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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Books I Read: July - August 2010


Weaveworld by Clive Barker (unfinished)

I wanted to read some Clive Barker. I read a short story of his called "Dread" that I really loved. But I couldn't get into this story. I didn't understand the stakes. I couldn't care about the main characters or what they were doing. I couldn't keep track of them. I'm sure they were good characters. Great characters, even. I just wish he had written a novel to go with them.

The two main guys have no defining personalities. The two villains are pretty good. Gaimanesque. But the "Alice in Wonderland" other world concept has been done to death. And unless you've got something to spice it up, you don't have a good story. You've got to add something more. Barker didn't. A world in a rug does not count. Don't worry, I've got more Barker to try.


The Wheat Field by Steve Thayer

This is probably the best thing I read these two months. It's got some plot elements that are sensational -- 1950's pornography, threesomes, presidential assassinations, small town conspiracies -- but it's well-written and quite thrilling. It's not quite a mystery, not quite a thriller. But the story is good, and that's good enough for me. I only wish he did fantasy. :)


Lisey's Story by Stephen King

I never knew you could make an entire novel out of baby talk.

If Stephen King is sober, you wouldn't know it from reading Lisey's Story. It's a story about an author's widow who's getting assaulted by a crazed fan. Except it never gets to that story. It's constantly talking about her husband, how he was almost killed by a (different) crazed fan, and then it's some weird thing about how the husband thinks he has demons, his family is possessed, and he can warp to another foresty dimension. Plus he's a cutter, which makes the title misleading. It's not Lisey's story. Lisey has no story. It's the husband's story, Lisey's just caught in the middle. It should have been called "Cutters". Or "Cliches".

But that's not where it lost me. It lost me when Lisey became an idiot. The crazed fan breaks in and cuts her. She's bleeding, she's scared, and the deputy comes in and asks if she needs any help. "Nope, I'm fine!" Because the guy said he'd kill her if she told anyone. Except he's gone now. Fucking idiot. I'd say "He was just here. Get every cop you have surrounding me with their backs in and their guns out! Take me to the station! Fix me up! And gun this fucker down!"

Besides the idiot ball, the writing style is just too much. I know he likes to use repetition, but this is ridiculous. It's more like he forgot if he wrote it before, so he ends up saying it again. Everyone talks in quaint New England country expressions. There's a new one on each page. King gives his signature writing style, full of repetition, wool-gathering, and cheap scares. It would work, except it's not 1986 anymore. The writing world moved on, and no one told King.


Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

A non-fiction book about writing. I found it rather useless, and I wasn't impressed by the advice therein. The book comes highly recommended, but I didn't find anything to cull that I didn't know already. Maybe it's for very beginning writers, ones that are starting out for the first time and have first novel jitters. It seems like she takes a long time to say a simple message. Each chapter is a very big piece of bread that you've got to gnaw through to get to the meat inside. Maybe it's because I'm a straightforward guy, but I found that looking on the Internet was a better resource than this book.


Ringworld by Larry Niven

This is one of those books that's on everyone's must-read sci-fi list. It had good science to it. Ringworld is like a strip of a Dyson Sphere and the book does a good job of explaining how it could exist, what it would need, and what could go wrong. And these all weave well into the plot. The problem is that I had trouble connecting with the characters and the stakes. And for me, that is a necessity to make any novel a good one. Characters + setting = plot. This book was setting first. Then it added characters. Then he needed something for the characters to do, so he threw in things that would equal a plot. So, I'm not impressed with it as far as a founding sci-fi trope.


Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich

Seriously, Janet, just stop with the Stephanie Plum books already. You've made sixteen of them, plus odd novellas and spin-offs, and nothing's changed. I went from book two to book sixteen and nothing interesting had happened in that spanse. The lead character is still making the same idiot mistakes. She's supposed to be a bounty hunter, and she's doing stuff that she should be arrested for. And she doesn't do anything herself. One of her beaus jumps into save her each time, even at the end. She's a wimp who's not challenging any Action Girl tropes. Lula, the fat, black prostitute gets more lines than Plum, but they're all eating jokes and fart humor. Things females would giggle naughtily at. And after sixteen books she's still in the same relationship status she was in the beginning. Give me a break. Janet, put this one to bed.
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