The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

August 2, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

catThe Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein

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I’m not sure why, but I was under the impression that this book fell earlier in Heinlein’s career. No, instead this is his penultimate book, full of all the thinks he became notorious for: blatant sexism; looser plots; more libertarianism; and much, much more perversity. I mean, I’m no prude, but when the book opens with a woman telling the male narrator that he’s stretched her out and made her no good for anyone else, it sets an uncomfortable tone.

The book is peppered with Heinlein’s philosophy on everything, and halfway through, we get the full doctrine on women and government. He had a profound misunderstanding of socialism, and a misogynistic attitude in general, and it offended me so much I almost stopped listening. Then I wondered how bad it would get, and decided to tough it out. Let me illustrate some of the biggest WTF moments:

  1. I’ve already covered the size-of-dick passage that pretty much opens the book, but I have to put it at the top of the list. It just … what? It’s baffling.
  2. The female lead walks out on the male lead, over his being an absolute jerk, but then she comes back, begging HIM to take HER back.
  3. A woman expresses anger over something said to her, but the narrator notes that “her nipples crinkled”, which he takes to mean she’s secretly pleased.
  4. Four thousand years in the future, a computer responds to a request by saying “Yassuh massah”.

Of course, the future is full of free love, with married people not just allowed, but expected to sleep with however many people as possible, and since this is a Heinlein novel, that means some of them are underage and related to each other (though he does throw in some M/M action, which was unexpected). Again, I’m no prude, but I can’t help but feel like this is more one of Heinelein’s fantasies and less a novel, though I feel that way about Stranger in a Strange Land, too.

All that aside, the story just isn’t that great. Time for the Stars and The Door into Summer were good stories, compelling and entertaining, but this novel rambles around with no obvious point. He pulls in important information only when it’s necessary, instead of setting it up earlier in the story and bringing it in when it’s relevant. The end result is a story that’s just one event after another, loosely tied together as an adventure novel. The characters aren’t very sympathetic either, since they’re insufferable. They’re privileged and entitled, and their approach to everything is one of condescension.

This book is indefensible to me. It’s questionable in so many ways, and it’s not even that good of a story on top of that. I’m still looking forward to reading Heinlein’s juvenile books, but I’m questioning if I want to read anything else from his later years.

Started: July 9, 2018
Finished: July 19, 2018

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Descent

June 26, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

descentDescent by Ron Dee

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Here we’re into the next book in my Abyss reading project, and Lordy, what a mess it is. We have the rock star trope, the usual excess that comes with rock and roll and horror, and then a psychosexual ghost story that rambles about without much point. Amidst all that is a woman who has recently lost a baby and is now unable to have one, and is so hung up on how much she can’t possibly be a woman now that it could only written by a man. It’s ridiculous, overwrought, sensationalized, and pointless. Is this what the whole genre was like during its heyday? If so, what the hell was I thinking that I read these books?

Dee’s first book in the line, Dusk, was pretty bad, but Descent is somehow even worse. Aren’t writers supposed to get better with experience? This book is an insult to the good books also published in the Abyss line. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s not nearly as bad as Obsessed by Rick R. Reed, but we’re still scraping the bottom of the barrel either way. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.

Started: May 8, 2018
Finished: May 12, 2018

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Obsessed

May 29, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , , )

obsessedObsessed by Rick R. Reed

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What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

(I know thinking about it makes you angry, but bear with me.)

Hold the image of that worst book in your head. Think about what made it so bad. Was it weak characterization? Characters who did things that made no sense? Or was it full of inane detail that didn’t do anything for the story? Was it a tired, overused plot?

I don’t know what your worst book is, but I can assure you that Obsessed is worse than that.

Obsessed is one of those books you use to justify writing that novel you’ve put off for years, because if something this bad could get published — by Abyss, no less! — then there’s nothing holding you back.

Started: April 9, 2018
Finished: April 13, 2018

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Dusk

May 7, 2018 at 5:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

duskDusk by Ron Dee

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I would have expected the Dell/Abyss books to start dwindling in quality over time. I wouldn’t have expected that to happen with their third book, but here we are. Dusk is a terrible novel, with nothing to redeem it.

