The Early Days of a Better Nation

Monday, April 28, 2008

Harvest of Stars

John Scalzi has harvested a bushel of one-star Amazon reviews of his books, and thrown down a challenge to other writers:
Post your one-star (or otherwise negative) Amazon reviews, if you have them, and you probably do. Oh, go on. Own your one-star reviews, man. And then, you know. Get past them. If you’re lucky, some of them might actually be fun to read.
Charlie Stross has stepped up to the plate.

My turn:

The Star Fraction
'The storyline was very badly developed with nothing properly explained. The plot totally incomprehensible and the characters shallow in the extreme. Avoid at all costs.'
'His writing style is juvenile with rushed plotlines, very poor characterisations (especially of women) and a propensity for moving the plot in very unexpected directions that I can only assume came from reading too many Joe Haldeman novels. ... If you are a 30-something billy no mates working in IT then you'll love this book, but for the rest of us , these books show that being a mate of Iain banks does not make you a writer.'
'The most interesting character was a gun; the gun didn't get enough lines.'
The Cassini Division
'a mishmash of poorly-conceived and ill-developed ideas. The most startling one to me was that genocide is A-OK, as long as it's done by the right people to further socialism. ... I wish I had used the time I spent with this book to do something more enjoyable, like clean up those oil spots on my garage floor.'
'I think I'll have to go back to the remaining Terry Pratchet or Aaron Elkinson's I've yet too read. Idealism has its place, unfortunately it just doesn't cut it with sci-fi.'
'Lotta gratuitist drunkin' sex. Silly and sophomoric ideas and dialogue. Ammoral people and actions. This is just a bad book, written poorly and confusingly.'
'the future utopia is an unlikeable place filled with unlikeable people doing unlikeable things. In the end, one finds the Texas-inspired New Mars a much more appealing place than the hivelike utopia the main character tries hard to defend. ... I threw this book away without reading the last 40 pages. Oh yes, and I'm never going to trust a book review ever again.
The Sky Road
'If this book did not have a cover and I was asked what genre it belonged to, I would have said "romance". It is sappy and slow with very transparent characters and ultimately not believable. ... If you like books with crisp plots and lots of ideas, then look for something else.'
Cosmonaut Keep
'If publishers were serious about their claim that the best style is one that is not noticed, Ken MacLeod would never have been published. ... Cosmonaut Keep is a Herculean effort, in which MacLeod assures that the audience is always conscious of his effort. ... If, as the cover proclaims, MacLeod represents a SF revolution unto himself, the genre is dead.'
'What happened Ken? Where did the characterisation go? Where is the grit and realism? Please go back to writing adult SF.'
Dark Light
'If you're interested in how socialism works or the benefits of different styles of democracy, read this book. If you are looking for characters confused by their gender identity (are you a man or a woman? It depends on your actions), you may like this book. If you want interesting SCI FI, however, steer clear.
Engine City
'choppy, episodic writing, with some of the chapters reading as though they have been lifted from drafts for short stories ... I also have problems with Macleod's science (I'll pass over his unconvincing politics).'
'The first book of this trilogy was an improvement on his previous writing, putting him almost at the same level at the earlier (weaker) books of Iain M Banks. By the second book he's slipped into the middle tier of writers, the third book sometimes reads like a satire of the first two.'
Newton's Wake
'I'm giving the book two stars instead of one because its imbecilic vision is tolerably well executed.'
'The characters were annoying. The obscure plot was annoying. The sodding gags were annoying. I thought you couldn't get more daft than pot-smoking aliens. You did.'
Learning the World
'only the aliens have much personality, and even then, not much: they seem like fictional versions of MacLeod and his pub-frequenting Scottish political chit-chat buddies (the same set that appear in every single novel MacLeod has ever written) - the only difference is these guys have wings, and don't actually live in Scotland, just a place that resembles it... MacLeod is either past him prime, or just loafing, and he shouldn't be rewarded with your hard-earned dollars for this disappointment.'
'I found this title very hard work to finish. I found this title very hard work to begin.'
The Execution Channel
'By the time a reader is one-third of the way through the book, he should be able to at least have an idea of what is going on and know who some of the characters are. But you won't get that here. I have moved on to better things, and you probably should, too.'
'Typical USA bashing from a liberal European SciFi author.

The storyline is that a Scotland military base gets nuked, and some "strange going's on" before the nuking were witnessed by a bunch of leftist wackos hanging around the base. But, in reality, who would bother with nuking Scotland, and who cares as far as this story goes?'
I was surprised to find how bracing (and amusing) it is to do this. Go for it, guys and gals! Pick up that Scalzi space-gauntlet. It may not do much for your sales, but it's good for the soul.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

From scenes like these

Feorag, Charlie Stross's wife, reminds him that she has heard this one before.
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Conspirator denounces conspiracy theory

Ayman al-Zawahri, deputy leader of Al-Qaida, has blamed 9/11 conspiracy theories on a conspiracy to discredit the real conspiracy, Al-Qaida. He also threatened further attacks and, on a more ecumenical note, blamed the "Western Crusader world" for global warming. (Via.)
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Friday, April 18, 2008

Little Brother

In Australia I read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, an advance reading copy of which was kindly lent to me by Farah Mendlesohn, who has reviewed it. It's a very good book, as everyone is saying.

It's also a useful book. Remember the scene in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress where Manny sketches a structure for an underground organization? Now imagine that, done properly. With X-boxes.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Back, I'm well

This morning our luggage came home, a week almost to the minute after we did. So now I feel I've really returned from Australia, and have no excuse for not catching up. I was in Australia for Swancon, followed by some signings, interviews and research, not to mention R&R. Swancon was a joy and I may write about it later. Likewise about the phone interview with the Sunday Herald, during which I wandered about in the dark talking on my mobile, very close to a sign that a day or two later I found read: WARNING! ACHTUNG! Crocodiles inhabit this area ...

While I was away, 'Lighting Out' won the BSFA Award in the short story category, and The Execution Channel was shortlisted for the Prometheus Award.
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