hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Posts Tagged ‘literature’

On Thomas Ligotti’s Book, Death Poems

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 7, 2022

Death PoemsDeath Poems by Thomas Ligotti
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m disappointed because I had been told I would love this book, I guess because I’ve had some “horror poetry” books published over the years. Mebbe so, but I’ve had far more books of poetry in other forms published. It’s simple, and I kind of feel this largely applies to this author’s entire canon — I like the themes, tone, morbid world view (much of which I tend to share), but that doesn’t make this guy a good writer and for god’s sake, I doubt anything could save this train wreck of so-called poems that don’t suck because they are formal or because they’re confessional or populist or postmodern or experimental or anything. He’s just a really bad poet! And honestly there’s no shame in that. It’s irritated the shit out of me to see and hear more and more people over the past couple of decades excitedly telling everyone they write poetry. At this point in time, EVERYONE thinks they’re a poet, and damn good at that. Trouble is that’s bullshit and always has been! Just because you throw together a few lines, maybe even self-publish a small volume of verse, doesn’t make you a fucking poet! I cringe every time I have to go to a wedding or funeral cause I know I’ll hear the worst kind of crap written by sincere, well meaning people. And they’ll get applause. From an audience that doesn’t realize the stuff they grew up reading and studying 50 years ago is so obsolete and a part of the distant past, they don’t realize they’re both showing themselves to be amateurs and a bit ignorant. Not that one has to be on the cutting edge. Many mainstream poets I can’t stand are still GOOD at their craft. Many populist poets, spurned by the Academy, like Bukowski, despite the image he fostered, knew how to write a poem and good ones. He knew the literary and poetic “rules” AND he knew how and when to bend or break them and pull it off effortlessly. Here’s a very famous American writer nearly everyone in the world has heard of and who has millions of fans (including me). Could tell a mean story, had real talent and influence. Most people can name more than one of his novels. But how many people know the titles of Jack Kerouac’s books of poetry? Right, no one. And I have them all. The fact is, no matter how famous or successful a writer he was, he was by god one of the absolute worst published poets of the past century! Wretched shit! Just cause you think you know poetry or you put lines down or a couple of people make flattering comments doesn’t mean you’re a real poet and certainly doesn’t mean you’re GOOD (using Kerouac as an example). People object and argue It’s subjective, and there is a bit of truth to that, but that’s not limited to poetry. That’s the argument made and the difference between the hard sciences and the soft or social sciences. You could make a legitimate argument that not only are poetry and literature subjective, but so are philosophy, religion, the arts, social studies, etc. But that’s why some general guidelines exist in each of these areas. That’s why you will study Hegel, Sartre, and Schopenhauer in philosophy but if you innocently (and ignorantly) ask virtually any philosopher or philosophy professor why we don’t study Ayn Rand, you typically get one of two reactions: side splitting laughter lasting uncomfortably too long or a hostile lecture about what a lightweight dittobrain brain she was, a “faux” intellectual whose “school” of philosophy she created is viewed as little different from how L Ron Hubbard is generally viewed. And they’re right about her. And just to prove I don’t have an anti-Rand bias, I was devastated when I found that one of my favorite writers and philosophers, a damn Nobel winner, ALSO typically isn’t included in Philosophy syllabi or viewed as a “real” philosopher — Camus! And I’ve long thought he was one of the three greatest existential philosophers in history, a view not shared by the “pros.” See, there are guidelines that can be employed that AREN’T necessarily in black and white, thus allowing a Donald Hall and Mark Strand to co-exist with Bukowski and Ferlinghetti as “legit” poets — even if that doesn’t always sit well with them. So Ligotti? I’ve gone on too long now and am tired, but it doesn’t matter if your language is formal, informal, experimental, etc. It still has to flow, to “sound” good on the page. If formal, what fits into the rules of rhyme, meter, stanzas, etc., must sound as natural as possible, must flow, not draw attention to itself and detract from the overall poem because it feels and seems forced. And while it’s harder to argue for rule adherence in free verse, just that one topic still applies. The language should actually seem and sound MORE natural, normal, flow comfortably, even in the case of surrealists or LANGUAGE poets. Because they know what they’re doing, what rules they’re intentionally breaking and why they MAY be successful at it. Ligotti’s poetry is made up of lines, words choices, a stilted dictation and lack of flow; it distracts from any point or message he may or may not be attempting to convey. It’s amateurish, buffoonish. It sounds like someone’s illiterate grandpa might. Fans may protest and argue “That’s the point, you dolt! He’s TRYING to make people uncomfortable with his poetry and his writing style, word choices, grammar usages, etc., are all part of that. How stupid are you?” (Meaning me.) Well, a rebuttal that’s I think many would agree with is been there, done that. It’s not remotely original but is definitely legitimate. I’ve done that myself with a number of poems and short stories when I was experimenting with postmodern metafiction. But while legit, just because someone may attempt to do that doesn’t mean they succeed or are any good. Which is the case here. I’ll end by throwing out a few names of authors who did exactly that, but SUCCESSFULLY, and are well known and loved by many (though still rarely in academia). One considered one of the best was William Burroughs, starting with his infamous Naked Lunch and most of his work thereafter. He and a partner are credited with popularizing and honing the “cut up method” to create almost meaningless text but still text one could get something out of. Ironically he was not the first, as Tristan Tzara and the Dadaist movement actually created and generated that technique. In the horror genre, there are fiction writers and the occasional poet who venture there (and also not “straight” horror, but more like dark surrealism that can incorporate horror elements). In no particular order, some who come to mind might include Anthony Burgess, who was SO linguistically experimental in his shock novel A Clockwork Orange that he had to spend an ungodly amount of time inventing a new damn language to fit the characters and the book (complete with glossary at back). Obviously Vonnegut, but some more current writers in the field who may occasionally succeed where Ligotti does not might include Boston, Crawford, Wayne AS, and most obvious of all, the late Harlan Ellison. I’m not saying this author has to be or become them. But he’d be well advised to do what most serious, professional writers do, and that’s study and analyze them to see where and how he/one can grow and improve, with your own voice intact ultimately. But until Ligotti shows evidence he’s done that, or from little I know of him, even gives a shit, I’ll continue to feel generous in giving 2 stars to this book and he’ll forever be relegated to the barely knowns, the wannabes, the amateurs who some think know what they are doing when such writers really don’t. Not recommended.

