Monday, August 17, 2015

Possibilities For Future Snark

I barely have enough time to spork the things I'm currently doing, but I thought I'd list some of the craptastic wastes of wood pulp that I may snark in the future. Obviously Anita Blake and Terry Goodkind are going to be ongoing projects, but I'd like to add on some new stuff eventually. These are some likely candidates, but you're perfectly welcome to suggest stuff in the comments section.

And if you like a particular possible book as potential snark, just lemme know.

I'd like to add that I'm not committed to all these - they might appear as snarks, or they might not. And if you guys wanna snark any of these, go right ahead! Snark away!

Things I Might Snark

The Halo Trilogy by Alexandra Adornetto

I hate this trilogy. I hate it with the passion of a million supernovas.

Now, I'm going to post a rant on why exactly I loathe and detest angel-boffing fanfiction some other time, but anyone who has read my sporking of Love is Hell knows that I loathe it because angel-fantasy has all the flaws of Twilight, but has the added bonus of being offensive to my religious faith and that of many others.

But let's face it: I would hate this trilogy even if it weren't about a major component of three major world religions plus a lot of smaller ones. I would hate it even if it was about something less-believed in like… say, Valkyries. The main character is a whiny milksop Sue, the other angels are unlikable douches or boring Pollyannas, the antagonists are horribly silly and lame, and it tries to convince us that the driving forces of the universe are trying their damndest to make sure that the protagonist has sex with her boring-ass boyfriend.

So yes, even if I was a Buddhist, Hindu or atheist I would hate this book. So the fact that it buttrapes Christian beliefs in the name of Sue romance… is just a side-bonus.

Isabel Allende's fantasy books

I know it's considered sacrilege to say mean things about bestselling Latin-American magical-realism (ie fantasy with a snob-friendly name) authors, no matter how obnoxious they can be. Well, I'm going to.

First, backstory. Basically in the early 2000s with Pottermania, it finally dawned on the publishing industry that good literature knows no age groupings, and that if kids' books are good enough then adults will read them too, and therefore publishers will make mucho bucks of off both adults AND kids. Yeah, it took them THAT LONG to figure that. So suddenly writers who had previously specialized only in adult fare were coming out with books for kids.

These basically came in three groups:

  • Authors who didn't write new books, and whose publishers just split their preexisting books in half and sold them for kids (Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan). I don't know if the authors agreed to this, or whether the publishers did this on their own, but the point is that this was trying to cash in.
  • Authors like Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker, who managed to adapt their unique styles to a younger audience while still recognizing that kids can handle deep themes and even horror. In fact, Gaiman has been equally successful among adults AND children, in that he's even won a Newbury Award!
  • Authors like Isabel Allende, who apparently figures that kids are stupid, need indoctrination and don't care about things like plot, characterization and foreshadowing.

I have not read Allende's other books, so I don't know how good or bad they are, but this trilogy is SHIT. Big steaming piles of SHIT. It's preachy, obnoxious, vomits up every cliche about Noble Spiritual Savages and Evil Western White People, never develops the characters beyond their defining characteristics, and has a horrible selfish little shit for a "hero." And Allende isn't even TRYING to write a decent book, because she solves every problem with vague undefined nature magic, while assuring us that Western civilization is the devil. IT'S FUCKING ANNOYING.

It's also boring.

Her Father's Daughter by Gene Stratton-Porter

This would be something of a deviation for me, because I actually like this author's other works such as Girl of the Limberlost (which is a lovely book, and should be checked out pronto - don't worry, it's in the public domain so you can find it easily). Also, it is not SF/F.

It's a 1920s-era dramatic novel about a young Mary Sue in a sort of Cinderella situation: her dad is dead, and all the money is taken by her bratty stepsister. For some reason, the Sue puts up with this for several years, and pluckily starts generating her OWN money by writing articles on wildlife and how to live off the land. And there are handsome men who are completely attracted to the heroine, an architecture competition, and an evil scam artist.

Well, this sounds hokey (especially since the Sue is so utterly completely Suey), but not that bad. So what makes this bad enough to earn my snarkage?

This novel is REALLY racist. And I don't mean the kind of racism like in the early Tintin comics, where the author just didn't do the research and used the most cliche racial stereotypes in existence. This is the kind of racism that is FREAKING SCARY, because there's so much hate, paranoia and vitriol in it. There's a whole subplot about the evil Japanese people creeping into the good ol' lily-white USA (apparently the black people and Indians are ALSO interlopers) and acing all the school tests (and since Porter couldn't bring herself to depict them as actually being better at anything than white Americans, it's all a big con).

