Showing posts with label no-action misadventure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label no-action misadventure. Show all posts

Friday, July 21, 2017

Quantum by Dean De Servienti

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

The first problem I encountered with this was that it's the first of a trilogy, which means it's really not a novel, but a prologue. The funny thing about that was that there is an author's note, an introduction, AND a prologue in this volume. Now that is serious and hilarious overkill. I do not read introductions, prefaces, prologues, author's notes, or any of that stuff. If you want me to read it, put it in the main text. Anything else is as antique as it is pretentious.

Despite this being a trilogy overture, I decided to take a chance on it anyway because it sounded interesting, but in keeping with its tripartite roots, it moved too slowly for me and didn't offer me much reward no matter how much I let slide. This is why I so rarely find series of any value. The first volume was boring - at least the fifty percent of it that I read - and it should not have been. I can't see myself being remotely interested in reading three volumes if they're anything like the portion I read of this one.

The second problem is that there are far too many characters introduced far too quickly. All this means is that we never get to know a single one of them in any depth, and so we have no one with whom to identify or for whom to root. This is another problem for me. I am not a fan of novels which jump around like this, especially when it's after as little as a single paragraph as often happens here. It moves so rapidly from one person to another, and one locale to another that it's likely to induce whiplash in many readers! It also pretentiously announces each paragraph with a dateline, like this is somehow crucial information. It's not, so why the pretension? Who reads datelines anyway?

This is translated from the Italian (as far as I know), so I readily admit something may have been lost in translation, but I doubt so much could have been lost that a brilliant novel in the native language would have been rendered so uninteresting in English. What bugged me most about this though, is that it was set in the USA. Italy has so much to offer - why betray that and set your novel in the US? Was it to avariciously pander to an insular US audience which evidently can't stand to read a novel unless it's native? And I don't mean Native American! I felt it would have been more interesting had it been set elsewhere, and Italy would have been a fine place to set this.

The most amusing thing was that Kindle's crappy app on my phone, which is the medium I read most of this in (and the formatting was, for once, fine) told me on page one that there were six minutes left in the book! Right, Amazon! Seriously, you still need to do some work on your crappy Kindle app. You're pulling down enough profit from your massive global conglomerate, so I know it's not that you can't afford to hire top line programmers; is it just that you're too cheap to hire them? Or are you purposefully trying to force people to buy a Kindle device?

The story opened amusingly: "Rome was beautiful in spite of the annoying wind that had been buffeting the city for the past couple of days." How might wind make it unattractive? Was Rome farting?! I liked Rome when I visited, but felt it was rather dirty - more-so than London is typically asserted to be, but that was a while ago. I don't know what it's like now, but I promise you the wind cannot make it ugly, so this struck me as a truly odd way of expressing a sentiment. Another translation problem? I can't say.

There were other such issues. One of them was that the artifact they found was six inches in diameter, yet it's referred to as a cane and a walking stick?! Again, this might have been a problem with translation, but with that repetition, it didn't seem so. I think it's funny that the artifact is described as sparkling, yet one guy assumes it's made from gold. Again, a problem with the translation? I don't know.

The truly bizarre thing is that I read, "Whatever metal it's made of isn't known to us." I'm sorry, but this is bullshit. We know all the metals in the universe. They're in the periodic table, and scientists can reliably project what others may be found. There are almost none beyond Uranium that are remotely stable. They can be created in the lab, but are so loosely wrapped that they exist for only minuscule fractions of a second, so this 'unknown metal' which often appears in sci-fi, is nonsensical.

The author would have made more sense and impressed me more if he'd talked about an unknown alloy instead of an unknown metal. I would have been more impressed still if he'd gone for one of the unstable metals and reported that it had somehow been rendered stable in this artifact (but then it might still have been radioactive), or if he had gone with one of the projected stable metals which are way off the end of the current periodic table. There's supposed to be one somewhere in the vicinity of Unbinilium. It hasn't been found yet and may not exist, but something like that would have been sweet to read about instead of this amateurish 'unknown metal'.

The story itself made no sense. The idea is that medical volunteers in the Sudan find a metallic cylinder, which was evidently embedded in rocks a quarter billion years old. Instead of asking permission from the powers-that-be in the country, they simply assert white man's privilege and steal the thing, transporting it to the west like the Sudanese have no business with it at all, and no say in the matter. They're black and African so why would any white scientists care at all? That can and has happened, but the fact that there isn't one single voice of dissension recording how utterly wrong that is bothered me intensely, and spoiled this right from the beginning.

The next absurdity is that the three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) cease all disputes and come together as one, Israel sending the Mossad after this object. why? There is no reason whatsoever given for this intense religious interest, and for why it is only those three, like there are no other important religions on the planet! Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, Falun Gong, and Sikhism are all larger than Judaism, so this seemed like an utterly arbitrary choice.

