More engaging military space adventure fluff. This time, though, there's the added interest of some really thought-provoking ideas. It concerns a dele...moreMore engaging military space adventure fluff. This time, though, there's the added interest of some really thought-provoking ideas. It concerns a delegation to a planet/culture with a repressive attitude toward women. A lot of the book is a thought-experiment about the best, most respectful, most moral way to deal with such a culture (and whether respect and morality come into conflict at some point.)
Very interesting, with a twist I wasn't expecting for a female heroine. More highly recommended than On Basilisk Station.(less)
I picked this book up, not because I had even the smallest expectation of enjoying it, but because I kept seeing copies of it at the airport when I wa...moreI picked this book up, not because I had even the smallest expectation of enjoying it, but because I kept seeing copies of it at the airport when I was on my way to the annual Association of Zoos and Aquariums conference, and I was curious. I was shy a book to read on the plane, and the first 24 or so chapters were free on my Kindle. (This isn't quite as impressive as it sounds, given that the chapters run about 1,000 words each.)
Plus, I reasoned, even if it was awful, it'd be interesting to see how Patterson deals with anthrozoological issues. I figured it'd be interesting on at least a anthropological or sociological level. I looked forward to analyzing its fears and arguing with it. (Notice all the excuses I'm offering. That's because I deeply regret the poor decisions I made that resulted in me reading this book.)
Instead of an academic interest, though, as soon as I began reading a sickening sense of horror crept over. This book is worse than The Da Vinci Code. This book is worse than Twilight. This is, in fact, the worst book I've ever read.
I'm not sure which is the worst facet of this festering heap of detestableness, but I could break it down into a few headings of horrible:
1. The writing style. It's just awful. The chapters average about three or four pages. The sentences are all short and choppy and written in such an action-adventure cliche style that it comes off as a parody of itself. In fact, Dave Barry writing a parody of a Dan Brown novel has better prose than this. He actually used the phrase "rosy-fingered dawn," which I thought was illegal. He also threw in all sorts of things meant to be cute such as, when a grizzly is attacking his SUV in DC, "I assumed he wasn't from AAA." Ha ha. Very clever. At this point, I was rooting for the bear.
2. The stupidity of all the characters, without exception. The gist of the story is that the protagonist Jackson Oz is a "scientist" (more on this later) who believes that animals are going nuts and attacking humans. And yet he thinks nothing of keeping a chimpanzee in his apartment. Chimps are dangerous even if you're not confidently expecting the animal world to run amok.
3. The sexism. The first (and actually only) sex scene in the whole book is so flagrantly written to play up Oz's rampant masculinity and dominance that it was unintentionally hilarious. Later, when Oz meets his obligatory Sexy Science Babe, every single time she's mentioned he reminds us how gorgeous she is, how very pretty and delicate and small, how totally unlike every other scientist woman he's ever met. Blargh. Not only that, but her whole role is to admire, cheer-lead, support, fall in love, and need comforting and defending.
4. The "science." Patterson read, at maximum, two Wikipedia pages as research, and that was it. I would be surprised if he even got all the way through both of them. He may be able to spell hydrocarbon and grasp some extremely basic (third-grade-level) concepts of pollution, but clearly not chemical dissipation, bio-accumulation, or any other chemical, biological, or ecological process. He's just throwing around the words to sound important. And don't get me started on the acronyms. Also, no, Oz is not a "scientist." He got an undergrad in science. That's not the same thing. He's a hack.
5. The fact that, at a critical point in the plot, Patterson skips five years for no apparent reason except that he apparently got bored.
6. The totally unnecessary violence and sickening detail on animal deaths. I'm not even going to go into this. Seldom has a book given me the actual physical urge to regurgitate.
7. The ending. Or lack thereof. In a better, braver, deeper book, Patterson's choice for an ending might be brave or bittersweet or thought-provoking. Here it's an admission of defeat. If you're going to come up with some big thorny problem, you owe it to Science Fiction to at least try to come up with a solution or at least a message. "I dunno, we're screwed" doesn't cut it. (view spoiler)[Plus, do you expect me to believe they're not burning fossil fuels to stay warm up there in their ivory tower beyond the Arctic Circle? (hide spoiler)]
This is a book that had to be downed quickly, much like a very unpleasant shot of hard liquor you're drinking for some unimaginable reason. I saw someone had it shelved as "burn so as not to inflict upon other library patrons." I thought she was exaggerating, but now I whole-heartedly back that decision up. This book has absolutely no redeeming qualities.
Deep down (Very deep down. Thousands of miles.) this book has two good points:
1. Humans are more distanced from animals than at any other time in history or pre-history and this is not a good thing.
2. We're affecting the environment in unknowable and dangerous ways.
But that's it. This is an execrable excuse for a book. It shouldn't even get a star. No one at all should read it, even as an example of everything you shouldn't do as a writer. Or an editor. Or a publisher. Or a human.
A well-executed retelling of a very old environmentalism fable, Le Guin manages to make the story both fresh and enjoyable. Her writing is so impeccab...moreA well-executed retelling of a very old environmentalism fable, Le Guin manages to make the story both fresh and enjoyable. Her writing is so impeccable it's a joy to read. The characters, even the bad guys, are well-drawn and absorbing. (less)