Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Books and more books

Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

It's time to catch things up on my recent readings. And there are many. We start today with "Old Man's War," AKA 'Some Weird Sci Fi Book I Came Across Somewhere.' It's an interesting premise: in the future, humanity has figured out how to download people's consciousness into cloned bodies. They clone the bodies from your own cells, so it's your body when you were in your prime. And then they modify your body so you have a computer in your brain and are super muscle-y and you have green skin (something about photosynthesis and how it gives you more energy). And then they download your consciousness into this new body, throw your old body away, and then make you fight as a soldier in wars across the galaxy against random aliens.

I guess there was a little more to it than that - the aliens apparently attack human colonies throughout space, so there was some kind of internal logic going on. Old people get a 2nd chance at being young again and so they're super into it - instead of getting sick and very old and dying, they get to go out with a blast as young hot green people who have semi-super powers. Honestly, I'd be halfway tempted to sign up for such a program today, even if it meant being green, if only to get my hair back.

I actually really thought this book was pretty good. The main old guy character was well written and had some strong narration, including some decent humor here and there. And it was just a fun goofy premise and an easy read. I give it two green thumbs up.

Asylum/Sanctum, by Madeleine Roux

This book and its sequel were OK. They're about a group of teens that go to a summer school at a private school that used to be a psych hospital. When they were there, they experience many strange things and start to hallucinate and have weird dreams. The books sorta have a fun vibe about them, even if the details don't work out to be all that memorable. There's a semi-Harry Potterishness feel about 2 teenage guys and a teenage girl teaming up to take on a dark mystery. But the parallels end there - the author doesn't do much with the premise.

The books are very picture-heavy. The first one, Asylum, has many pictures in it from real life broken down asylums that had long since been abandoned. So it was kind of a "Mrs. Peregrine" rip-off. And the 2nd one just had cheesy staged fake old timey circus pictures.

The characters are not well-written. The lead guy is awful. He's basically Thomas from the Maze Runner - all questions, all passive, no action. The plot happens to him, he doesn't drive the plot. Having a passive protagonist is a great way to make your story fizzle out quickly. Plus, the dialogue isn't very entertaining. The characters all have personalities, but they happen to all be boring. Can't any of these people be interesting or funny or unusual in some way?

Other complaints: Massive plot holes in both books, especially the 2nd. Many unresolved things. Which maybe she's saving for a 3rd book, but I don't really buy that. If she planned on the plot holes, why not call attention to them and have characters wonder about them? Why does the main character keep having dreams from the psych hospital warden's point of view? He died decades ago! No answer - the answer is just 'try not to think too hard about that and enjoy people behaving in ways that humans don't actually behave in.'

Also, there's too much casual profanity in the books (nothing about PG13, but much of it) and the author takes a needless snarky partisan swipe at Republicans for no reason than to try to assert that she's superior somehow. Which is technically not possible for a girl with a pixie cut, which should be illegal. Girls, I know you like the ease of managing a pixie hair cut. But if guys were attracted to pixie hair cuts, we'd just be attracted to guys and be done with it.

Much more to come! I have read...a lot of things. Like, 9 books or so.

1 comment:

Hillary said...

I read Asylum last year and didn't care for it. Granted, it was young adult fiction, but it felt especially juvenile.