A GRAB BAG TO SHOW I’M STILL ALIVE!

 

Hello readers!

As you’ve noticed, I’ve been quiet for the past few weeks. Work has been keeping me busy, and thus I haven’t really had much time to sit down and write blog posts- or rather, I haven’t had the chance to do the stuff that’s worth blogging about. But! I wanted to keep this blog alive for my dozens (or, well, half-dozens) of my loyal readers.

So, as a little change of pace, I figured I’d do a quick little grab-bag of mini-reviews- a chance to lump together some content that might not warrant its own entry. Namely, in another new feature-

I DIDN’T FINISH IT.

Back when I was younger, more innocent, and less jaded, I’d read just about anything. I imagine this was largely a matter of necessity. With the general lack of transportation and moneys that comes when you’re a kid, I didn’t have much chance to head to the bookstore. Thankfully, there were always various school and neighborhood libraries, even if their selection of Sci Fi & Fantasy books tended to be a bit…random. Still, each book, no matter how badly written, was something to be savored- at least until the next one came by.

As a result, I don’t take ‘quitting’ a book lightly. It almost feels like a failure on my part, for not toughing it out, or whatever…but really, this is more often a failure of the author for not writing a book that makes me want to keep reading. And the whole ‘you’ve got to finish it!’ mentality fades a lot when you have a pile of other, better books just waiting on your shelf. I imagine I finished Level 26 mostly because it was on audiobook and I had a long ass drive to do, in retrospect.

So! This brings us to a new feature, where I’ll share some thoughts on books I couldn’t be arsed to finish. Woo!

THE BOOK: Robert R. McCammon’s Stinger.

WHY I BOUGHT IT: Years and years ago (again, in my younger, ‘read anything’) years, I read another book of McCammon’s- The Wolf’s Hour.

The Wolf’s Hour (or at least my memory of it) is a gloriously trashy, pulpy ride. It’s basically “Werewolf James Bond fights Nazis in WWII.” Hell. Yes. So, as I was going through a used bookstore, I found they had a bunch of other titles by McCammon, so I picked up Stinger, hoping for the same level of ridiculous gory violence and sexy sexytimes.

I was wrong.

WHY I STOPPED READING: In short? It was boring.

At least, the set up of the book was. Stinger is set in the west Texas town of Inferno (which is not an actual town, for the record) which gets its sleepy small-town routine shook up when an alien spaceship lands, or something.

I may be making the book sound more interesting than it is by that description. My problem with the novel was its rather meandering pace- there’s a cast of dozens of small town archetype characters revolving around each other, and I started getting impatient for the actual mayhem to start.

Before long, I realized the whole small-town-horror atmosphere read more like McCammon aping Stephen King than anything else. It’s just set in Texas, instead of Maine. You’ve got your angry teenagers, your jaded teacher types, a mentally handicapped janitor, a creepy kid…and so on. What really made me put the book up, however, was when I realized the alien monster was going to be one of those ‘make your nightmares into reality’ kind of things. Now, this can be a trope that’s done well, but at the same time, it feels like a little bit of a cop-out. Then again, I’m more a fan of straight up monster movies than horror ones, if I may make such a distinction. I guess it’s just more interesting to say “This is a vampire, this is how he kills you, but this is how to fight back” rather than “It’s the boogeyman! Run away!” or something.

WILL I FINISH THE BOOK: Eh, maybe? It’s just that I went a good 100+ pages in without any greebly monsters showing up, so I went ahead and moved on to something else.

THE BOOK: Archibald Zwick and the Eight Towers by Robert Leslie Palmer

WHY I BOUGHT IT: It was a dollar at Half-Price books. I knew it was going to be bad…but still. It was a dollar. I can spare a dollar. And I got a heck of a deal, ’cause this book lists for 20(!) dollars on Amazon. Huh.

WHY I STOPPED READING: Archibald Zwick and the Eight Towers is one of those books you can judge by its cover. Which is to say, it’s terrible.

The book centers around one Archibald Zwick (a name that was cut out of a Harry Potter novel for sounding too silly), a 16 year old kid who goes out kayaking in the Bermuda Triangle, and then he gets whisked away to a magical floating city of wonders. Once he wakes up, the local elders proclaim him to be the “chosen one,” because of course they do.

It almost reads like Palmer went down the list of trite fantasy cliches, and made sure to mark off every box on the way down. Unnecessary commas in the middle of made up fantasy words? Check. Teenaged protagonist who sounds nothing like an actual teenager? Check. Lazy BS plot with prophecies and such? Check.

The biggest thing that caught me about the book was the fact that the magical floating fantasy city (I’m not bothering to look up whatever Palmer actually named it) makes absolutely no sense. For example, it’s noted that the city has an army of 100,000 men…despite the fact that it’s floating in the middle of the ocean. And despite the fact that it hasn’t had a war in two thousand years. Huh. On top of that, people in the city ride dolphins like horses, which is…kind of an interesting idea, but it falls apart when you think about it. For example, it’s noted that they keep the dolphins in stables.Yeah.

Now, one could forgive the cliches and such if the book was written well enough to make me look past them. And, well…it isn’t. The prose is dull and dry- and at least once a chapter, Palmer goes into thorough detail describing the coats of arms certain characters are wearing. Dude really likes his heraldry, I guess, but after the fourth or fifth time I read about ‘there was a shield stitched into their tunics, with a gold bar surrounding it and a picture of a fish in the middle,’ I had to put the book down. This happened around page 73 or so.

I found it interesting, however, that Palmer published through a company called CrossBooks. I found this interesting, in that CrossBooks isn’t just a self-publishing company (which explains a lot about the book), but they’re a Christian self-publishing company. Apparently each of the titular eight towers is supposed to teach Archibald about the beatitudes or something. Huh. I guess it’s good that Palmer didn’t make the connection too obvious, but then again, I quit reading a little ways in, and I didn’t pay too much attention in church when I was a kid anyway.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-religious by any means. It’s just that the odd subset of ‘Christian’ entertainment tends to be fairly crappy. There are exceptions, of course, but more often than not, ‘Christian’ labeled entertainment pales in comparison to the ‘real’ thing. I mean, there’s a reason “Bibleman Begins” isn’t going to be the biggest blockbuster of the season.

Then again, this is another kids book published by CrossBooks. Somebody call Michael Bay.

WILL I FINISH THE BOOK: Very unlikely. Maybe I just don’t like books by guys named Robert. 

Other stuff I’ve been doing!

To round things off, I should note my entertainment hasn’t been all failure! I’m currently playing through Final Fantasy III (or VI, to the purist) yet again- it’s one of my favorite video games, so going back to it is pretty neat. I may write up a proper blog entry on it if someone asks me nicely.

I also picked up about half the run of JSA All Stars from Half Price Books. It’s one of those superhero team books that’s made entirely of obscure C-list characters- so if you don’t know who they are going in, it can be a bit confusing. 

Seriously, when Power Girl is the most famous member of your team, you might want to re-think your roster.

Still, if you’re nerdy enough to know who the characters are (or at least to look them up on wikipedia), JSA All Stars is a fun book that delivers pretty well on the action side of things. The early issues also have a Liberty Belle & Hourman backup feature, which is really fun- it’s always neat to have little side stories in an issue using characters that might not get screentime otherwise. 

It’s also worth noting that JSA All Stars was published right before DC’s ‘New 52’ initiative- that is to say, before DC started getting universally crappy, but that’s probably another blog post entirely! The subject’s been covered pretty well by more informed people than I. But then again, they just announced the new Batgirl book, which actually looks rather good. So we shall see!

 

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