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A Review of “The Emperor’s Assassin”

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 19, 2021

The Emperor's AssassinThe Emperor’s Assassin by Autumn Bardot
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an admittedly subjective and biased comment, but while I know people who like this book and historical fiction in general, I can’t do it. It’s not just I don’t like historical fiction. That is true, but not the problem. The problem is simply that I’ve always been a serious student of history, am a member of two professional history orgs (like AHA), feel it’s essential to study the past for a zillion reasons, most of which should be obvious except to Americans who are generally too lazy, stupid and apathetic to read any history. If I had a dollar for every time I actually heard someone say something like they didn’t know anything about WW I and didn’t care, didn’t know anything about WW II because “it didn’t matter or have any impact on their life or work,” which I once found stunning but now sadly expect and this side from what should be obvious to most (read Philip Dick or P Roth to get an idea of other potential realities we could be living in if tens of millions of people hadn’t sacrificed everything). In fact a few times I’ve gotten so ticked that the old professor in me kicked in so I gave a few bored 4.0 GPA accounting, economics, etc., students an hour lecture off the top of my head going decade by decade outlining basics that have transpired so that, yes, it did and DOES impact you and your job, you apathetic dumbass! The worst though are the few who told me they didn’t even know who was in the damn Vietnam War. I didn’t bother, there’s no hope. All I could say was “Well, they spot you one of the countries just in the name of the war!”

So is there a point? Yes. Historical fiction is not history, it’s not accurate nor is it intended to be. It is nothing but fantasy out of the author’s head who is using elements of some historical events as a backdrop for their story. In a sense then it’s genre fiction like sci fi, horror, fantasy, thriller, etc., all of which have their legitimate place, but the backdrop-purported historical environment may be nice, realistic or cool, but since the author is making a story up and simply surrounding it with the façade of a semblance of historical reality, they could just as easily put unicorns, spaceships, monsters and the like in and with a “legit” historical backdrop, there would likely be little difference between such absurdities and dragons, rumored by many to have once existed. The author is writing a fantasy but if I want to read fiction, I’ll read fiction. If I want history, I don’t want some fairytale – I want serious nonfiction! So yes I know I’m probably in the minority and probably sound grumpy as well, but I think I have a case and I’m sticking to it. Otherwise I recommend it for those who like the genre.

