Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I Read So You Don't Have To.

Monsters Exist. It's true. And I'm not talking about the lurking scary kind of monsters that live under your bed or in your closet.

But those exist too.

Actually, those exist in a far more literal way than I had originally planned to talk about. You see, NY is currently on the losing end of a war on bedbugs.

Trust me, this is the only image you want to see from a google image search for Bedbugs.

When I was little, I kind of lumped bedbugs in together with dustmites, and, thanks to Mercer Mayer, zipperumpazoos.

Everyone with children should own this.

Anyway, the three are not the same thing, as dustmites are (mostly) harmless and zipperumpazoos are (mostly) adorable.

Bedbugs are neither. Everyone in NYC lives in constant fear of them, and spends money on fancy mattress covers and sprays to keep the horrible things from sneaking into their bedrooms and sucking their blood while they sleep.

Stay away, bedbugs!

But no. I'm talking about the kind of monsters that only steal your soul and money. So yes Edward Cullen counts. I knew if I rambled long enough I'd find a segue.

More precisely, Stephanie Meyer. She's kinda what I'm talking about. The same category of people who infest and rot entire genres from the inside out. This leads to an unfair branding of said genres as crap. I'm talking about sci-fi and fantasy.

For a fascinating read and a good discussion of just this problem, pop open a new window and check this out:

Why Science-Fiction Authors Just Can't Win

Sure, there are exceptions. Here's one recently:

Cormac McCarthy won the Pulitzer for The Road, a post-apocalyptic story about a man and his son in a horrifying, brutal dead earth. People were really excited about this book and it was turned into a movie with Viggo Mortenson. Perhaps some of this excitement is because people have seen so much bad post-apocalypse that they're shocked and amazed when they see someone actually think about how real people would react to real situations.

You know, like this.

Sure sure, there's a line between entertainment and art. But the question is where is the line between entertainingly mediocre and damagingly bad? Easy. A romance novel set in a magical alternate Arthurian history that includes time travel as an excuse for pithy pop cultural references.

God I wish I had just fever-dreamed that sentence.

I read this. All of it.

If you're not asking yourself "Why, Rev? Why would you do this to yourself?" then you are either a sadist or have long since given up trying to understand me. Either way, thanks for reading.

I got this book for free at last year's New York Comic-con. Read about that HERE. I accepted without question because, hey, free book. Also because I am a trusting soul and fool, a terrible fool. In my defense, the cover art on my promotional copy is vastly different from the cover that I posted.

It is all black with an inscrutable gold icon on the front. The text reads:

#1 New York Times Bestseller
Sherrilyn Kenyon
writing as
Kinley MacGregor
Lords of Avalon

I am confused by no fewer than three parts of that.

There's not even a plot summary or anything on the cover to warn me that this is a genre that shouldn't even exist, let alone be read by me.

These days there are two situations in which I do most of my reading: on the subway and at the laundromat. One day I was heading to the laundromat and realized that I had nothing else to read.

"Sigh," I sighed. "I guess I'll take this book that looks awful. Maybe it's not."

I know, I know. I don't need your pity.

But once I started reading I got hooked. I had to follow this through to the end no matter what, and I have no idea why.

I'm going to retrace my steps and see if I can find the exact second I realized something was very very wrong with this book.

Here we go, page 9. A peasant woman (our heroine) is being confronted by two time-traveling knights of the round table:

"He looked confused by her words.
'You're blowing it, Wain,' the other knight said in an aggravated tone.
What strange words to use. She'd never heard such before, and they most certainly didn't apply to their situation since the knight he addressed held nothing to his lips."

Oh jesus. Don't worry, through the rest of the book, Ms. Kenyon/MacGregor doesn't miss an opportunity to awkwardly call out anachronistic dialogue and behavior. It's not so much "oh, see how silly our contemporary english would sound to a middle ages peasant" as it is "Look, just stop talking in front of her because she's going to waste a quarter of a page being as literal as stupidly possible."

Ok fine, let's go with that. Time traveling wizards. They would certainly amass quite an army with the technology of any era available to them, right?

"Just three more months and I'll get to see my eggs again."

Rocket launchers, and explosives in the hands of mythical monsters would be an unstoppable force, like on page 177:

"She followed after him to see what appeared to be a giant tree in the hands of the gargoyles. They flew with it toward the shield, slamming the tree into the invisible wall like a battering ram against the door."

First off Ms. Kengregor, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what a battering ram is.

Also you'll note a complete lack of future weapons. So what do they bring back from the future?

Please consider this paragraph on page 53:

"Kerrigan slid his black gaze to the gathering where his demon knights danced with the fey. Some of them were already sprawling half naked in corners, uncaring of who watched them as they sought to sate their bodies. The loud dance music that played through the room came from CDs that Morgen had brought back from her journeys into the future - like many of the residents here, she loved the grace and style of the medieval, but preferred the conveniences and toys of future societies. And one of her penchants was for a style of early twenty-first-century music known as Dark Wave. Rather fitting, all things considered."

If you survived that paragraph, congrats. It perfectly encapsulates the tone of the entire book. Basically, everyone in the book is a magical, time traveling LARPer.

"Foam swords and jazz hands!"

Morgen, the book's antagonist, enjoys the music of INXS. This is stated several times.

The true face of evil.

So in summary, if you're a Dungeons & Dragons fetishist who is looking for wisecracking gargoyles wearing Star Trek costumes and a whole lot of F-bombs substituting for emotional dialogue, read this book.

As for me, I'm going to put it on my "Angry Shelf" of books I read when I want to get mad at something and throw a book across the room. The other two there right now are Chariots of the Gods and Dianetics.

But Don't Take My Word For It!

But seriously, take my word for it.

Peace out, lovelies.


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