Sunday, June 10, 2012

Inferior Books

"Life is to short for reading inferior books." - James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce

I completely agree with this quote. Particularly because I've read some bad books in my time. That is, books that I feel violated the first of Kurt Vonnegut's eight rules of writing a short story: "Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted." I am no critic. I'm not even saying these books are bad, or not insightful in some way. But the following are some books I read that I didn't like, for one reason or another, and would not recommend (sorry in advance if you like any of them):

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. Read this some time ago and still upset. It deals with a computer technician with a robo-arm and a self-aware computer initiating a revolution on the Moon (against the rule of the Earth gov't). I originally read it because of a story I was writing. I don't even remember most of the plot. It wasn't memorable for me. The main problem I had was that it was quite boring. The first third was good, but then it became very political, very slow, very boring. Whenever this happens with something I read, I have two choices: stop or read faster. I did finish it. But that's why I'm still a little upset.

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I did write a review of this book. Overall, it was good. But not memorable, and I had to skim through some boring patches. Only in the last few pages (perhaps the last tenth) does the plot really pick up. But by then I don't care. I would only recommend this book to diehard Vonnegut fans (such as myself).

The Island of Dr. Moreau by HG Wells. Very intelligently written. Wells is (IMHO) the best Victorian SF writer. And there are interesting parts in this book. Unfortunately, I found most of it quite boring. The chapters are too long given how little actually happens. It takes way too long for Prendick to get on that damn island (why not start with him on the island?) and then too long for him to find out the truth of the vivisections, and then too long to get off the island. If the tale were to have been condensed, it would've been really good.

From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne. First let me say that I enjoyed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But, in addition to the first, this novel also violates Vonnugut's fifth rule: start as close to the end as possible. The novel actually ends before the exciting thing happens, which is the explorers landing on the Moon. I kept waiting for, expecting this to happen. It didn't. I was pissed. The whole book is about the preparation for the launch and the mechanics of the the rocket. If you like large sections of info dumps without much action, you'll love this.


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