Anonymous Book Review 23: Keeping it simple is Stupidly Hard.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this book, but I guess that’s how I usually feel about twist endings. Really didn’t see that one coming. The ending wrapped up the interesting narrative style perfectly, threw me back in my seat and made me say out loud, “Holy shit!”

The five star rating system is way too limited to adequately rate a novel like this.

The author wrote one of the greatest opening chapters that I’ve read in a long time. There’s instantly danger, intrigue and a secret that takes three hundred pages to resolve. I had some doubts about this book, but a book club I thoroughly respect selected this title so I picked it up not knowing what to expect.

That first chapter did not disappoint.

Then a second POV took over. A slower tale that became a little uncomfortable for me to read. This second POV actually had better characters, but it was written as a spoken story that almost crossed from a first-person perspective into the second-person. And this style carried through for three hundred pages as well.

Both of these perspectives, well written on their own, came together in an unexpected way through a manipulation of time. It wasn’t as linear as I’d thought, though I might’ve gotten it if I’d seen the style before. But I haven’t and that’s a major factor in what made this novel entertaining.

The overall structure was a treat, the character voices were strong, the ending satisfying, but the two things that stood out most, the aspects I’d like to take away and incorporate into my own writing is first simplicity. Not dumbed down, but written in a way that was clear and concise. The second is the attention to detail. I’m speaking in an overall sense which on a smaller scale occasionally detracted from the story.

Simple and concise. Conserving words, keeping the point of each sentence as the focus and using just enough flourish to convey the message naturally. Never were there long descriptions of people, places or things. Gone were the purple prose and flowery language that tend to dull a mind. This author kept her story front and center. And that’s

what kept my attention during the soggy middle. The story got slow, most do at some point, but the direct sentences and limited description kept the story moving without letting my mind drift on extraneous details. The scenes, being what they were, would’ve bogged down and bored me to death had there been any language not focused on the story alone.

Every format has its art. Words are the necessary evil in fiction. Too few and the story is boring. Too many and the adventure becomes muddled. Microwave instructions are clear and concise, but I don’t want to read those.

It’s the Goldilocks—

Yeah, yeah, yeah, thank you mister obvious.

Okay, the author found the sweet spot, but how did she convey enough information to set scenes? Especially in India and East Africa, places as exotic as sci-fi realms to me. This author was very specific. She used specific names for cities, streets, foods and languages.


Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

I may not know what streets actually feel like, but the few details included formed an image in my head of streets I know with an added layer if images I’ve seen on television.

Thank you, Anthony Bourdain.

What she couldn’t convey quickly with a name and a few words she dialed in with metaphors and similes. She used similes to generate a visual representation instead of slogging through an itemized description of another street or food. Personally, I think metaphors and similes are dynamite. Like, they do a lot of work when they go off properly, but explode in your face when they don’t. A few didn’t land, but overall they worked fantastically in keeping the description to a minimum while setting a mental image.

Where this story didn’t work for me was in the vast numbers of names. Near future sci-fi in a non-Western setting. Great! Introduction to a complicated slice of my own world and history that I’m completely unaware of? Awesome! A thousand names with spellings more difficult to pronounce than any sci-fi I’ve ever read? Bummer. Okay, the author has traveled extensively and she has close friends residing in these slices of the world. I know this because she basically beat me over the head for three hundred and twenty pages with names that I simply don’t have the linguistic model for which to contrive a functional sound. At least with fantastic sci-fi, the eccentric names and words don’t have mispronunciations capable of offending entire populations.

This is where the attention to details became too complicated. People, places, foods, so many were so difficult to pronounce and in the case of foods, I have no idea what kind of food is being consumed. Great that she’s eaten delicious foods and I’m sure these foods resonated with her beta readers, but for me they were just an endless distraction. I had no context, nor did I want any because all but one, a pastry, had no bearing on the story. I suppose in the larger scope of a spoken tale the teller would recount minute details like food, but I thought much of it could’ve been dropped without loss of feeling in the story.

