Monday, October 22, 2012

Book (Excerpt) Review: "Genesis" by Ken Shufeldt

I realize that usually, when one reviews a book, one reads more than just a part of it. But I am going to tell you, right off the bat, this book is so terrible that I couldn't stand to read more than a few pages from the Prologue. And this is not some self-published slop thrown up against the wall of Amazon, oh no, dear reader, it was published by Tor Books, one of the major SF publishing houses.

Genesis can be best categorized as a shitty apocalypse book, in the vein of Left Behind. The prologue takes place during the Persian Gulf War, when a group of "rangers", by which the author presumably means these guys, and not those guys, finds an archaeological site guarded by Republican Guards. There's some military babble, and they call in a B-52 for some reason that I don't quite get.

And then it turns out that the leader of the "rangers" is a member of a secret society, and he calls home to tell them that he's found some ancient sarcophagus of some alien dude with a name that contains "Adam". They send some other guy out, and he somehow gets it back to America, where blah blah blah, oh fuck, this stupid infodump isn't fucking over and it's only been like three pages, oh fuck me this is so fucking terrible.

The point of it is, this is a terrible fucking book, and the author has no idea how to dole out information on the characters without dropping it on you like a ton of alien bricks. I'm not entirely sure how this book could be made better, (the simplest way would be to not have written it or published it in the first place) but I know for certain that this isn't how you do it.

Now, when I first heard about this, I assumed it was just another part of the vast sea of terrible self-published dreck that has flooded the eBook stores these days. Imagine my astonishment when I found out that, somehow, this book had gotten through the editing process at Tor Books, a publisher for which I generally have a lot of respect. If, say, Baen had been the publisher, I wouldn't have been as surprised. Baen, despite the gems in its firmament (like the Vorkosigan Saga), has a well-deserved reputation for publishing terrible books, like John Ringo's Ghost or the entirety of Tom Kratman's oeuvre.

So I'm left wondering how in the name of fuzzy pink kittens this book managed to get off the slush pile and onto the printing presses. I can think of two possibilities: either the book somehow became worse in the editing phase or the author had some sort of dirt on an editor at Tor. Otherwise, I would have to accept the possibility that Tor just fucked this up, and that's not a bridge I want to cross.

Having read this excerpt, I want a refund from someone, whether Tor Books or Amazon, despite the fact that I spent no money on it. If they could give me an extra few minutes of my life to cover the time I wasted on this goddamn book, I'm certain I could find something better to do with that time. Maybe I could poke myself with rusty needles from heroin junkies, or swallow bits of glass coated in smallpox, or stick a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger. Any of those activities would be infinitely preferable to reading that excerpt again.

So, in conclusion, this is a terrible book and I weep for the fact that there is a sequel that somehow got released. If you're a masochist, and you feel like seeing some of the worst writing I've ever seen, you can find it on Amazon.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Quote of the Day, September 1st, 2012

"There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them." -William Jennings Bryan

Thursday, July 26, 2012

This Is... Mitt Romney Is A Terrible Politician, Episode 18,000,000

The Daily Telegraph, July 26, 2012:
Mitt Romney is perhaps the only politician who could start a trip that was supposed to be a charm offensive by being utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive.
(For context: "The personal links between the paper's editors and the leadership of the Conservative Party, along with the paper's influence over Conservative activists, has resulted in the paper commonly being referred to, especially in Private Eye, as the Torygraph." -Wikipedia, "The Daily Telegraph")

This has been... Mitt Romney Is A Terrible Politician! Tune in next time to hear Mitt say:

(Merci beaucoup, Shakesville)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Republican Party Is Filled With Idiots, Part MMMMMMMMMMMXVI

Doop-de-doop-de-doo, reading my email, doop-de-doop-de-doo...
"People now don’t die from prostate cancer, breast cancer and some of the other things," Collins said.

Hi there, Mr. Collins. Speaking as someone whose mother managed to die from breast cancer about two years ago despite five years of treatment (which, might I add, was very expensive)... you are an idiot.
The Republicans must have discovered some vast deposits of stupid somewhere, to come up with so many idiots in such a short span of time.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Random Musical Interlude: Florence and the Machine, "Dog Days Are Over"

This Just In

Mittens was a dick to other students in high school:
One former classmate and old friend of Romney’s – who refused to be identified by name – said there are “a lot of guys” who went to Cranbrook who have “really negative memories” of Romney’s behavior in the dorms, behavior this classmate describes as “evil” and “like Lord of the Flies.”
The classmate believes Romney is lying when he claims to not remember it.
“It makes these fellows [who have owned up to it] very remorseful.  For [Romney] not to remember it? It doesn’t ring true.  How could the fellow with the scissors forget it?” the former classmate said.
 In other news, the sky is blue, water is wet, and bears shit in the woods.

I am amused like you humans. Ha. Ha. Ha. I am a relatable guy, and totally not a robot from outer space.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Compare and Contrast

Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;
That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,
That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;

That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;
That even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;
That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,
That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right,
That it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it;
That though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;
That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;
That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;
And finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:
- Thomas Jefferson, "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom", 1787

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Random Musical Interlude: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, "Mastermind"

This is totally on my wish list.

A Tale of Two Androids

I think at this point, we can all agree that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee. Regardless of what Newt Gingrich might think, assuming that he does think at all, or the fondest hopes of the Paultards for a brokered convention (Please. I could use the entertainment.), he's going to be the guy who gets to lose to President Obama on the first Tuesday of November (Cthulhu willing).