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Some More Book Reviews

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 8, 2020

Being ThereBeing There by Jerzy Kosiński
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Postmodern brilliance. Stunning in what is says in what it doesn’t say. I actually prefer Kosinki’s The Painted Bird, which is a little more brutal, but I honestly think Being There is the author’s best truly “postmodern” work, translated well to the screen, and perfectly holds a mirror up to society. Will they even glance at it? I did. Kicked my ass. Couldn’t be more recommended, but for those of you don’t like minimalist postmodern, you may find yourself bored, possibly not picking up on some subtleties, or simply unimpressed. Or you may actually walk away feeling more and more impressed the more you think about it. (In fact, I was so impressed with it that I wrote a short paper on it from a Reader Response position and it was published in a peer-reviewed, MLA-indexed journal: The Arkansas Review. It’s titled “The Dialectics of Getting There: Kosinski’s Being There and the Existential Anti-Hero.” It’s actually online somewhere, but I don’t know what the policy here for giving our URLs is, so if you’re interested at all, you can either do a search or go to my blog listed on my profile (hankrules2011), with hyperlink, and find it listed among a few publications.) Feel free to leave comments re your own observations, if you’ve read it. It’s definitely not a universally admired or appreciated text. Which makes it all the more delicious for me. 😉

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MashMash by Richard Hooker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always loved this book! I think it was a unique and special book for its time, a lightweight counter to the heavy stuff going on around it, such as Catch 22, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange and the like, all of which are great, but are a reflection of their times, as well as what was going on socially, culturally and politically in the US, particularly with Vietnam — and Hooker using Korea as an obvious substitute in his commentary on such things couched in humor. The beauty of this novel is, it DOES allude to and address some really serious issues and things, similarly to the other books mentioned, but again, differently so that one didn’t feel so threatened, to use an odd description of possible/probable reader response to others of that time. Brilliant, IMO. And of course, the TV show that came out of the movie that came out of this book was one of the best loved TV shows of all time, including by me as a major fan, so the book set off a chain of awesome (cinematic) events that impacted millions of people, largely in a good way. So while most people probably wouldn’t consider this novel as more than a cheap comedy, I tend to see much more value in it and I’ll stand behind that as long as I’m alive. Definitely recommended!

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The Late Great Planet EarthThe Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Utter trash! I still can’t believe how this POS swept over America during the 1970s, resulting in millions, I’m sure, for Lindsey, that asshole, as well as a horrible POS wildly fantastic, mythological horror show of a movie that was traumatic as shit to kids like me and others I knew whose fundie parents forced them to go see it. In retrospect, it was a total joke, a hoax, and Lindsey was and remains an utter fraud. Personally, I think those of us who are “fundie survivors” from the 1970s — and there are a LOT of us: read Seth Andrews — should file class action lawsuits against Hal and his publisher, as well as those assholes responsible for that shitty movie, A Thief In The Night, which traumatized me and tons of people and kids like me, not only at that time, but to this day, resulting in decades of therapy which has never been effective, scarring me for life. Another target of a wished for class action lawsuit would be the publisher of those damn Chick tracts, which also scared the shit out of me and most of the other people I knew. All those awesome cartoons and drawings of demons, the flames of Hell, drugged out ’70s hippies destined for Hell, etc. All of these and much more contributed to fucking ruining my life and tens of thousands like me, of driving us away from fundie/evangelicals forever, of feeling nothing but disgust and disdain, if not outright hatred for the hypocritical, lying fire and brimstone manipulators trying to use prehistoric rubbish to scare everyone possible into doing their damn will (and filling their pockets at the same time). I’ll never forgive them and I’ll never forgive Lindsey for this wretched joke of a piece of total shit book that did so much permanent damage to untold legions of people. If you wonder why people are leaving the churches in the US in droves these days and why over 20% of the American population are called the “Nones,” as in no church, no mythological supernatural tooth fairy in the sky, etc., you can thank Lindsey, those responsible for the other atrocities mentioned here, and the assholes who carry on their tradition, like Tim Lehay , who field a softer brand, but still put through the same apocalyptic message (while raking in millions on the side). If it were possible, I wouldn’t give this book a “0” – I would give it a “-1,000” or onward to infinity. If you value reason, logic, sanity, human decency, facts, etc., and if you frown upon or even despise those theistic religionists (particularly conservative Christians in the western world) who use terms like “love,” “morals,” “peace,” “family values,” etc., when they’re too lazy and stupid to read their own holy book and discover the atrocities committed by the god of the old testament while claiming their Jesus was a holy man of peace and love, while he stated he came with a sword to split up families and turn parents against children, etc., bragged that he spoke in parables so his idiot disciples literally wouldn’t be able to understand anything he said, and left no writings or proof of his existence, and none from any witnesses were ever written down so much could be said about the gospels, etc., aside from the millions of literal lies, discrepancies, untruths, fraud, etc., in their holy book and especially the new testament, then by all means, avoid this idiocy. I couldn’t recommend it any less than I am doing now. Truly one of the most despicable books in history by one of the most despicable humans in history… If there were an actual hell their mythology describes, he and his ilk would be destined for it.