Within the plethora of names, the main character herself changed several times. A nice nickname for a difficult first name and an alias. Not hard to remember, but added to everything else, those became tiresome. As the stories came together, the only name I stayed familiar with then became the original character. But I was led to believe that that name was somebody else, somebody real who then wasn’t, which almost nullified an entire storyline with the end reveal.

I think this, too, can form an important lesson for writers, particularly those in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, that too many names distract from the story. They stunt the flow and


Photo by Pasquale Vitiello on

make the reader sound out and wonder if their pronunciation is accurate. And crazier spellings don’t add to the story as much as constitute an abuse of language.

This book took me on a cerebral adventure, one with guilt-ridden hallucinations from a close perspective. The story circled back to a point it had never left. The slowness, the intimacy, the isolation of the characters gave me the impression that there’d be some literary meaning, some form of understanding and personal growth at the end. Imagine my relief when all the characters turned out to be murderous monsters.

Phew. Narrowly dodged a moral lesson.

The writerly lesson, however, is invaluable. It showed me a style I’ve been trying to master. It’s given me examples to elevate a clear and concise format by sprinkling in details and similes that’ll raise microwave instructions to a level of art. It’s also shown me how too much of a good thing saps emphasis from the devise that delivered the goodness. I ended up giving this book three stars, but the limitations of the rating feels like a crime against literature, yet a higher rating would disregard what I consider major detractions. I wouldn’t place this book on a must-read shelf for everyone, but I will enthusiastically recommend this book to people I’d consider the right audience.

Now to start cutting words.


Anonymous Book Review 18

What a unique story. This book was fun. Overall pace was good, characters likable, interesting plot. And it had big words. I like big words.

The scope was huge. Alternate history where a tiny colonial player had nullified the real life powers to retain authority over conquered lands. But that was pure setting and never elaborated upon.

Every aspect of the plot was bedded in dualities. This power against that. One religion against the other. The nature of free will versus slavery with a fair amount of contemplation on both. That part imposed an amazing duality on a single character. A Catholic priest secretly advocating freedom for robotic slaves, pushed to horrendous actions by his religious convictions, yet arguing free will. Then captured and implanted with a spell to force his actions through pain inducing compulsion while pleading that he no longer had free will. That flip I found so cool.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy favorite duality throughout the book—alchemy versus chemistry. Yep. In this world they both exist and they’re employed by opposing forces for war. Magic clockwork robots built to slaughter can only be stopped by glue bombs with both sides engaged in an arms race to limit the other’s advantage. Yet another one of those “nailed it” parts of the story.

Now to the alchemically enhanced nuts and bolts of the story.

This was a good sized book. Four hundred and forty pages. Three point of view characters need a lot of space to work. The author wrote so floridly at the beginning, sprinkling in similes by the handful, that the story took a few chapters to get going. Not that there wasn’t a catchy hook and a compelling scene, but it all felt bogged down in the beauty of the world. Those big words that I love so much? Yeah, they became noticeable and to be honest I don’t feel good about pointing that out. Words need to be written and used, but a story isn’t about the words.

I thought this was a tremendous first novel. A bunch of subtle flags gave me that impression and after a meeting of the minds, I wasn’t the only one. Though the author actually has several other titles. Yes, the wordiness threw the first of those flags as though the industry hadn’t yet beaten the love of words out of him. Aspects of the narrative, too, waved another flag. Written in third person close perspective in the past tense (my favorite narrative form), the narrative itself had very strong opinions. The narrative used pejoratives for the opposing characters, even cussing about plot twists it had just informed me of. Yes, I understand the close perspective is interpreting the thoughts and feelings of the POV characters, but this almost treaded into a first person view that made me think it was edited from such. I found several typos, though none to suggest the perspective was actually changed, but taken together, they layered in the feel of a debut novel.