The problem with Willard "Mittens" Romney is that in a time when the economy could, at best, be described as "meh" for most people, he is rich. And not only is he rich, but he's like a caricature of a millionaire. He talks about how he doesn't follow NASCAR a lot, but he has friends who own NASCAR teams. His wife owns two Cadillacs, and his renovated house in California will apparently have a garage large enough that he'll need an elevator to move his cars around. He tried to pander to Wisconsonites by joking about the time his Pappy moved a factory from Michigan to Wisconsin. When he went to college, he paid for his apartment by selling stock Pappy gave him for his birthday. I think what we've got here is a failure to communicate.

And you might say, "Dude, you're being unreasonable when you expect a millionaire born to a wealthy family to connect with ordinary people." The problem with that line of argument is that the 43rd President was a millionaire born to a wealthy family, and he spent eight years in the Oval Office. Not only that, but both Dubya and Mittens were born to politically connected families. The difference between them is that Mittens can legitimately claim to be a businessman of enough skill to have made some money, even if it came at the cost of American jobs. Before Bush became Governor of Texas, he basically failed into one company after another.

But one of them was someone a lot of Americans could relate to enough that they could picture sitting down with him and having a beer with him, while the other is stiff and awkward around potential voters, and doesn't know how to pander. Say what you will about Dubya, he at least seemed like a reasonable facsimile of a regular American. His policies may have been disastrous, and he may have left office with Nixonian approval ratings, but he had a modicum of personal charm.

I think the difference can be expressed in fictional terms by comparing both of them to notable TV androids. In this analogy, Bush is one of the skinjobs from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He looks and acts human, and only when you dig beneath that exterior do you find the heart of a robot bent on exterminating humanity.

Bush cylon

Mittens, on the other hand, is Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He's obviously not entirely human, even though he tries to act like a human, and it doesn't take a keen observer to detect this. He's making a valiant effort to seem human, but it doesn't come naturally to him, and it's pretty obvious.


I'm sure he's desperately hoping that doesn't turn out to be a problem in November.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: The Host, by Stephenie Meyer

Science fiction for people who don't understand science fiction.

I managed to finish this book, though it was a near-run thing. I'd heard that it was better than Twilight, and that is true, I suppose. Twilight was terribly painful, but the fact that this was "science fiction" meant that I could focus on the SFnal elements, as opposed to the incredibly boring characters.

So, let me tell you about these characters. The narrator for most of the book is a parasitic alien who has gone throughout the universe, and has now arrived on Earth, which has mostly been assimilated by the aliens, aside from a few pockets of renegade humans. The problem I have with the aliens, as opposed to other parasitic aliens, like, say, the Yeerks from the Animorphs series or the Goa'uld from Stargate, is that these aliens don't seem like tough opponents. They don't seem like the sort of species that would accumulate a space empire. They don't seem threatening as antagonists. Anyhoo, everyone talks about how strong the narrator is, but she runs away from her problems rather than face them, and when she can't run away from them, she just finds some dude who is strong enough to protect her, which is INFURIATING.

The second main character is Melanie Stryder, the girl whose body the narrator inhabits. At first she seems more interesting than the narrator, since she survived the apocalypse that swallowed up most of humanity, but when she and the narrator find her lost True Wuv, she melts into this babbling useless mess which is ALSO INFURIATING.

Then there are the survivors, who are quite a cast of characters, if by "cast" you mean "interchangeable bunch of ciphers", for the most part. There's crazy Uncle Jeb, who made the surprisingly large complex of lava tube caves, the adamantly anti-alien Kyle, and Ian, who falls in love with the narrator for some reason.

At any rate, as you might imagine, if you know Stephenie Meyer's books, the climax is resolved too easily and all the heroes end up paired off in heterosexual True Wuv relationships. If you have the opportunity to read this book, find something better. Something like, say, Charlie Stross's Laundry series (which has a new book coming out this summer) or Daniel O'Malley's recently published urban fantasy The Rook, both of which take place in Britain and are much more interesting.

Verdict: The tagline on Stephenie Meyer's website for this book is "Science fiction for people who don't like science fiction," but it's more like "Science fiction for people who don't understand science fiction."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

So, I just got back from The Hunger Games, the adaptation of the latest young-adult sensation, and it was a blast. I haven't finished reading the series yet (I haven't even finished the first book), but I knew roughly how things would go. And they went very well.

The one thing I was a bit meh about was the amount of shakycam they used. I think that's really overused in movies today (for instance, Unknown, which had way too much shakycam), but it wasn't too bad. It wasn't all shaky, all the time. There were some departures from the original book, but that's to be expected in any adaptation of a book.

I don't really want to go into spoilers, and I'm not exactly a film expert, but I enjoyed it. On the scale of book-to-movie adaptations, it fell more to the LOTR side than the Eragon side, in that it was faithful in all the ways that counted (also, it was well made) and it works well as a movie, even if you don't have a lot of experience with the book. I would recommend it highly.

So, that's number 1 on the list of "Movies I'm Looking Forward To This Year" (After #3, in no particular order):
  1. The Hunger Games
  2. The Avengers
  3. The Dark Knight Rises
  4. The Amazing Spider-Man
  5. The Cabin in the Woods
  6. Brave
  7. The Legend of Korra (not a movie, but I'm really looking forward to it)
  8. Prometheus
  9. Skyfall
  10. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
(I didn't enjoy the trailers nearly as much. The Kristen Stewart Snow White film looked surprisingly interesting, but they had a trailer for the [Cthulhu willing] final movie in the Twilight "Saga", not to mention The Host, yet another painfully boring and dumb Stephenie Meyer novel. Those are going to be super-crappy.)