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Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Not remotely impressed. For two primary reasons, among others. One, this just seems like a lot of fluffy filler. I have no idea how Godin made this into a full length book because I just got the feeling a decent, well thought out and written magazine article would have sufficed and even been more successful, perhaps. More importantly, I disagree with the title, premise and some possible conclusions that may be drawn from the book’s thesis.

OBVIOUSLY there are typically “linchpins” in most companies and certainly most successful companies. That should be so transparently understood that I fail to see the necessity in even writing a book about it at all. However, I learned early in my business career, initially from advisors and mentors, later from employers and bosses, and sadly, from personal experience as well as witnessing such with various colleagues in many companies and businesses — the thing that was drilled into my head from the beginning both verbally and through observation and experience — is that NO ONE is EVER indispensable! To think someone is, is utterly foolish, totally naive, completely wrong, and places too much value on “linchpins,” whom while no matter how valuable, can ALWAYS be replaced — I’ve seen it dozens of times at companies throughout the country from the lowest on the rungs to the very highest, at Founder, President and CEO, etc.

So, I have well over 30 years of business experience and I’ve seen this play out too many times to count. I’ve seen teachers with experience, great success and tenure get sacked. I’ve seen founders of startups that quickly grew into multimillion dollar public companies get dumped by the board. No One is Indispensable! I literally have only seen one person at one company who very likely may have been and was treated as such and who basically calls the shots as VP Engineering — after her former boss, the VP of Engineering with multiple degrees from Georgia Tech — was let go to move her up. Bizarre world… Book? Not recommended.

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Strange Attraction: The Best Of Ten Years Of ZyzzyvaStrange Attraction: The Best Of Ten Years Of Zyzzyva by Howard Junker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to confess that during my decades of writing several hours a day, 362 days a year, and submitting work to hundreds, thousands of zines, journals, magazines, publications around the world and during my decades of prolific success, while I had a very good acceptance percentage and was fortunate enough to be published in many high quality literary journals as well as newspapers, commercial magazines and more, there were really very few “major” ones I actually liked to read. I know that sounds nuts, but I was never a big fan of the New Yorker or the Paris Review, nor the Southern Humanities Review, Ploughshares, etc. Too damn mainstream, too much a party of the only “acceptable” literary canon, as defined by those who thought and think they are the official arbiters of such. Most of whom are idiots with no talent.

However, there were some journals, as well as many zines, magazines and the like, that I DID look forward to, often because they weren’t so freaking obsessed with calm ponds, chirping robins, lovely deer in the forest, calm lake waters and all that bullshit. At a minimum, they’d publish a diverse selection of material and writers, typically mixing the totally unknown with the most famous around. And on more topics of interest, relatable to me and others who weren’t Black Mountain fans, and Zyzzyva was one of them. Some others included Exquisite Corpse, New York Quarterly, Long Shot, Wormwood Review, Chiron Review, Caffeine, ONTHEBUS, Rattle, Poetry, Asheville Poetry Review, Main Street Rag and several others. The interesting thing about Zyzzyva was it centered largely on West Coast writers, and that intrigued me even before I became a West Coast writer!