Throughout, this book was very visual. While that added to its all around goodness there was a lot of details paid to bodily functions. Including observations drawing lines to the many qualities of vomit. I could’ve done without. A little glossing over or hand waving would’ve been great for that and a few others seriously taxing sections.

Pacing…. If you read my previous post you’ll know how I like a well paced book. The hair is split with this one. Pacing in the big picture—Hit. Pacing through action scenes—Miss. Overall there wasn’t one throw-away scene, except, perhaps the gratuitous sex scene. Again, a hand wave could’ve done, but even that scene built tension that carried through the book. Things moved fast. I couldn’t tell what would happen from one scene to the next and even when I had an idea, the scene got there faster with consequences greater than I had expected. This is where the author showed his well seasoned writer chops. I liked it and it kept me reading.

The other part… this author is so descriptive he can put you where he wants. The down side to that is during tense, high impact scenes that need to flow really fast he describes the beauty around his characters. This ruined the pacing of many, many scenes. At one point his character even paused to acknowledge how funny it is that it should be observing beauty while in a race for its life from some impressively scary things. NO! I might be able to relate, (High school football, face down under a pile of animals, pondering the blades of grass poking through my facemask), but it sucked all the tension out of the scene and diminished my level of caring. (Coincidently, I wasn’t the best player, either.) This also led me to assume it was a first novel. But it’s not. He has a bunch. Sure, I turned out the light and went to bed during these parts, even cursed a little in frustration, but the story was still worth reading.

Okay, the finale. I kind of knew that this book began a series. I kind of figured there’d be a question leading into the next. And when every story line concluded with a cliff hanger I shrugged, a little crestfallen at such an open end. I would’ve preferred at least a semblance of resolution. Meh. Internet says the guy is friends with George R. R. Martin, so he gets a pass on conclusions. The part that put me over, the one scene that utterly, unequivocally disappointed, the one devise I’ve known about, yet never reacted to so strongly—? The knock-out scene. Right at the end. Right where an explanation was needed most.

A little exposition. Knock-out scenes; when the hero is in a dire situation, when tension is at its peak and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. The hero is knocked unconscious, then miraculously awakens in safety where the events of the rescue are recounted by another character. The hero survives through no fault of their own. It’s anticlimactic. Often a wave of the hand to speed along a difficult scene. I’ve even heard it called lazy writing. Personally I don’t mind if they come early in a story, they can set a tone or send a message, but this one….

Character has fought its way to the heart of the evil empire, battled enemies beyond its class. Its free falling into the center of an alchemical inferno surrounded by vats of acid with massive metal rings collapsing all around while the castle crumbles! It blinked off just before certain death. Next scene… the character wakes up safe. A nameless helper switches it on and says it was luckily buried in a gap when everything else in the chamber was incinerated and crushed. The few other survivors were found around the outskirts of the castle.

Great character. I’m glad it survived, but why did I have to read about so much vomit instead of how it managed to escape, other than knocking itself out. I would’ve preferred this character to die accepting some kind of metaphysical conciliation to living like that. It just didn’t fulfill my expectations.


It’s not until I looked into the structure that I saw things that robbed the tension and allowed me to take breaks during action scenes. And those are extremely picky reasons to disparage an otherwise great work of fiction. The unique alternate history, the perpetual dualities, the themes of free will and slavery, the beautiful description, the well drawn characters, all of it made such a fantastic book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It is one that I’ll wholeheartedly recommend.

Anonymous Book Review 16

A masterpiece. The pacing, the characters, and in this case, the writing itself, all fell into the right seams. This book is the second in a trilogy and it thoroughly defied my expectations.

How’s that?

I’m not a fan of space station stories—DEFIED!

I’m not a fan of third person omniscient points of view—DEFIED! Sort of.

I get bored with long winded social messages—DEFIED!

Infallible captains are tiresome—DEFIED!

