Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: Hull Zero Three

It seems to me I usually review books and movies I like. I could do that right now, but I thought I'd take a crack at a negative review.

I'm not a huge fan of science fiction and I'm trying to work my way into it. I do like survival horror movies and thought a survival horror novel would be a good place to start. That's why I picked up Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear.

Our main character dreams of his generation ship landing in paradise and he disembarks with his girlfriend and everything is amazing. Then he's woken up by a little girl and discovers the Ship is broken (or 'Sick') and they are no where near where they are supposed to be. He has some amnesia and can't remember his name or what half the common phrases he says mean. The little girl tell him he's Teacher and he's supposed to teach the rest of them what's going on.

Oh, and this isn't the first Teacher. The first Teacher died and this one is a clone. Everyone is a clone, but the Ship is running out of clones and resources and each one it makes is a little broken or wrong in some way. How wrong? Well it's hard to tell when even your main character isn't sure if he could be described as human, but several other characters are described as explicitly not human.

My biggest issue with it was the pause near the end where it's revealed the people who've survived and found a planet are reading this record (well there goes any mystery as whether they survive) and comment how the last record is the most horrible — and then it's nothing, barely worse than anything else read or explained beforehand.

Between that and the strange meandering writing style I can't suggest this book to anyone. It was an interesting read but that was about it.

What is 'meh'

I'm in the mood to write a post and I'm not sure about what. The biggest thing I'm thinking right now it how The Wolverine was kind of meh.

So what is 'meh'? It's not good. If it was good I would say it was good. It wasn't bad, I would say it was bad. It's not even okay. Okay has some implication I liked it. My friend likes to show me things and then immediately ask me if I like it. How am I supposed to answer ten seconds after I see it? I rarely like things that often, on the other hand several of my favorite things started as being very meh to me. My last post was about realizing my favorite series from my childhood it so meh I can't suggest it to people.

So is meh a holding pattern while I come to a real decision? I almost want to say it's a case where there's nothing making me like it so I sort of default to not liking it. The one thing I can say about meh is when I think something is meh I'm still willing to read or see a sequel as if I was a blank canvas - it might even have a better chance because I have no expectations about it (which is the best way to enjoy something. If you think it's going to be awesome it will suck because it will never be as awesome as you imagine).

So, yeah. The Wolverine was meh. This post in kind of meh too.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Disappointing Realizations

Ever look at something you thought was awesome as a child and realize it sucked? It happens more often than we like. We see massive plot holes in old cartoons (okay, I saw some of them back when I was nine) and can't remember why we thought certain movies were funny.

I think it's worse when it comes to authors. I am picky about my reading materials, I spend more time deciding to read a book than I do reading it. back when I was in elementary school, unable to buy books and nervous about going into the adult section of the library (recall this was before the era of Harry Potter, Twilight, and Percy Jackson, when young adult novels were A Wrinkle in Time (which do to teachers suggesting it struck me as literature. Actually I just have an issue with any suggested reading that isn't from an automated source. You tell me I'm going to like it and I am predisposed to never read it) or Boxcar Children (how old are the characters? Who gives a fuck!). Yeah, there were Goosebumps but it's under the same terms of Boxcar children. If you couldn't reproduce, you weren't meant to be reading a book with over one hundred pages.

Yes there were kids who read some things a bit bigger (The Hobbit and/or LOTR) but that was still far and few in between. The horror of Harry Potter was it caused kids to read. It had a real story they could get into and enjoy. Before that we had to deal with other choices.

I got a book from my brother's room with my father's permission. It was far more enjoyable than any other book I had ever read, even though I realize now how much it sucked. After that my brother gave me the beginning of the series in it's massive trilogy pack format (they call them omnibuses now. I'd never seen novel omnibuses for anything other than classics until recently. They at least didn't refer to them that way even if they existed). It was the Dragonlance Chronicles.

Here's a fact about Dragonlance. Most people got into it when they were young and thought it was the best thing ever. If we try to suggest it to someone else it usually falls flat. Because there is a strange phrasing near the beginning of the book as they introduce a character for the first time (You know what I'm talking about). This was Margaret Weis' first novel and she had a partner, Tracy Hickman who took the role of editing her work. It shows.

Yet, back then this was the best thing ever. It was fantasy but not so much high fantasy shit I couldn't work out what was going on. Very few apostrophes, and other difficult to mentally pronounce names quickly disappear in later works. It was everything I wanted but not beyond my comprehension - something you rarely seen in fantasy fiction written by anyone.