I won't explain in detail here, but between the really intense racism, the class snobbery and the Mary Sue plot, it's bad enough to deserve my TLC. So sometime I'll give it my best.

The World of Eldaterra: The Dragon Conspiracy by P.R. Moredun

I wish I could give a detailed, insightful reason why this book is terrible. But I can't. It's just this schizoid insane mess that can't decide if it wants to be a terrible children's book, a terrible conspiracy story, and a terrible high fantasy with all the usual trappings of high fantasy.

It. Just. Sucks. And sooner or later, I will give it the flaying it deserves.

ANYTHING by G.P. Taylor

This guy's name might sound vaguely familiar. That's because during the height of Pottermania, G.P. Taylor (who is an Anglican vicar over in merrie olde Englande) published a series that was marketed as a Christian alternative to Harry Potter and books/TV like that. He even boasted that his series had a villain eviller and scarier than Voldemort… which is probably not something you want to boast about unless you can back it up.

Here's the problem: in order to be an "alternative" to something, you have to equal or superior quality to it. And these books SUCKED.

Yeah, the hamhanded Christian messages are a major chunk of the problem, especially since they have stuff like tarot and drowning angels. But the biggest problem is…. Taylor either can't write, or he hadn't learned yet. Also, there's a weird-ass drug message in the fourth book, where one of the characters is apparently given liquefied shrooms, goes insane and then dies. From ONE high. Weird. I'm all for discouraging kids from taking drugs, but LYING to them is not the way.

So yeah, the entire series is a big clusterfuck of bastardized British folklore, weird Christianity and obscenely 2-D characters.

The Elsie Dinsmore Series

Ho-lee fuck. If you've read this book - or any of the books in its endless series - you know exactly what I mean. This series is like if you took Louisa May Alcott's best-known books, pumped them full of artificial sweetener, took out all the interesting characters and sense of humor, added some really disturbing undertones, and then slapped a big ol' cross on the front so people would assume it was wholesome.

It's not. I haven't read the whole shittastic series, but I have read some. It was horrible.

So I'll just summarize the first book: it's about a prissy, dim, prudish, incredibly goody-good little girl named Elsie whose twentysomething dad has been gone for her entire life. When he gets back, her dad decides to treat her like shit and punish her at the drop of a hat, to the point where the prick gets downright abusive. When HE isn't torturing Elsie - usually because she's so religious - she's torturing herself for the slightest moral failings, some of which are purely imaginary. Such as, oh, say, resenting her dad for being an abusive shit. And if she can't think of any, she comes up with some other thing to melodramatically torture herself over.

It's also preachy as fuck. Yes, this is another Christian series (I swear I'm not picking on them), and as the heroine Elsie is insufferably preachy and CONSTANTLY obsessed with the Bible and God. There's a fine line between being devout and being obsessive, and Elsie tends to be on the wrong side.

It's also sentimental, racist and has a delightful anti-Catholic streak. It also belongs to the horribly puritanical brand of Christianity where reading a newspaper is wrong, having any kind of fun on Sunday is wrong, and talking about ANYTHING EXCEPT JESUS is wrong. The best commentary I've seen on this series is here, where the author points out that the Elsie Dinsmore series is anti-intellectual, stagnant, joyless, doesn't recognize the important issues in life, and that great authors such as CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien would never have been allowed in Elsie Dinsmore's house.

Oh, and the dad has a best buddy who is about the same age as him. He becomes Elsie's friend.

And later marries her.

Yeah, that's some Twilight shit right there. I am not making this up: the dude hangs around her as a little girl and then marries her once she's legal. And no, nobody thinks this is weird or creepy at all. Except the reader.

Modelland by Tyra Banks

Two words: Tyra Banks. Two more words: Absolute shit.

Okay, for the record, I find Tyra Banks far less hateable than most professional models. Not only does her face move, but she has all these crazed weird bizarre expressions and movements. She's just funny, and I find that strangely endearing. So I'm not picking on her.

But she's a shit writer. Even if this was ghostwritten, the input she had is shit. It gave me a ragegasm with how bad it was. The transparent Mary Sue, the ridiculous premise, the cutesy names… ugh.

I Am Number Four by James Frey

I'm using the movie poster instead of the book cover because, well, it's less boring.

Basically this introduces the obnoxiousness of Twilighty romance to science fiction, along with a bunch of aliens with Sue powers. Ugh.

Witch and Wizard by James Patterson… or somebody who works for him

Even if you don't read his books, you're probably familiar with James Patterson at least in name. He's a bestselling thriller writer who's written the Alex Cross and Women's Murder Club novels.