In general I haven’t enjoyed space station stories because it’s usually a ship that goes nowhere. All kinds of deceit and intrigue takes place among species whose dominant character traits resemble somethingAstronaut Pic human. Good, bad, caring, loving, militaristic, and then these traits come into conflict with only the station administrator or a good natured captain to mediate the tension. The problem is there’s never a good enough motivation to keep everyone playing the game fairly. Why not send troops to expel the ne’er-do-wells?

With this book the station stayed near a planet in a well traveled solar system. There were other ships, important ships, moving about. It was big with an organic environment that supported the inhabitants. And it was old. Generations of people, an entire subculture, grew and lived within the dilapidated portions of the station developing their own adaptations to an impoverished life. It added more depth to the space station than some structure drifting about. It had a reason to exit above good will to all.

The social message played into the story fairly quickly with the infallible captain immediately finding a cause for the poor. Take that imperialists. The B plot played out as the justice minded captain made enemies of the privileged who sought to destroy the interloper, opening up a reason to find the culprit, talk to the down trodden and reveal improprieties leading back to the A plot. This one quietly built a narrative that let me take a look at real life from another perspective using thinly veiled allegory. I love when that happens.

Only one alien made an appearance in this book. Its species feared by humans, the individual’s presence leading to suspicions within the A-plot, it had an unsettling way of subverting all human and AI security. And with a very funny disposition that added levity to an otherwise somber tone, it died within two pages of its introduction. That took the infallible captain to the planet’s surface where the B plot got going rounding out the rest of the book.

I sure hope the aliens return to destroy humanity if they’re this funny when they do it.

I can’t discuss why I liked this infallible captain without discussing the most crucial part of this author’s writing technique. The story is written in the first person, but the main character is plugged in (wirelessly, of course) to the surrounding artificial intelligences, a battle ship, a lesser war ship and the space station. Then all the ships’ crews and important people on the station were enhanced so the AIs could read thoughts and emotions while being able to see everything everyone did continuously with very few blind spots. Here’s the beauty of this book’s style. While written in the first person, the main character was able to narrate every action and emotion from all the characters in an omniscient style without ever breaking the first person POV. The scene switches were important, concise and always felt close. It was an omniscient view from a close perspective that worked amazingly well for me.

Now to the infallible captain. Everyone’s read a piece of sci-fi where the captain is perfectly confident in words and actions and never lets the crew down. Tough, but fair. To a great extent this is very much the same, however, this captain, acting upon authority vested by the tyrant emperor over the entire military apparatus, carries several secrets. Its origin, the truth about a very quiet civil war and the nature of its mission. With that kind of baggage every choice and decision, weighed in terms of secrecy and loyalty to unreadable factions, added tension and consequence throughout the book. Not a choice of this or that with only thin margins for success lesser men may not see, but conundrums that lead to greater conundrums always searching for missing pieces to the wider plot. The infallible captain moved the story forward, but not on orders for the sake of orders. With the pieces unfolding wider dangers hid just out of sight, dangers that threatened the whole of an empire this captain served, yet didn’t entirely agree with.

This may give the book away, but I don’t care. The author chose an interesting form of social order. Yes, imperialistic, yes, feudal, but even a step further. I can’t call it a matriarchy because lineage isn’t discussed in detail. Nearly all of the pronouns are feminine. Everyone is a she and a sister. My grasp of the pronouns was better this time than from the first book so I didn’t spend much energy thinking it through. At one point, in a less civilized community one girl had a brother, but the brother was later called a sister and referred to in terms of she. Interesting. So binary genders exist in this world, yet there was never any distinct gender identifying descriptions, or actions for any character throughout. Even though sexual propriety was discussed in some fair length, orientation never mattered which flowed into a greater theme that for the story narrative gender itself never mattered. From my writers perspective gender has always defined the who, as in the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a story.