I read and reread it a thousand times (this may not be an exaggeration) before I even realized how many sequels existed (I think I discovered Legends pretty quick. Summer Flame less quick, and then the 'Fifth Age'... eventually...). I can easily tell you the entire story from memory. Obviously I'd want to reread it when I grew up and enjoy it again.

You know how there is so much hidden meaning in Harry Potter? For every joke you get there's two you didn't (unless you're American then there are three, because apparently there are several language and cultural jokes we can't possibly understand). Those aren't there. There's one message and it's pretty obvious. The foreshadowing is too.

It's not at all based on The Lord of the Rings, yet there are Two Towers, one good, and one evil. The good knights defend their capital with a massive white tower in a mountain pass. At one point our heroes have to pass through the gates of the evil city which we discover was once the most holy temple of good. Constantly we are told how the items of good can be corrupted by evil. These sound familiar? Yes, they show up all the time but you can't use the argument that it came before LOTR, cause it didn't, it's based on a game which is in turn based on LOTR. I only mention because there are a number of people who are convinced it has nothing to do with LOTR, because nothing can be based off of anything.

It's not that it's based of another work, it's just not as good as the other work and many works which have come after. It was supposedly targeted to young adults, or what they though of as young adults at the time, which were in their twenties. Yet, it is written for teenagers but they still found it necessary a few years ago to make a youth friendly version (note: Tracy Hickman is very religious and the one novel Margaret's written without his assistance is one that crossed the line into 'risk-say') which is like adding training wheels to a tricycle.

I've struggled through very little of their other works for just this reason. My friend thought one of Margaret's books looked interesting at the library a month ago. I warned him how I couldn't read her work outside of DragonLance but he tried it anyway. He had to read the beginning of the series first and he was horrified she was a New York Times bestselling author. The second he found okay, but once again, not on par with someone who's sold that much and is that well known.

I just read Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman. He should have kept to editing. It barely gets the character across (or maybe I'm just not in touch with Batman comics) and the villains are not quite right. There are info dumps where I would have liked to have gotten the information firsthand. You realize how bad a book needs to be for me to finish and not like it? Really bad.

But I knew this coming in. As I said, I read the Dragonlance Chronicles a thousand times.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Protagonist or Antagonist?

I was reading a forum post on the NaNoWriMo forums about villainous motives and considered my current characters and their motives.

Note, I say 'characters', not 'villains' or 'antagonists' because for my upcoming story, the antagonist is a faceless apparition of evil. I think I liked the title they gave Ganon in Ocarina of Time: "Evil Incarnation of Darkness", too much. If the monster at the end of the tunnel is just evil, has no body, no emotions, but is a concept unto itself, it makes it easier to work with.

My characters on the other hand are half villainous themselves. They have fatal flaws that color their perception of the world. Not in a ridiculous fashion but they have anger issues, are controlling, are filled with self-doubt. They're working for money, for fame, for something they cannot tell the other characters about, because doing so would admit something about themselves they find embarrassing.

In the same way I create my villains. They have families and assets they want to protect. They want to live out their lives peacefully, even if no one else will let them. In certain situations they may be aligned with the values the heroes. People can't simply be evil for the sake of being evil. That's why so many people like the concept of fantasy races, they can be truly evil unlike a human, until you remember they have to love and reproduce like any other living creature.

My villain this year is my hero, depending on what side you're on. The eldritch abomination will attempt to foster friendship between him and people who disagree with his goal, the same people who are purposed entirely with preventing his goal from coming to fruition, but mortals have free will, something the abomination doesn't understand. The characters can make their own choice to help or hinder.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review: The Doomsday Vault

I bought myself a book for my birthday. I was in the store going back and forth trying to decide which I wanted. Then I saw this one and immediately purchased it. There was no thought to it or anything, I just bought it. I was going to like this book.

The Doomsday Vault by Steven Harper takes place in an alternate steampunk timeline where a zombie plague occasionally has the opposite effect and creates mad clockwork geniuses instead of the zombies. They still die soon after, but they have plenty of time to invent a new clockwork culture.

We follow the story of two possible new recruits for a secret branch of the British government which captures the geniuses (called clockworkers) and gives them the tools to make their inventions for use by the empire.

Our female protagonist, Alice, has the more complicated position. She's traditional nobility and doesn't want to ruin her family's name any more than it already has been. Joining the organization would do that, associating with the male protagonist would do that. Technically, if she thinks, she's doing it, but none of the clockworkers have invented telepathy yet, so she's safe.

Before the end she has to make a decision of which direction to go, even though she doesn't realize that not all the decisions are in her control.

I strongly suggest you read this if you have interest in the steampunk genre. It's fast paced and fun and the internal struggles don't drag on for too long (which they could have). Also giant mecha. One's shaped like a tree.