Nafiza's Reviews > All Men of Genius

All Men of Genius by Lev A.C. Rosen
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May 21, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: read-2011

I am not in the habit of mincing my words so I’m going to come right out and say it. Reading this was a painful experience. Not an impossible feat (like Shatter Me was but that’s another story) but very, very painful. But I persevered and completed it just so I can review it with a clean conscience.

I was sold on the book the moment I read the synopsis. I found the title to be particularly witty (All Men of Genius, only it’s a woman’s genius we are going to be seeing, get it?) and I thought that the title reflected the content of the novel. So after lusting after the book for a week, I decided that eating was overrated and bought it. I needed to have it, okay? None of my libraries have it and none of them are considering getting it so…I had no choice. I’m telling you this so my review is framed in a way that will let you understand why I was so colossally disappointed.

I didn’t read this book expecting the worst. In fact, I began this book with a fervent hope that it would be insanely awesome.

Unfortunately, no one was listening to my prayers. The biggest obstacle I faced in my enjoyment to this novel was the writing. None of the characters are ever allowed to develop. The author either thinks readers are too dimwitted or he doesn’t trust our ability to decipher the subtext, that is, what’s happening between the lines. One of the greatest reasons I love reading is because while a good author builds the foundation for his/her story, the details are left for the reader to decode, interpret. You are allowed to draw what conclusions you will because that is what reading is. A personal affair. We are not given the chance to do so in All Men of Genius. The author insists on spelling out how each character feels, what his thoughts (and hence feelings may mean), his motivations, his dreams,every single thing. It’s like whatever free voice there may have been in the characters is choked off by the narrator’s (interfering and jarring) voice taking over. There is no subtlety and there is no flow to the narrative. And it pissed me off.

So, the writing was bad enough but couple that with flat, one dimensional characters (who aren’t able to be more because, well, the writing refuses to let them). They are not fleshed out, they are not interesting and they read more like representations of stock characters than original characters. Is this because this is a conflation of two different classic novels? I have no idea. I just know that any time an author uses “everyone laughs” or any other generalizing sentence, he/she kills whatever individuality that may have been present in the novel. If you want your characters to sound and act like real people, do not, seriously just don’t, lump them all together when narrating their reactions. Not all people will laugh and even if they do, you don’t need to say it because you risk your narrative sounding campy.

Moving on from the characters, let’s talk about the plot. Which is predictable and lacking twists. So this is a steampunk novel and I realize that you can’t be minutely versed in all aspects of mechanical engineering but if you are going to write about a genius, you should at least pretend in a sincere enough manner that your genius evinces her intelligence persuasively. The fact that she can make such complicated machines in so little time is not just improbable but also ridiculous and takes away from the believability of the novel. And the housekeeper becoming proficient at all things mechanical? Is it really that easy? It felt that the author did not do as much research on his topic as he needed to and usually, I don’t notice such things but when your subject requires a lot of jargon, or at least description of mechanical parts etc, you can’t help but notice the lack of it.

The romance. Oh. My. God. I think I mentioned that this book has the year’s worst love interest ever. Violet is, I believe, around fifteen years old. The love interest is no other than the “headmaster” of the school she is attending in disguise. He is also around thirty years old though he behaves like he is a hundred. A bare handful of meetings and Violet is falling in love. And oh dude, it is SO interesting that the narrative voice chimes in that “Violet doesn’t want to be in the company of other students because she doesn’t to feel attraction to them” or something to that effect. Or, on another occasion, insinuates that she can control whom she is attracted to because of course, with a college full of handsome men more her age, she is going to fall for the headmaster who is about as appealing as a turnip.

I was also, deeply, uncomfortable with the ease with which the casual killing of animals was related. They feel "sorry" about it but it’s for science so it’s okay. Um, no, it’s not. It felt vicious, callous and whatever little regard I had for the story, died along with the animals.

In conclusion, in case you haven’t figured it out by now and I need to spell it out (like the book does), I wouldn’t recommend this novel to you. I really wouldn’t. If you want to read steampunk, read The Spiritwalker Trilogy by Kate Elliott. Vastly superior in all ways that matter.
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Reading Progress

May 21, 2011 – Shelved
December 18, 2011 – Started Reading
December 18, 2011 –
page 85
18.4% "So there's a lot of telling in the beginning and I don't know, it feels a bit awkward and unnatural, the prose that is. But I shall persevere."
December 18, 2011 –
page 182
39.39% "My problem with the writing is that its stilted. Awkward and there's still a lot more telling than showing. It's the narrative voice refuses to let things happen and needs to spell it out. Wows, I'm disappointed."
December 18, 2011 –
page 206
44.59% "Was the bit about the Muslims really necessary? Like seriously?"
December 18, 2011 –
page 246
53.25% "This book has got to have the most unappealing love interest ever. EVER. My's flagging."
December 18, 2011 –
page 256
55.41% ""
Ashton's cheeks were a pretty shade of pink, and Ernest felt his body warm. His clothes were suddenly too tight. He breathed in silence, frustrated beyond belief at this arrogant student, and pulled at his collar. And then they were kissing. Ernest couldn't say how they got there."
Me neither. O.O"
December 18, 2011 – Shelved as: read-2011
December 18, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-27 of 27) (27 new)

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message 1: by Angelique (new)

Angelique Did you finish this or did you give up?