Unfortunately, he also brought us Maximum Ride, Daniel X…. and the Witch and Wizard series. Yes, he's another one of those authors who looked at the Potter and Twishite frenzies and decided there was mucho monies to be made from the kiddies AND adults. So he apparently decided to combine Harry Potter and the hot new dystopian sci-fi novel that had just come out, had Gabrielle Charbonnet scribble it down, and voila! Instant shit.

The story follows Whit and Wisty (ugh), two kids growing up in a repressive totalitarian regime headed by the evilly bald One Who Is One (who is like Voldemort, but campier and less scary). One day the kids are separated from their parents and jailed because they are allegedly a witch and wizard… which basically means that they have unlimited Sue powers and can do anything. So they escape and hook up with an underground resistence made up entirely of kids (yeah, that's likely), and there is much drama and angst.

So yeah, it's like the evil bastard love child of Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

The Quick or the Dead? by Amelie Rives

Just a note: I am not snarking the book pictured above. That is a nonfiction book about Rives and her first husband, who was a member of the Astor family and was wrongly institutionalized in a money grab (even though Rives seems more bipolar than he was). The book is absolutely brilliant, and I heartily recommend it. I just used the picture for two reasons:

  1. A shameless plug of a great book
  2. Because this book is really old, and it doesn't really have a decent cover anywhere.

The quick or the dead? (no, I'm not sure why the question mark) was a very scandalous book when it first came out, because it depicted a woman having… GASP!… desire for a man. Yeah, it sounds silly now, but this was shocking to Gilded Age America, so of course it sold a buttload of books and made Amelie Rives a megabestseller. It also gave her an image as a sort of decadent, sensual sexpot, which she ran with all the way.

She was sort of like a less repressed Stephenie Meyer of her time. And given that Smeyer lives in the 21st century and Rives lived in the 19th… that's pretty sad. For Smeyer.

This book is actually an anomaly on the list. Most of these books evoke my disgust or hate in some way, but this book just… amuses me. If I had read it when it first came out, I probably would have hated it as much as I hate Twilight, but now it's just sort of a hilariously overwrought Gilded Age relic, with lots of swooning and weird side-stories.

Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls Book 1 by Victoria Foyt

You may have heard of this self-published little gem… and by "gem," I mean turd. I don't usually address self-published books, but this one is a bit different for two reasons.

  1. This author was published previously by a real, legitimate major publishing house. I don't know if she submitted this book to them, but if she did, I think "Do not want" is not a strong enough term.
  2. This book is racist. Like, all the black people are evil except a single dude who also happens to be PART ANIMAL. And the heroine is a slender white blonde who is discriminated against by all those mean black people.

Yes, we are in the twenty-first century and a book this racist actually was released. No joke. And guess what! Not only does it have even MORE racism than I've described, but the heroine is such a repulsive little brat that she makes Bella Swan look like Mother Teresa. And not only is she totally useless, but she actually causes ALL THE PROBLEMS in the entire story, because she was stupid enough to leak classified info to a hot spy.

The only problem with snarking this book is that most of it might be all RAARRRRGGHH ARRRGGHHH HATE THIS BOOK HATE EDEN RACIST SHIT AAAAARRRGGGHHHH!

The Books of Robert Newcomb

I think fantasy fans have become kind of immune to disappointment. Every now and then, an author comes out who is compared to Tolkien, and they inevitably fail to even come close. It's sort of code for "It takes place in a medieval world, so it totally counts as being like Tolkien."

But… holy shit, Robert Newcomb was SO BAD he broke through that barrier of disappointment-induced ennui, and gave fantasy readers everywhere ragegasms. Not only was his debut novel The Fifth Sorceress not nearly as good as Tolkien, it was SHIT. It was full of blatant sexism, an obsession with rape, orgasm water (?!), a grandfatherly mentor who SADLY WILL NOT JUST DIE, and shameless ripping off of Star Wars.

In fact, this series was SO BAD that unlike a certain other author, it got cancelled. He was planning three trilogies, but only two of them got published.

I was initially reluctant to snark this because somebody else did a very nice snark of it already, but I might do it anyway because… well, a lot of the things I've snarked have been done elsewhere by other people.

Blackmantle by Patricia Kennealy

Yes, Kennealy-Morrison again. I swear I'm not picking on her - I actually have a weird kind of affection for her, because I find her batshittery just SO entertaining and strange. I can almost understand why people start becoming die-hard fans of these clearly insane people.

I am not going to be snarking her other fiction books because, as far as I can tell, her first two trilogies are actually pretty good. She had original characters, decent storylines, and she managed to write in the neopagan stuff without being too in-your-face about it. It wasn't the stuff of legend, but it was at least worth a look.