Zyzzyva was a large, beautiful perfect bound book-sized journal and Junker, as editor, picked some great stuff, a nice fairly diverse selection of works, with a great mix of writers, and it was one of the few I read through cover to cover. I must admit though that one of my great publishing disappointments was I could never get Howard to accept ANY of my stuff, and I submitted annually for years! And I couldn’t figure out why because he published a ton of writers I was often published with in other magazines. It didn’t make any sense. But every editor is different and frankly it’s often subjective. Sometimes you like a person’s work and never another’s, no matter how qualified or whatever. I was an editor and publisher myself for some years, so I know what I’m talking about. There were two sides to this. On one hand, if various literary journals rejected me a couple of times, I usually crossed them off my list and moved on, but there were – for reasons I still don’t know – some others out there that I continued to submit to every damn year for YEARS, both hoping and convinced they’d eventually accept some of my work, only to be rejected annually by 98% of them. It was disheartening. It’s been a long time and I forget virtually all of them, but I do recall one was Arizona State’s Haydens Ferry Review, the annual issue of ONTHEBUS – and Jack Grapes, the editor, was a freaking friend of mine! – the Sierra Nevada Review (seriously???) and a few others. One that finally accepted my work after over a decade of submissions was Emory University’s Lullwater Review. Funny, that… And so Zyzzyva was one of these journals.

Conversely, there were some high quality writers, editors, magazines, journals and zines that liked me personally, liked what and how I wrote, liked my work and in some cases, loved to publish me constantly. As in the opposite of the example I just gave in the previous paragraph. Some of the writers and editors who seemed to like me included the great Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gerald Locklin (author of over 125 books, as well as editor), Michael Bugeja at Writer’s Digest, who liked to quote me as an SME in the annual Poet’s Market they published, the incredible Charles Bukowski, the longtime editor of the esteemed Poetry Magazine, Joseph Parisi (who amusingly secretly confided in me that he loved my work but worried that some might be “too much” for the traditional Poetry Magazine reader, which I thought was funny and it made me happy to see people like myself and the most openly anti-establishment poet around – Bukowski – start to appear in Poetry and other high quality literary journals, in some cases with the editors gritting their teeth, I’m sure), Black Flag’s Henry Rollins, who was publisher of his own press, and many others. And as stated, there were some journals and magazines that seemed to like to publish my work regularly to constantly in virtually every issue. Some of these included Chiron Review, Caffeine (where I regularly appeared alongside Bukowski), Hawaii Review, Pearl, Long Shot, Finland’s Sivullinen (and many other Finnish magazines, where they often shockingly put me on their covers alongside Bukowski – I mean photos and everything!), Belgium’s De Nar, Poetry Ireland Review (with Seamus Heaney, and they paid very well!), the infamous longtime punk magazine, Flipside, whose poetry editor loved my stuff, the famous horro magazine, Wicked Mystic (they paid well), L.A.’s big Saturday Afternoon Journal, music magazine Industrialnation, and a number of others.

The point? The point is that while I was very successful, pretty well known around the world in those kinds of literary circles, appeared regularly in publications featuring Ginsberg, Bukowski, Amiri Baraka, Ted Berrigan, William Burroughs, and other heavyweights, I felt I *should* have been good enough to have my work appear in most publications I submitted to — because I did so strategically, avoiding those I knew wouldn’t like my style or my stuff — and so Zyzzyva remained a constant disappointment for me as a writer because I could not understand at all why Junker wouldn’t publish me when he published so many others in my various circles. But I never let that disappointment ruin my appreciation for and love of that journal, and while I’ve not seen it in a long time, I’ll always remember it fondly and with great respect. If you missed out on it, I recommend looking up old issues, or perhaps … of course, getting this book because Howard picked an assortment of quality writers and material to appear in these pages, so I strongly recommend it.

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My Years In Books: 2019

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 24, 2019

Every year, I participate in the Goodreads Annual Reading Challenge. At the beginning of each year, you set a goal for how many books you’ll read that year. Goodreads keeps track of your running total and then lets you know how you’ve done and what percentage of your goal you met. You can also see other participants in the Reading Challenge. Each year, they provide an end of year webpage showing your stats, how you did, etc. For some reason, they recently decided to make them only able to share to a few social network sites where I no longer have accounts. I remain annoyed by this, so I’m doing the next best thing for the second straight year. (And you can see my blog entry for 2018’s results here:  My Year In Books: 2018.) I’ve taken several screenshots showing information like what they describe as your “Year in Books,” parts of the webpage showing how many books, pages, etc, you read that year, the average length of the book, etc., my 2019 Reading Challenge results, my Reading Challenge results since 2013 and something I’ve never done before — an intro to the webpage of My Year in Books because as you’ll see, my numbers are tremendously skewed up this year and are thus somewhat deceptive, so I felt obligated to explain. For what it’s worth, I set my 2019 reading goal at 90 books. Goodreads is reporting I read 443 books, or 492% of my original goal. Like I said, I wrote an explanation because while I exceed my goal every year, it’s never by that much and there are a couple of reasons why this year’s numbers aren’t completely accurate. So I’m going to post these screenshots for you to see. If you want to see the actual books I read this year, you can go to my Goodreads profile here. (I believe you have to be a logged in member to view it, however…)