Nafiza I finished it. :\

message 3: by Angelique (new)

Angelique Really? *impressed* It did not sound THAT bad... I mean, the idea is not new but at least it could have had potential. "the most unappealing love interest ever" - now that's something! Whenever I come across a disappointing book that is so poorly written I ask myself who on earth decided to publish that!?

Hope you'll soon find a great read ;) Merry christmas! A.

Nafiza Yeah. I think I'll review it. I wouldn't mind a mediocre plot but the writing was atrocious. You have a wonderful Christmas too!

message 5: by Jess (new) - added it

Jess Oh, what a train wreck. I'll steer clear of this one until I can find a copy in the library (doubtful, since Australia doesn't get many books, but oh well).

Nafiza Yeah, avoid this one. By a mile. Haha.

Robin I'm only about halfway through the novel and love it. It's a matter of taste. If you are looking for a fairly quick read and are into the Steampunk genre and aren't interested in hearing the author go on and on about the characters' love life, it's great. I think it's good that you are voicing your opinion, but maybe if you were a little less acidic people who might enjoy the novel would look into reading it.

Nafiza Dude, it's my opinion and it's my review and I have every right to voice it. The people who read my opinions are intelligent enough to decide for themselves whether they want to read the book or not. And obviously the people who read reviews know that reading is subjective. So I don't understand what you are trying to achieve by this comment. You should just write up a review citing the qualities you think are great about this novel and let people decide for themselves whose opinion they trust more.

message 9: by Kat (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kat I am so glad to see someone felt the same as I did. At least I got paid to read it, though.

Nafiza Ah lucky you!

message 11: by Alice (new) - rated it 1 star

Alice I believe it's only a cold comfort, but Violet is actually seventeen years old (not around fifteen as you're stating in your review). I'm only at the start of chapter three now and it was just mentioned.

Nafiza Ah really. Thanks for the correction. I'm still a bit ewwed out by the relationship. I know I should place it in context of the time it's written in but this book probably was just not for me.

message 13: by Sandra (new)

Sandra I just stopped reading it at page 125. First I thought maybe it is the german translation but I'm also not that fond about the reading style. So far I felt there is zero excitment in this book. Some young adult books in my opinion are "ageless" but this one seems to be only for a younger audience. After reading your review I guess it doesn't really get better so I might just skip it.

message 14: by Sandra (new)

Sandra I meant "writing style" not reading.

Nafiza Yep. Maybe it's just not for us. Other people seemed to love it well enough.

message 16: by Alice (new) - rated it 1 star

Alice By the way, I did not finish this book. Since my comment from above I picked it up two or three times, but I never felt like really reading it...
Like Sandra, I also read it in german. My younger sister, who was thirteen when she started this book, didn't get into the story either. Normally, we are both very quick readers. If this story were any good, I would have it finished in a day (if I had the time). As of now, my sister and I have completely abandoned it.

Nafiza That's too bad. :\

message 18: by Alice (new) - rated it 1 star

Alice Depends on how you see it... It's good, because I'm not wasting time to a book I don't like anymore, and it's bad because I had to find another object to keep myself from studying. Which was good again because I finally tidied up the apartment :D
But I'm glad that most people seem to like this book. Being disappointed by a book is such a sorry feeling.

Nafiza It totally is. I was just mad that I spent money (I don't really have) on a book I didn't like. Haha.

Nanina I just finished it and I'm so mad this book really sucks and you summed up all the problems brilliantly! The whole book seemed forced and contrived...

Nafiza I'm sorry! Some people really loved it and I'm still wondering about that one.

Ro Prufrock Even though I have to admit that I really liked the book (I can't remember why. maybe because I was ill and bed-bound when I read it & therefore could not escape), I really enjoyed reading your review! I found it not at all mean or offensive and completely understand all the points you made (the killings of the animals made me quite angry, too). So, thanks for the pleasant "review reading experience" & I wish you only nice reads for the future! :)

Nafiza Thanks for the kind comment!

Melanie I was puzzled by some of the back story of some of the secondary characters. I felt the development was odd. why the Dukes sexual adventures chapter? I felt like the frame work for the story was planned for a bigger story. Why tell us about the red haired shop girl at all? The plot was a predictable story but I wanted to enjoy the unfolding. I wanted to like it. It had good bones. I think the editor should have pushed the writer harder to make this a better story. It took me forever to read. I am disappointed with the story overall.

Nafiza I hope your next read is better.

Rjs6150 Your comments are spot on. Not worth the effort.

message 27: by Morgue (new)

Morgue I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. I'm 100 pages in and I find it too painful to continue. Good thing I only got it from my local library and didn't actually buy it.

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