Abyss was known for two things — original ideas, and cutting-edge stories. Dusk is a typical vampire novel, and the only thing that could be considered cutting-edge would be how much sex it contains. I’m no prude, but I expect the sex in a story to be relevant; in Dusk, it’s excessive. It’s there just to show that the author can do it, and it reads like it was written for thirteen-year-old boys. In fact, it reads like it was written by one.

What’s also unfortunate about this book is how it portrays its women and minority characters. Women are oversexed (even before the vampirism), and the black characters are frequently called “niggers”. Dee uses this term to show how terrible some characters are, but it still felt like he was using the term just because he could. Joe Lansdale uses the word in his Hap & Leonard books, but it’s used with more subtlety. Hell, that scene with Alan Tudyk in the Jackie Robinson biopic used the word with more subtlety than Dee does here.

That the Abyss line survived beyond this book is a shock to me. That the Abyss line even agreed to publish this book is a shock to me. The plot is pedestrian, the characterization is weak to nonexistent, and it relies far too much on telling to be engaging. That I’ve read this before, and had no recollection of anything from it is telling. Fans of Richard Laymon might like what Dee does here (sex and violence just for the sake of sex and violence), but beyond that, I don’t know what the target audience is for this book. It’s one of the worst books I’ve ever read.

Started: February 28, 2018
Finished: March 3, 2018

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Aftermath

December 22, 2015 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

AftermathAftermath by Chuck Wendig

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I’m sure there were other people out there who, like me, left The Force Awakens and wanted to know more about what happened between the end of Return of the Jedi and the new movie. I’m also certain that some folks knew about this book, which supposedly went into detail in that respect. I’m hoping that others weren’t tempted to buy this book, like I did, because this is the biggest waste of time, fiction, and money I’ve seen in a long time.

I’d like to think that the first requirement of a Star Wars book be that it make you feel like you’re in that universe. Aftermath does not accomplish this. Much of the story centers around a fractured mother-son relationship and dodging crime bosses, enough so that in parts it could have been set on present-day Earth without much change to the narrative. The author brought in Wedge Antilles as a secondary character, and even threw in one (one) scene with Han Solo, but the only time I could visualize Star Wars was when Wendig went back and talked about events from Return of the Jedi. Apparently one of the main characters of this story was in the attack on the shield generator on the moon of Endor, and she reminds us of that in several different places in the story. I thought that the scenes set on a Star Destroyer might make me think of that universe, but no, those just felt like standard military stories. The only things here that made me think of Star Wars were the names; nothing about the story, characters, or settings took me there.

The writing itself wasn’t good, either. Wendig’s style is chock-full of sentence fragments, run-on sentences, non-existent characterization, and dull plotting, and to top it off, he writes the entire story in the present tense. There’s nothing in this story that stuck with me, and very little about the story was exciting. I simply couldn’t care about what happened to any of the characters; in fact, for much of the book, I was struggling to remember which character was which, since between the main players of the central story and the new characters brought in for the interlude scenes, there were a heaping helping of them.

I had real issues with the language, too. Wendig feels compelled to use modern language in the world of Star Wars, including the uses of the words “bummer” and “frag”. This isn’t the kind of language used in this universe. Also, in one place, Wendig uses the word “shoot” instead of “chute”, and later he uses the word “hale” instead of “hail”. This is ridiculous. I can accept a typo here and there, but homophones? How do those make it into a book? And how does an editor not find and correct those kinds of errors? This is the first book I’ve read by Chuck Wendig, but I can assure you it will be the last. I’m a little shocked that this isn’t his first book, as poorly written as it is.

This was the first Star Wars book I ever read. I understand there are some excellent Star Wars books out there, and I even have Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire series in my to-read stash. I also know there are some good writers out there who have at least a passing interest in the world of Star Wars, so I’m puzzled as to why Disney went with this author above any of them. This book is terrible.

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