Then… she went insane.

She published Strange Days right in the middle of her second trilogy, and after that her books took a sharp nosedive. I'm not going to be snarking The Deer's Cry because the problems can basically be summed up as "Kennealy hates Christians." She has a particular loathing for the popular Saint Patrick, because he dared to convert the Irish to Christianity, despite there being no reliable recorded accounts of him actually doing anything wrong. Also, I don't feel like dealing with dozens of angry e-mails from neopagan readers, okay?

No, the only novel I plan to snark is Blackmantle. The plot is basically Kennealy Morrison's life story, but filtered through a Mary Sue lens where she becomes queen of a star empire, takes part in ethnic cleansing, finds out she's part fairy and... shit like that. That would be bad enough, but a good chunk of the book is devoted to Kennealy-Morrison taking revenge on the avatars of all the people she hates in real life. And we get wwaaaayyy too many details, like how she skins some dude and makes his skin into a SADDLE, or how she de-bones a man alive. Sick, sick stuff.

And is Jim Morrison in this? HELL TO THE YEAH. The entire story is basically an excuse to not only have Kennealy be a Sue heroine, but also to get revenge on everybody she thinks wronged Morrison and herself (including murdering Pamela Courson's avatar) AND BRING HIM BACK FROM THE DEAD. No kiddin'!

So yeah, while the writing is only moderately bad, the story is so batshit that I might have to snark it...

Oh, and in recent years Kennealy has started writing again after a long hiatus, but I probably won't be snarking them either. There's a simple reason for this: they're self-published, so I can't get them at the library, and they cost more than most hardback books.

Anything by Robert Stanek

Robert Stanek has become kind of notorious in the fantasy lit community, for some sketchy business and promotional practices. Note the above vagueness of phrases like "readers all over the world" ("see, we have one in South Korea, and one in Australia, and…") or "Voted #1 by readers" (how many? And how many DIDN'T vote it #1?).

Not to mention sockpuppet reviews. Lots. And. Lots of them. Edit: For some reason they've all been deleted… EVERY SINGLE ONE.

In fact, he had so many sockpuppet reviews that he actually managed to make it pretty high on amazon's sales lists… only to fall like a stone when people discovered that his books SUCK. They're boring, incoherent slop with characters who are nondescript at best, horrible brats at worst. And by the end of the first book, I literally had no idea what the hell was going on. I mean, who is the villain? Why is the conflict going on? WHY SHOULD I BE CHEERING FOR THE "HEROES"?

To add insult to injury, these self-published turds have gotten rereleased in different editions, such as splitting the first book in half for teen readers, but it's not made clear to the potential readers.

The Last Days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Believe it or not, Snoopy did not invent the phrase "It was a dark and stormy night."

That was due to this guy: Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Like Amelie Rives, he was proof positive that literature doesn't become more or less shitty - we just tend to forget about the really crappy stuff after awhile.

And even though he was wildly successful in his time, he was BAD. A friend of mine recommended that I read The Last Days of Pompeii, a staggeringly dull and florid novel that embodies everything bad about 19th-century literature. Without giving away too many spoilers, it DRIPS Victorian sanitization of ancient Rome - which is pretty hard to do, given that the Romans had a long, proud history of blood, sex and conquest.

And this dude is incapable of getting to the point. He goes off on strange tangents about nothing at all!

He inspired a wonderful fiction contest, though.

The Vampeen Books by Christin Lovell

Yes, I usually avoid self-published fiction, because those people are working hard to put out their stories… and they don't have any editors to guide them… and there's SOOOOO much crap out there.

But Diary of a Vampeen is something special. I am giving this little turd my attention because… VAMPEEN. That is an actual word in the actual book! It's in the TITLE! And all I think when I look at it is, "Isn't that what Bella Swan wants from Edward, his vampeen?"

Any author who actually writes a story with "vampeen" in it deserves to be snarked. And lest you think that "vampeen" actually means a vamp peen and that this is some kind of porn… it's not. Apparently the author couldn't be bothered to google it, and thus didn't find out that there is already a perfectly good name for vampire/human hybrids: dhampir. Also, "dhampir" does not sound like genitalia. But hey, if Smeyer didn't use the word, then clearly it doesn't exist.

And no, I would not snark this if the word "vampeen" was the only problem. It isn't. This novel reads like a self-insert Twilight fanfic: the heroine has an oh-so-perfect life with an improbably gorgeous boyfriend and an insufferable "sassy" best friend, except (oh horrors!) she's chubby. Then this hot brooding dude who DOESN'T EVEN HIDE THAT HE'S A VAMPIRE shows up… and for fuck's sake, his name is even Kellan. That's not even subtle.