While the technique was interesting as an experiment to see if distinct binary pronouns are necessary to tell a good story, the overall effect did something every sci-fi story needs. It removed the reader from the real world, yet not so much as to make it unidentifiable. Naturally English readers can take comfort in the familiar pronoun she. Okay, grounded in the humanness, dealing with people similar to me. You know, human. But now that everyone is a she there’s something different. The culture is different and within the difference anything can happen. This notion of differentness allows for FTL travel, loving AI, and comedic domineering aliens. Sure, all of those have happened hundreds of times over without the gender ambiguity, but with the indistinct pronouns holding a question in the back of one’s mind, the reader is never permitted, not even for a sentence, to slip into the familiar world they inhabit. And the greatest accomplishment, the reader is never pushed into a world so foreign as to be uninteresting or boring. It’s a keen balancing act from a skilled and bold writer.

Huhhhh…. I’m out of breath. I’ve already got the last book and can’t wait till this post is finished so I can start reading. If anyone wants to know the name of the book and author leave me a message. It’s taking all my strength not to shout the names simply to preserve the theme of these book reviews.


Anonymous Book Review 13—Consistency.

At points I really liked this anonymous book, but at other points I disliked it. And while trying to put my finger on an overriding feature to categorically explain how I feel about this book, I discovered everything that moved me, good and bad, did so in

So much time spent at the local liquor store playing 1942.

So much time spent at the local liquor store playing 1942.

technical ways. Again, even this is difficult to state without qualifiers.

The book was written well. The story progressed nicely except for the sections that didn’t. The main character was sympathetic, except for the points when I didn’t care. The plot was a fun race for the MacGuffin, when it was a race.

Mrs. Pacman got me through so many hours at the Laundromat.

Mrs. Pacman got me through so many hours at the Laundromat.

This story required a lot of world building and exposition. I can get into both when they’re done right, and for the most part they were. Except for when they weren’t. There was an entire section devoted to the daily routine of a shut-in. It set up details for later scenes, but at the time seemed long and boring.

Without the bouts of exposition, however, I doubt I would’ve been immersed in the incredible virtual universe where the best parts of the story took place. I mean, this is the only book ever written that could combine all the coolest aspects of science fiction, fantasy, gaming and pop culture into an environment that mattered to the story. That made it a lot of fun to read.

I noticed something throughout this book that made me recognize consistency issues in other areas. The problem was super small, but repeated. And the consistency issue touched a very personal, very specific thread of my only genuine popular culture

Ahhh, the days spent playing all the NeoGeo games at the Pizza/Burge/Chinesse restaurant.

Ahhh, the days spent playing all the NeoGeo games at the Pizza/Burger/Chinesse restaurant.


The precise problem was that the author frequently switched between metric and U.S. Customary units. This is sad to say, but I probably would’ve given this book five stars if the author chose one system and stuck with it. It read as if the author wrote the story one way, then decided to switch to metric to sound smarter, lost focus through the rewrite process, then remembered, then forgot again.

So the author forgot. Okay, there are editors. But the editors dropped the ball on this one.

Every switch jarred me out of the story, but that’s my own OCD.

This laps continued when the author mentioned my favorite story of all time by its Japanese title. Later he called it by its American title. They’re slightly different stories, but it happens. Then he left it off of the list of the most popular cartoons of its day. Then he made all of the giant robots bad. Then he wiped them all out in half a sentence. Gurge! They deserved better. I’m personally, bitterly offended that this author’s sense of fictional robotic propriety is slightly different that mine.

There were social messages at the begging and end that drew a different focus. It’s basically another dystopian YA novel where evil corporations, backed by one specific political party,

Did you play your favorite character from the cartoons, or the character you played best?

Did you choose your favorite character from the cartoons, or the character you played best?

have destroyed the Earth through their greed. This consequence sets up this story nicely. But to be honest, I’m kind of over the dystopia thing. It seems decadent to me that Western authors write so much about the collapse of their own civilization. I guess people write what they wish for.

… and then a million dollars miraculously appeared in Benjamin’s bank account….

