Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oh, my stars.

I see that I never posted a full review for Bester's The Stars My Destination. I made some concluding comments at the Asimov's forum, but that has crashed or been deliberately offlined yet again, so I can't access my more immediate responses.

Yes, in the end, it was a waste of time. There are a few fun moments, but the main character isn't much of a character. He does whatever the plot demands of him in order to move itself erratically along, and Bester seems to think the protagonist is somehow worthy of our interest, a common man of note, but he's just a brute, and the story is little more than an adolescent revenge fantasy that drifts into self-importance and forays into the realm of whoa-man cosmic awareness. In classic SF fashion, the female characters are an insult to all females both fictional and living. Both major female figures enter the tale intriguingly, but Bester manages to ruin them. Then there's another who simply serves to be sexually victimized by the protagonist.

Nothing to see here, folks, but the sad missteps of a mid-century genre riddled with self-importance and misogyny.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A brief review of a book briefly viewed

Blame Twitter, which channelled plugs for Christopher Boucher's How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive as if publisher Melville House were sending secret codes to start another Middle Eastern grassroots uprising. I ordered the book from the library. I read some of it.

I cannot gain traction in this book. It lacks characters and a plot. Aristotle thinks those are important. He also thinks light things fall more slowly than heavy things, but that's because he was afraid that if they didn't, his world would be far-too-rocked. History has proven him right about the plot/character thing. Likewise the diction-and-thought thing. I can do without "spectacle" and "singing" in my novels, though sometimes those make for nice additions.

The author says some funny things and has an amusing way of giving you completely the wrong word for something. He also gives people "kennings" like Chest of Drawers (a guy he knew) and The Lady from the Land of Beans (a former lover). The book reads like an essay from McSweeney's that should have ended after maybe 500 words. That would have been good. One thousand tops. After that, you're reading words, words, words and nothing else. The eyes move like feet upon a treadmill. And it's not even one of those inclined treadmills or one that features a change-of-pace setting. Perhaps later all of this materializes into some beautiful, intact vision, like a Tralfamadorian novel, but it's too insistently incoherent for that. It does seem to be merely a scam.

Done. Moving on.