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Monday, April 04, 2016

The Books I Read: January - February 2016


Five Nights at Freddy's: The Silver Eyes by Scott Cawthorn & Kira Breed-Wrisley (unfinished)

This is no Stephen King. I expected a new kind of horror story, one evolved from this new type of video game, but it's just too boring. There are too many characters (probably so they can be killed off) and none of them have a strong personality. They all blend together generically.

The plot didn't really go anywhere. I think I got about 20% in and nothing happened. Mostly backstory, characters speaking, meaningless descriptions. It was too close to the source material -- wandering through an abandoned Showbiz Pizza, waiting for something to happen. Like someone tried to make a novelization of the gameplay.

Given the dual authorship, I'm not sure how much each contributed. Logic dictates that Scott Cawthorn being a game developer and busy with the FNAF franchise has less experience with novel writing (on the other hand, I'm a software developer trying to be a novelist, so I shouldn't talk), but I was hoping the second name on the byline would make up for that. However, it has all the earmarks of amateurism. Lost of sentences never deviate from the subject-verb-object structure.

I've never played any FNAF game, but I love the lore, which comes in mysterious cutscenes that have to be interpreted. This book is more like fan fiction, especially given the writing style. Even if you love the FNAF stuff, I don't recommend it. It's not worth your time. Play the game instead. Or read a different horror book.


The Girl on the Train by Paula Dawkins (unfinished)

I downloaded a sample, because it was so popular, but it didn't seem my cup of tea. It feels like it's trying to be Gone Girl but its more like a Lifetime movie in the style of LiveJournal. There's so much of women thinking and complaining and "I'm a victim, I'm a victim, I'm a victim". It even has all the same tropes - all men are bad, no one's in a happy relationship, everyone's melancholy. One of the main characters can't get over her ex and the other, at one point, goes upstairs and "lets" her husband have sex with her. This tells you all you need to know about the agency characters have (or think they have).

It's probably not a bad book, but a character piece is never a replacement for plot. It's not for me, granted. Although I'd hate to think of the person it's meant for.


Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

GoodReads would not stop recommending this to me, so I finally caved in. After crapping out on two books, I read the first chapter of this and felt cleansed. It's just a good story - a sci-fi thriller with not much character development, but plenty of action. It pulled me in right away.

As you may have seen in the description, it's a space opera. But that's in the good sense of the term. The learning curve is very low - people fly around asteroids, dealing with space stuff like high G acceleration, but you don't need to be Neil DeGrasse Tyson to enjoy it. You don't even need to be Beakman.

There's tensions brewing between people in the inner planets (Mars, Earth, the moon) and Belters (Jupiter, various moons, the asteroid belt) in a classic blue collar vs. white collar scenario. That fuse gets lit when a mining ship discovers a "shipwreck" but gets blasted out of the sky before they can salvage it. We follow the survivors as they uncover a massive conspiracy that could plunge the solar system into civil war.

There are clear earmarks of classic noir sci-fi like Dick and Asimov, Blade Runner and Dune, but modernized for an audience with a short-attention span. The biggest problem is that it's so damn long. Even the ending clearly demonstrates the story's not over. I had to take a break in the middle and read a different book, because I was starting to hate Leviathan Wakes for never ending. But that's no reason to hate a book. It was just written that way, like a serial. Which means it's easy to put down and pick back up.


The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling & Brooke S. Passey

It's funny, it's quick, it makes me want to come back and read more. That's a five star rating in my ledger. If you liked Felicia Day's book, this is cut from the same cloth. They're both YouTubers, both violinists, both thrive on production, and both don't need no man (sisters doing it for themselves).

It's candid, it's upbeat, it's intriguing. I couldn't tell how much was Lindsey's voice and how much was her sister, but both are fun to read. The content is as quirky as her, but retains the solemnity of her talent. It's the kind of book you could start at bed and then stay up half the night reading. It doesn't talk about the nitty-gritty of moving from nothing to an international concert thrower, but it does about other personal issues. Usually, these are framed with more depression and darkness (Angela's Ashes) than a Lifetime movie. But this one doesn't do that. It offers hope.

This isn't relevant to the review, but makes me a little sad that there's so little about the dad. He only gets a 1500 word chapter. If that was excised, you'd think she was raised by a single mom. Don't dads have a role in life? I hope if my daughter becomes a famous violinist, she tells me how Andrea Bocelli was mean to her.
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