Whoa. I’ll save that for another story.

The real social message seemed to be stuffed into the story at the end. The entire scene could’ve been handled so much better. Two characters finally met after a long and virtual relationship. The second character, looking nothing like the main character expects, suddenly feels the need to admit why she misled the main charter about her ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Then the main character piously dismisses those concerns. First of all the second character didn’t need to admit anything. After that the second character’s tone seemed diminished which made the exchange read very awkwardly. If the author had maintained the character’s typical tone and let the character own her traits through the witty banter she’d displayed everywhere else in the book, the same message

Double Dragon. How many thugs did my brother and I beat up with this game?

Double Dragon. How many thugs did my brother and I beat up in this game?

would’ve come out from a much stronger character.

This second character’s origin seemed cliché and simplistic in this day and age while the story takes place in the near future, which should make the melodrama even less relevant. All of this is shoved into a few pages with no bearing on the plot. To me it seemed like the author took a writers group suggestion and inserted it without much revision.

Space Harrier!! My favorite, and probably one of the strangest games ever.

Space Harrier!! My favorite, and probably one of the strangest games ever.

These issues aside, I would recommend this book to most anyone. But not everyone. And if they have a decent grasp on 1980s pop culture, all the better.

Now to get on with writing something I’ve been meaning to deal with for a while.

… and then a million dollars miraculously appeared in Benjamin’s bank account….

Anonymous Book Review 12: The first book I quit.

I’ve quit my first book. That’s right, quit it. Put it down and moved on. I’m glad I didn’t list it on Goodreads. I don’t want to face scorn from the fanatical community who loves this book and the seemingly endless sequels. See, this book is legend. It’s sacrosanct. Hallowed text. My bookstore lady guaranteed (in spirit, not refunds) that I would love it.

But I didn’t. And I pissed-off a friend.

Okay. A few things took me out of the story. First was the POV. Third person omniscient. It was done well. I always knew who thought what, but I could never make a connection with a single character. This book is some fifty years old, written in an earlier time, before hyper-critical (ahem) MFAs ruined literature. (Ahem.) I needed something different than the style of the bygone time.

Second, the pace had me yawning. This anonymous book is big. The author took his time developing the characters and

Question: What does the author and lice have in common? Answer: They both hop between heads.

Question: What does the author and lice have in common?
Answer: They both hop between heads.

plot. Fifty pages, ten percent of the book, not enough to adequately judge the rest of the story, but it was all politics. Tedious politics, not fun or scary or spellbinding. Page over page of speculation and preparation. MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN!!!

Sorry. I lost my comportment.

Where was I…

Yes, third, which had more to do with my expectations than the book itself, was that the plot read like a fantasy novel. I love a good fantasy novel when I’m in the mood for one, but this genre defining sci-fi book started with a feudal hierarchy where a sorceress administered a magic test to see if the main character is “The Chosen One,” or some such. Then this lesser noble family is supposed to—

I’ll stop there to preserve a thread of anonymity.

Yeah, I wasn’t ready for that kind of a book.

From a writer’s perspective the POV stood out most. In third person omniscient justification for choices come abruptly, or the back story (as little as a sentence or two) was fed into spots at exactly the right time. The effect was removing tension from the scene. When two people are glaring at each other, daring the other to flinch, I don’t want an explanation why character bad-guy made her choice, then hopping into good-guy’s head to listen to her reasoning. Set up the conflict with solid, distinct POVs and let the consequences follow smoothly.

Speaking of consequences—there’s my pissed-off friend. I had recently critiqued his novel and I think I now know the problem. His story was really good, but the POV and pacing were my biggest issues, issues my writer friend was unreasonably skeptical to accept. It is, after all, only my opinion, but my critique was totally wrong.

I had known that this anonymous book and its many sequels was one of his all-time favorites. Of course, it’s everybody’s favorite, right? But when I read this first part everything made sense. My friend’s writing style matched the style of this book. My critique wasn’t mere comments on his hard work, but comments inadvertently against his favorite fiction, against his childhood fantasies.