And now, the promised screenshots. Comments are welcome…

 

2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge

My Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge Results

 

 

 

My Goodreads All-time Annual Reading Challenge Results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019”

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019” — Introduction

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019” — End Of Webpage

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

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A Review of Rainbows End

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 17, 2016

Rainbows EndRainbows End by Vernor Vinge
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I admittedly haven’t read much Vernor Vinge, but I know some of his books have won several Hugo Awards, including this one. But whenever I read him, I just don’t enjoy his books. Admittedly, Vinge is an idea guy. He comes up with big ideas, world building stuff that can fascinate and allow the reader to explore new concepts and realms of being. But not in this book. In this book, the setting is just a few years in our future here on Earth and it’s not a big concept world he creates. It’s a little too plausible. A former “great” and famous poet from our current era (now) pretty much dies of Alzheimer’s and is revived by his family roughly 10-15 years in the future. He has no clue what is and has happened. He discovers the world has changed and everyone uses wearable computers and are jacked into a worldwide network (Internet) and there is no demand for any type of former skills the elderly had. Indeed, the only careers I can recall people having in this book are kids and old people going to vocational tech high schools and normally aged adults joining the military. There’s not much else. There are people who are about to be former librarians, because all of the books in the world’s libraries are being destroyed because they’re all being digitized. So, Robert Gu, the protagonist, is sent back to this votech high school to learn some skills that will translate into a real world job, one where information is the only source of monetary income and where data exchange is the only thing that most of that future’s young people care about.

One of the early things we learn about in the book is there is some secret plot to create a subliminal virus in a tv medium so it can take over the world and it is being brought about and handled by one person, one of the “good” guys, or so people are led to believe. There’s also a super powerful AI named “Rabbit,” who we never learn much about, but who plays a major role in the book. Speaking of never learning much about, that applies to most of the characters besides Gu, and we don’t necessarily learn enough about him to care enough about what happens to him in this book. He turns from former world class poet into a data junkie with the help of a loser teenager who is always looking for a type of big score and they make an odd pair. And they collaborate on high school projects, but we never really see how. In fact, we’re never really shown how much of this futuristic, yet oh so possibly real, tech is literally used. However, back to what I was saying. Gu’s family is sick of him living with them, so they urge him to learn enough at high school to enable him to get a job (seriously? what type? doing what? he’s taking shop!), so he can move out. Great family. Completely dysfunctional. We never learn very much about any of the characters. They’re flat, they’re not very important, most of the interesting ones don’t even make enough appearances to allow us to get to know them. Characterization is a problem, then, in this book. So, too, the plot. I tried getting into it, but it just didn’t resonate with me. This super secret horrible plot to take over the world, this international crisis, is being constructed at UC San Diego and yet, I didn’t ever really get the idea that it was seriously that big of a deal. A subliminal virus? Oh wow, what a freaking nightmare! Worse than a nuclear bomb, clearly. Dear God, what will we do if it is released into the world? Oh man, who gives a shit? I just don’t care. And that’s a major point. In the end, what does the reader truly care about this book? Because to me, it was just not very interesting. I couldn’t relate to the characters, I thought the plot was damn stupid, I thought the technology, while moderately interesting, was close enough to today’s reality so that it didn’t really stretch my imagination enough to actually call it sci fi. It’s simply current reality, sped up by a decade. Big deal. And seniors who were successful CEOs, professors, career big shots returning to a vocational high school to learn new skills so that they can get a job in this futuristic society? That simply strikes me as stupid.

On the whole, Vinge, the idea guy who’s usually full of major universe shattering ideas, does almost nothing in this book to merit placing it up against his other works and I’m shocked this won the Hugo. I’d love to know what books were his competition that year, because it must have been a lean year for sci fi books. This book could have used some help with the dialogue, with character development, with plot development, with technology development, and perhaps a few others things. As far as I’m concerned, this book was a disappointment to me and I’m giving it two stars (although it probably deserves one) and stating that I simply can’t recommend it.