Then her… ugh, vampeen heritage causes all her zits and extra weight to vanish, and she becomes Suetifully beautiful… and that's only the beginning of the pain.

The Adept Series by Katherine Kurtz

This is a series I'm kind of on the fence about. Kurtz isn't even nearly as bad as the other authors on this page, but this series… isn't her best.

It's a series about the resolutely perfect Sir Adam and his similarly perfect boyish sidekick Peregrine, who are a sort of occult Batman and Robin… which sounds much more interesting than it is. Instead we get a lot of nattering about reincarnation, cars, the details of Adam's home, parties, Anglicized "what ho! Cheerio, pip pip!" nobility, Freemason crap and lots of "mysteries" magic.

It's also got an uncomfortable class message, where the "right sort" of people are secretly in charge to protect the sheeplike lower classes from the Forces of Generic Evil. Uh… not cool, man.

Selected Works by Anne Rice

I'm not going to snark all of her works. For instance, her first three books are actually rather good, and the infamousMemnoch the Devil wouldn't make for a funny snark because I'd just be facepalming and yelling theological stuff all the time. And some of her books… aren't horrible, but they're not very good.

No, I'd focus on the period where Anne Rice went batshit insane and wrote some truly baffling crap, starting with the bizarre decision to merge her Vampire Chronicle and Mayfair Witch series. It all climaxed in a truly awful trilogy of novels where Lestat apparently had a midlife crisis, and we're introduced to a gaggle of uninteresting characters whom we really don't give a shit about.

And… there's Violin. Holy shit, is there Violin. It's like tripping acid in a haunted house ride, but instead of ghouls and skeletons, you're constantly assaulted by Anne Rice's personal issues.

Varney the Vampyre or the Feast of Blood, by… somebody

Yes, another 19th-century novel that is somehow charming in its excruciating badness.

In this case, it was written by a popular writer of penny dreadfuls (whose identity is still debated). And as the title might indicate, it's a novel about a vampire. His name is Varney. He actually predates Dracula by almost half a century, and (kiss Varney's ass, Anne Rice!) he's the first angsty vampire who hates being a monster, wahh wahh, etc etc.

But don't get me wrong: this book may be groundbreaking (having pioneered the fainting-damsel-being-attacked-by-vampire-in-her-bedroom trope)...

But it's bad. Really, really florid the way only a bad 19th-century novel can be, hideously repetitive, and at times the author seems to forget what story he's actually writing and goes off on weird tangent subplots.

The Light Series by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The presence of THE BOOK THAT MAKES ME HULK MAD has given Marion Zimmer Bradley the sheen of literary respectability. People think of THAT BOOK THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED, and they think of a feminist author who wrote one of the top-selling Arthurian novels, blahblahblah. She also had a lot of success with the Darkover sci-fi series, which has its own thick bands of stupid.

Well… if you look at her body of work, she was kind of a pulpy trashy author, and most of what she churned out was pretty crappy. One of my favorite examples is the Light series, four books of occult fantasy which is… well, crappy. We've got magical rituals right out of a 1980s B-movie, psychic powers, and characters with names like Winter Musgrave and Truth Jourdemayne.

And yes, it's magnificently bad. And I fully intend to rip MZB a bit ol' new one.

Star Trek

When I was a kid, I read a lot of books. I also watched a lot of Star Trek. And since my parents were reluctant to move past dial-up and Google hadn't been invented yet, most of my needs for fan fiction were met by the official-but-not-canon-really books my mother bought and collected.

Well, I went back and read some of them recently... and holy crap, are some of them BAAAADDDD. There are some really good ones like Demons and its sequel Possession, How Much For Just The Planet and Ragnarok. I can still read and enjoy these books to this day - and Spock's World will always have place in my heart because it is just that good. But... holy shit, there are some real stinkers in here. The Laertian Gamble (insane - it has Dax flapping around on a fucking ORNITHOPTER and reality-warping math!), Incident at Arbuk (schizoid weird mess), Violations (boring, stupid, poorly-written, boring, non-canonical, boring, tedious, boring, repetitive), and Nightshade (authored by a certain Laurell K. Hamilton and full of a clunky environmental message).

And yes, the above The Murdered Sun, a book that both horrifies and fascinates me. Purple of prose, silly of concept, really stupid of execution and pushes the whole Magical Native American concept to the breaking point.

Oh, and why am I not doing this for Star Wars, just Star Trek? Well, that's because I HATE THE EXPANDED UNIVERSE, especially how so many people regard it as canonical and try to insert their own hackneyed characters into it. I read some of the books, but came to despise them over time, so no snarking.

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