Damn. Well, what’s said is said.

So I paid retail price for the massive paperback. I own it and expect someday to pick it up again, but that probably won’t be for a while.

Have you ever disliked and disregarded a book that was supposed to be spectacular? Share your story because you’re not alone.

Oh, and one last thing. Thank you MFAs for insisting on distinct POVs. Readers do come closer to main characters this way. Maybe you haven’t ruined literature after all.

Anonymous Book Review 11: Second Person Showdown

It happened again, O my faithful Readers. Two books, selected randomly and read consecutively, shared enough similarities for me to compare. Both these books were written in England, both had movies made of them and both were written in the second person. I’ve never read a book told from the second person perspective before, so this was an awesome introduction to a new style.

Both of these books, I’ll call them Delicate Flower and Chain Whip respectively for anonymity’s sake, spoke directly to the reader. That’s the convention of the narrative. But in telling a story in what amounts to pure dialog, the repetitious idiosyncrasies of speech must also be included. Not the pauses, definitely not the “ums,” but speech patterns, favored sayings, word uses and sentence structure. All the stuff that makes a third person close POV seem telling.

Delicate Flower was a literary ditty that I didn’t find nearly as dystopian as the cover led me to believe. That said, I doubt I’m the target demographic, O my faithful Readers. I struggled with this book for one hundred pages then quit. I had had enough. It was boring and didn’t seem to go anywhere. And the repetitious idioms became annoying.

Boxing Photo 2 (2)After reading some reviews that called it unrelentingly sad, I pushed on. Yes, kind of sad, I suppose, but really it was a celebration compared to some of Octavia Butler’s work. The book was very well written. It was simple, easy to follow, slow and deliberate with an extrapolation of a moralistic question that humanity is faced with now. Forty pages near the end, at the climax of the story, the book became interesting. But the first two hundred and sixty pages were so tedious. The ending did wrap everything up satisfactorily. That was nice.

Chain Whip must’ve been written exactly for me more than a decade before my birth, O my faithful Readers. Chain Whip was nonstop action. In this book there was true sadness. There was true dystopian misery. There was true fun in the pages. I couldn’t put it down. The vocabulary was challenging, a real exercise in context clues, but the voice stayed true to the character.

Chain Whip approached speech so much differently than Delicate Flower. No, it wasn’t simple and fluid, rather, so many words were invented to form a peculiar slang that a good portion of time was spent getting my mind’s tongue around the incongruous syllables. Once a sound was committed, however, the narrative flowed in a believably unique voice that stands out among all the other characters I’ve ever read. Not one word was out of place. Never did a description drift toward a third person style. The hi-jinks were violently criminal, the punishments dark and depressing, but told as one person’s adventure to a concerned audience, the depravity felt sympathetic and the depression just a natural fact, one part of a larger past. No vaguely normal human would identify with the atrocious behavior, but in this character’s voice you can hear the childish fun. And it would read the same if the disturbing crimes were written as mean-spirited school-yard pranks. I did have problems with the end. This book’s conclusion didn’t quite satisfy my particular sense of justice.

Here are the results in a ten point must system. (Same rules as American Boxing—and just as corrupt.)

Delicate Flower Chain Whip
Ease of Reading 10 9
Dystopian Nightmare 9 10
Kick-Assness 8 10
Contemplative Insight 10 9
Social Dilemma 9 10
Satisfaction with the End 10 9
Winner 56 57

There’s no doubt which book wins my competition. Both are highly regarded, highly recommended pieces of popular fiction. But in this comparison, subjectivity rules, despite the fancy chart. Look closely, O my faithful Readers, and you’ll see that in the highly technical category of Kick-Assness, Delicate Flower scored exceptionally low. If there had been any violence at all, they might have tied. I doubt their respective demographics would ever consider these two books comparable, but this is how I read.