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A Review of Wasteland of Flint

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 23, 2016

Wasteland of FlintWasteland of Flint by Thomas Harlan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! I thought it was excellent, especially for the first book in a trilogy. It is unique, has a nice historical fiction element to it, has elements to it that border on military sci fi, hard science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the surreal. I thought Harlan tied it together pretty well.

In this book, the Aztecs won North American dominance, if not over most of the world many years ago. Now, however, most of the world is ruled by Méxica from the capital of Tenochtitlan, aided by the Japanese, who supply their military. Their only real economic and military human competion is from the Swede-Russian alliance.

Millions of years ago, the First Sun People dominated the galaxy with their technology, living and moving from planet to planet. Some of their leftover technology is rarely but occasionally found on various planets and it’s worth a fortune.

In the book, xenoarcheologist Dr. Gretchen Anderssen has been employed by an unnamed company to go to Ephesus III to find a previous expedition and to obtain as many valuable archeological items that she can, to make the trip (s) worthwhile. At the same time, Imperial cruiser, the Henry R. Cornuelle, is sent to the same location captained by Captain Hadeishi Mitsuharu of the Imperial Méxica Navy. He is carrying a secretive Imperial “judge” with unlimited powers, whose name is Huitzilozoctic, or Green Hummingbird. The name not only means “judge,” but it also means “sorcerer.” It sometimes seems like his power cannot be matched.

Anderssen and her team go to down to the planet’s surface to find important relics they believe to be First Sun relics. These could be dangerous and certainly are powerful. Green Hummingbird views these as hugely dangerous and declares the planet and the space around it off limits to any and every one. Mitsuharu is sent after a gigantic freighter that is now is a huge asteroid field to fire upon it, if necessary, board it, and issue Hummingbird’s commands. Meanwhile, Hummingbird makes his way to the planet. Anderssen is obsessed with finding these objects, to the point of ignoring her crew and going all over the planet tracing the final steps of a scientist who had been impacted by these artifacts and gone insane and disappeared. Hummingbird watches, but follows from a distance. Eventually, he intrudes upon her and they end up traveling together in increasingly dangerous places and situations. Hummingbird believes it’s necessary to bring balance to the planet and the things on the planet to ward off First Sun evil. Gretchen doesn’t understand him, but he tries to teach her. As they go into caves and are attacked by spirits and are followed by relentless shadows, and possible aliens, she starts to wonder and he then tells her she can’t see the real world, she doesn’t know. Her science is no good, which ticks her off. A battle between mysticism and rationalism results. While judges aren’t psychics, they exist to protect the species at ANY cost, including the extermination of entire worlds, and they have reached the absolute best of human perceptual training, among other things. They can’t always necessarily foretell the future, but it seems they see strains of future possibilities. They can bring balance to dark forces, right evil things, manipulate people and things to do their bidding, as long as it meets their final goals.

Hummingbird, at some point, asks Anderssen if she would like to see, actually SEE, to learn, to be exposed to things she’s never dreamt of, and in a moment of either weakness, bravery, or power seeking, she agrees, and as time is of the essence and he can’t take the time to properly train her, he gives her an intense drug that virtually destroys her existence. She lies in a coma-like trance for hours, going through dreams, fantasies, pain, experiences, etc., and wakes many hours later, and she SEES. It’s like living in another dimension. She can see every fiber on every blade of grass in 3D, color illuminated. She can see Hummingbird as he really is, birds, trees, ants, like she’s never seen them before, and she understands things like she’s never been able to understand them before. She understands the universe as inherently hostile and now knows the judges’ need to protect humanity. She’s cautiously excited and repelled at the same time. However, the evil aliens are after them and they must continue to their flight to the planet’s base camp to await extraction.

While waiting, she is given another drug, which goes even further. There, however, for the third, I believe, time, she sees a First Sun alien who appears before her in her own image, talking to her while she tries to escape. Hummingbird has never been with her when she has encountered this alien.

I won’t say what happens at the end, but it wasn’t entirely what I expected and I’ve read that some people are a little disappointed by it. I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. It was just unexpected. It’s an exciting, action packed, intense, horror-tinged, mind fuck with more to come in future books. If Book Two is as good as this first one is, I’ll be very happy. Five stars. Definitely recommended.

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