you tell some lies because that's the only way to tell the story to people who don't already get it, and it's ok because they are never going to really get it any way. They can't. And lies are easier to believe anyway.
So why just four stars? Well, you know that too. Because you know you are just a chicken shit poser. You had it easy, and even if you didn't you still chickened out and wrote candy coated sugary faerie tales where the complete loner gets to be the hero and you get out with the girl and your family and it’s all over. But it isn't like that, and it doesn't come that easily. Your way is alot more fun. Yeah of course it had to burn, but as much as I would love to say that I was the one who burned it and that I saved everyone, it didn't happen that way and you know it.
Not that I wouldn’t tell the same lies when it comes my turn to sit around the digital campfire and tell the story of the October Boy. You know I’m still scared to tell the truth too. ...more
**spoiler alert** A couple of gamer geeks made good.
About 30 pages into this story, I turned to my wife and said, "This guy has done all the same rese**spoiler alert** A couple of gamer geeks made good.
About 30 pages into this story, I turned to my wife and said, "This guy has done all the same research I've done." As it turned out, this only makes sense - we are both game masters.
It's hard for me to review this book. I can't separate my thoughts about the book from my biases the way I feel that I am usually able to. I don't know if the book was really a triumph or merely a mediocre space opera that I like more than I should because I'm sympathetic to the setting, authors, and failings of the story. There are so many things to like that I want to overlook the somewhat serious flaws. So, lets start by getting the serious flaws admitted and then I'll talk about my biases and what this book really does right.
One of the most serious flaws in most recent sci-fi is the problem of childishness. By that I don't mean that the writers are childish, or that the genera is childish, but the genera has begun to reflect the trend toward irresponcibility of the larger society. In sci-fi this turns up as the trope that sometime in the near future, whenever it would be hard to solve the difficult problems of space travel, humanity helpfully encounters some alien artifact or species that gives Earth the technological jump start it needs to overcome the more intractable problems. Where once sci-fi celebrated a can do attitude and engineers with thews of steel, we now have space travelers as intellectual and moral coach potatoes waiting around for their parent to do all the hard work for them. It's annoying when it shows up, and though it's a minor element of this book, it still manages to invade this story as well.
Another problem with this book is the basic plot structure can be described as: "An alien species which parasitically infests its hosts is encountered which is extremely lethal to earth life, so much so that it threatens to destroy humanity if unleashed. An attractive female is infected early on, and ultimately it turns out that the real bad guys are a degenerate corporation that wants to weaponize the alien species." If that doesn't sound familiar to you, it should. So, while there is a lot of good research in the story and a lot of creativity on display, ultimately, there isn't nearly as much originality as there should be. It's standard trope bad guys and trope threats and all the twists are rote and predictable.
Lastly, the plot of the story suffers from several glaring gamerism which will probably be jarring to anyone who isn't a gamer, and which breaks suspension of disbelief from time to time for any one who is. One of the most obvious ones is that the protagonists enjoy PC level plot protection that manifests in their ability to cut a deal with any smart NPC because the smart NPC ultimately recognizes the PC's hero status as the only characters capable of saving the world. If you didn't understand that, what it means is that the protagonists though apparantly lowly and unimportant nonetheless are able to on the basis of no real evidence whatsoever convince really important individuals in the setting to trust them implicitly, to hear them out, and to agree to their seemingly fool hardy plans.
My biases in this of course are that as a gamer, I'm fairly willing to forgive gamer tropes. Sure, there are plot holes in the story, but compared to many authors, a writer with a gamer background is going to pay a lot of attention to certain sorts of plot holes and work harder to fill them. The setting is tight, internally consistant, and well thought out. The heroes are cunning and resourceful and the plot doesn't depend on the heroes doing stupid things, and there aren't obvious alternate strategies that the reader wonders why they don't employ. While you can occasionaly see twists coming that the characters in the story are oblivious to, you don't want to throw the book across the room because the characters haven't seen the problem yet because you can sympathize with how the characters are being emotionally manipulated.
There is so much though that the novel gets right. It's smart and often witty with several bits of dialogue that could show up in a Hollywood Summer blockbuster. The characterization is great, and the two principle protagonists are some of the more sympathetic and well realized in all of science fiction. The setting is Earth's glorious solar system, and the technology is believably a few centuries removed from our own in all areas but artificial intelligence (the absence of which is not really explained). The space combat is almost spot on best guess for the available technology level, and the military strategy, economics and physics are well thought out and explained. This is one of the best 'hard' (or at least semi-hard) space operas you'll encounter.
The story telling is artful. One of the things a good author will do when they know that they have a weak twist is layer the more obvious twists on top of each other so they climatic twist is hidden by the others. This strategy counts on your most sluethful readers to guess the first couple of twists within the first few pages, and then - cocky and sure of themselves - to underestimate the author and to not keep looking. Sure enough, they caught me perfectly in this trap (one I've fell to before, so I should have been looking for it). I was well on top of the twists, but they managed to successfully conceal the last twist not through having a really original twists, but by having enough twists along the way that you aren't looking for the last one until the same time it dawns on the protagonist. I love being outsmarted like that. Thanks guys. You made my day.
It's also probably the best collaborative novel I've read. Normally collaboration on a novel is a disaster, but here it works perfectly and seamlessly. I attribute this to gamer backgrounds of both authors, as they are clearly used to sharing a story with another author and make the most of their collaboration....more
I read scores of 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books and similar 'text based adventure' series during the craze in elementary school and junior high.
ThiI read scores of 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books and similar 'text based adventure' series during the craze in elementary school and junior high.
This one, which casts you as a resistance fighter conducting an alpine raid against the Nazis, was always one of my favorites.
IMO, A good 'Choose Your Own Adventure' book has the following qualities - lots of oppurtunities to make choices, a large number of possible endings, a few surprising twists that add readability, and some sort of internal logic that lets you correctly guess at least most of the time which path leads to the most satisfying rewards. 'Sabotage' succeeds on all counts....more