If you’re interested in the real titles, drop me a message, then tell me how you would’ve scored them in the all important Kick-Assness category.

Anonymous Book Review 9: Brilliant but Sloppy

Ahhh…. The realms of computer programming and the occult. Two oceans of which I have seen but drops. A couple beers with a few Wickens at midnight and fancy a dalliance in mysterious ways. Hit F12 at start-up and pretend to be a computer hacker.

This latest review follows a twenty something computer programmer who comes too close to opening a gateway to unspeakable evil and is thus coerced to working for the good guys in a secret bureaucracy. Fun. Seriously, this was fun.

Computer hacking? Check.

Occult magic? Check.

Obscure math and physics references? Check.

History’s greatest villains to detest once again? Check.

Copious pop culture references? Check.

Oh, did I mention all this is packed into 235 pages? This book had just about everything I could want in an story.

C and H 2Unfortunately, I had peculiar problems with this story. The main character was supposed to be a disheveled, slacker computer programmer cliché on one hand, then a super intelligent problem solver connecting the dots between machines, computers, mathematics, occult and history on the other. He was too much of everything. Too much of a slacker to change his clothes. Too quick with mathematic principles. Too smart about history. Too comfortable with occult practices without any acknowledgement of an educational background. At one point PhD lady-in-distress mentions a little about her secretive research and instantly the slacker recognizes all the ramifications, which in turn never plays out. She was simply the love interest he felt compelled to rescue. I really wanted some aspect of her research to affect the story’s outcome.

And then there was the knock-out scene. The situation is dire, blood-thirsty murderers have the lady, the main character makes a desperate phone call, bad guys are coming around the corner, then he wakes up in the next chapter with a headache, but otherwise safe and sound at home… on another continent. Crisis averted. Awesome action sequence avoided. That’s just bad writing.

There seemed to be details of amazing things glossed over until needed. A general overview of the magic system was C and Hdiscussed briefly without specifics. This became a scosh confusing when magic and technology intertwined, though there may have been an issue between my awesome F12 ability compared to the full programmer vocabulary used. I couldn’t tell what was real and what was fictional and it became distracting. I read it closely, but still felt like I missed something. I think the Author could’ve used fewer terms and define them clearer in context, or given a short dissertation. Something to differentiated the dominant system.

I must’ve skipped the history class necessary to follow the semi-antagonists. A little more exposition for us readers not intimately familiar with the specific interests of particular Nazi SS groups would’ve been helpful.

This story, written in the first person present tense, was made for popular culture references. Most of which I got. Pop culture references are fun and bring a real world feel to a story, though I thought the references often got in the way during narration.

One particular scene at the end made me reflect and conclude that much of this book was inserted afterthoughts instead of a cleverly crafted story. The main character’s two flat-mates, cliché nerds so absorbed in esoteric experimentation that they’d absentmindedly blow up their building, were dressed in leather and chains headed for the gay pride parade without the slightest hint or allusion that they were even in a relationship. The change was abrupt and out of the characters the Author had drawn over the previous 233 pages. That final scene along with the obligatory PSA could’ve been handled so much better. There was no point in leaving that scene for the last few pages. It could’ve added texture to the story if it came up early, instead it distracted from the proper ending.

No doubt about it, this was a fun story from an Author who knows how to write a world of his interests. I’ll read more by this fellow, but I think this book could’ve gone easily from pretty good to great with a few explanations moved forward and a main character with some flaw worse than mere shoddy hygiene. He should’ve had to work a little harder for the answers and relied on the specialties of his friends to a greater extent than drawing one day-saving analogy from a random experiment. Really the ancillary characters only existed for quirkiness.C and H 3

I could go on, but the brilliant book exasperated me in its sloppiness.

Read a story lately where characters fell flat in their perfection? Or luck saved the day, every day until all peril is routine? Share with a comment. I’d like to hear your thoughts on characterization.