Sunday, January 4, 2015

Grab Yer Torch and Pitchfork!

I rarely enjoy "critically-acclaimed" films, unless those films involve Humphrey Bogart or Cary Grant.  Otherwise, what many find "inspiring" I find saccharine; what many deem "thoughtful" I call insipid.

In a few months, it will have been one year since I started blogging my book reviews in earnest.  It's really just a cathartic release for me.  I have extremely strong emotional reactions to books, and it's good to write them down.  I type faster than I write longhand, hence the blog and not a journal.  When I started blogging, there were certain reviewers and bloggers who I looked up to more than I should have.  I'm not saying I don't still enjoy their reviews, find them helpful, or like reading their blogs--I do.  It's just that I have a bit more perspective now.  If the collective blogging community absolutely flipped their collective lid for a book, and I didn't like it, I thought that maybe there was something wrong with me.  And then I realized: why should I care what these other people think about what I think about a book?  I certainly enjoy having critical discussions about books and so forth, but just because I didn't love the book du jour and seemingly everyone else did doesn't make me stupid, or tasteless, or dense.  It just makes me my own person.

In any sort of writing, you have to find your voice.  I don't think I've found mine yet, and that's okay.  However, over the course of writing loads of book reviews, I've started to isolate my reading preferences and I've become braver in speaking out against things I find offensive or ignorant.

Last year, Red Rising by Pierce Brown was burning through the book community.  Everyone was doing the book review equivalent of Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch.  That's how crazy everyone was--and still is--for this book.  I actually started it twice, because the first time, it just didn't grab me.  Then I got sucked into it, and finished it.  I considered giving it a Goodreads 2 star rating--which means "it was okay."  And then I had a mild identity crisis and talked myself into giving it a 4 star rating--which means "I really liked it."  I'm not going to retroactively downvote the book.  I realize now that I pressured myself into rating it higher than I really felt about it.  All of these other reviewers were practically losing all bowel functions and I was sitting on my couch with the book saying, "Ehh ... it was pretty good?"

Don't get me wrong: Red Rising is a perfectly fine book.  I personally did not find it Earth-shattering.  Or Mars-shattering or whatever.  It's touted as "genre-defying," and therein lies the problem.  It's not sci-fi enough; it's not dystopian enough, it's not political thriller enough.

Starting Golden Son, I don't know what I was hoping. Maybe that I would care more about the characters. Maybe that it would become this epic space opera marginally involving revolution. Instead, I got, "Hey, we skipped two years, which were pretty important, but neener-neener-neener, and now begins the inevitable fall from grace because it's book two." Redeem yourself and your cause in book three, and boom, done, finito.  

I am bitter, yes. But I refuse to buy into the cult of this book. I find it ... disconcerting just how rabidly enthusiastic so many reviews are. I mean, you'd think Jesus/Mohammed/Buddha/Your-Holy-Person-Of-Choice just announced that they'd written it.  I mean, there are crying gifs and screaming gifs and flailing gifs and people saying that this is "everything" and quoting it and making fan art and whoa nelly.  Pierce Brown is very, very good at writing quotable lines that sound excessively profound.  He'd be a good minister of propaganda.  And readers buy into that propaganda.  They swallow it hook, line, and sinker, because it sounds good.  It's the classic story of the repressed rising up against the 1%, but on Mars.  

I made it 12% of the way in and recognized about 2 characters. Everyone else was new but we are expected to just *get it* and go with the story. I really couldn't stomach an entire book of political intrigues punctuated by more bloody battles. I'm going to go wallow in the pit of despair that is Jude the Obscure just to match my mood.


All right, now bring it.  I'm ready.



Bottom line: if you loved the first one, you'll probably love this one. And vice versa.

P.S. I read the ending and I really wouldn't categorize it as a "cliffhanger" or you know, "all the things." Shock value is not the same as a cliffhanger.

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