Anyway, all of the scientists contact their families and tell them not to try to contact them (!), and then they disappear. They're accompanied by and protected by a guy named Yoshi, who has a really interesting and overly intimate (but not sexual) relationship with his sister. Those two intrigued me more than anything else in this story, though they 'skeeved out' at least one reviewer I read, but they were switched-out with other characters almost interchangeably, so we never even got to learn why those two were like they were, although this may have been revealed in the second half of this first volume which I did not read. Life is too short!

So overall, based on the half of the volume I read, I cannot recommend this. It's too dissipated: all over the place and completely unrealistic, and it offered nothing to hold my interest.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Zero Day by Jan Gangsei

Rating: WARTY!

Not to be confused with any of the Zero Day's from Bobby Adair, David Baldacci, Mark Russinovich, or A Meredith Walters, all of which are series, this uninventively-named book one of yet another unwelcome YA series was a waste of my time. That said, I'd listen to a different book - by a different author - which is read by the same audiobook reader, because Andi Arndt actually did a decent job. It's a pity she didn't have better material to work with.

I realized how much of a complete retread of every other YA s0-called "thriller" it was as soon as I read the description of the main character's love interest: he has rippling muscles, soft curls in his nape, and gold flecks in his eyes. I had to apologize the local library for barfing all over the audiobook. Why are there so lamentably few YA writers with the intelligence and inventiveness to go off the beaten track instead of beating us over the head with the same worn-out track every other YA writer has worn down into blandness?

Adele Webster was kidnapped at the age of eight, right out of the house where the governor, her father, was meeting with his chief of staff, and no one seems to think this is an inside job? Now, eight years later, she comes back as the daughter of a president.

The obvious question is why now, when the president is dealing with home-grown terrorism in the form of a group of potentially violent hackers calling themselves Cerberus, which everyone pronounces Sir Berrus. The original Greek is Kerberos, and it struck me that hackers of this sophistication would have been much more likely to have adopted the original name rather than the modern one. I'm guessing the author has no idea of the original Greek, mainly because she seems to have so little idea of anything else.

Addie, as she's consistently known, is accepted into the president's inner domain unbelievably quickly. She gives the Secret service a story and they pretty much swallow it, but why is she telling them when the search for her would be the FBI's domain? On the other hand, who would kidnap a governor's daughter in the blind belief that this same governor would inevitably become president just four years later, and his daughter would inevitably become a shill for the terrorists when they release her four years later still? The author clearly believes this isn't too far into fantasy land....

Addie describes the family which kidnapped her (she says!) as living 'off the grid'. This phrase has been in use since the mid-nineties or so, but this struck me as a phrase an eight-year-old girl would not use, and so as a sixteen-year-old who has not been exposed to any popular culture, is this a phrase Addie would have known? It's not even remarked upon, but I think the FBI would have caught this, and at least considered the unlikelihood of her use of it if the story she's telling is supposed to be true. But the author is blinkered to this as she is to too many things. Addie's rapid reinstatement and unsupervised and unmonitored entry into the White House is simply not credible.

Addie's childhood friend - the boy who was the last to see her before she was snatched - is Darrow Fergusson, the now grown son of the woman who is still chief of staff. He's asked by the National Security Advisor to spy on Addie. I'm sorry but no. The last person the NSA would ask to spy, much less tip-off that there is spying in the offing, is this girl's best friend from childhood, and whether they did or not, Darrow would have to be a complete moron not to report Addie's unexplained departure from her White House bedroom, via a window, down into the grounds on the first night he gets to meet her after her return. His character simply isn't credible.

The story was so poorly written and badly plotted that I DNF'd it right at those asinine gold flecks. I did listen tot he last disk on the way home though,m and it;s as poorly written as the rest of the novel. The entire last ten percent is utterly unbelievable, with a cliff-hanger ending, which I abhor, because it means that what I just wasted my time on something that was nothing more than a 368-page prologue, and I don't even read 368 word prologues. This book is objectionable, nasty, and detestable and I actively disrecommend it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Agent Carter Operation SIN by Kathryn Immonen, Richard Ellis, Ramón Pérez

Rating: WARTY!

So I read through this entire comic book and I couldn't find a story anywhere! Weird. The image on the cover was of Hayley Atwell from the TV series Peggy Carter, but she bore no resemblance whatsoever to the blond in the story, who has no class, no presence, and no appeal. The story was lost in the wilderness of Russia in the fifties. It rambled and meandered and wandered, and went quite literally nowhere. It was nonsensical.

There was an interaction with Vanko père who is mentioned in Iron Man 2 movie, but it went nowhere, either. On top of that there was this weird bearded guy who behaved like a wild bear, and who was essentially a dick, and this pencil dick of a kid who transformed into a bear, which was a huge Whisky Tango Foxtrot moment for me. The art by Richard Ellis for the main story and Ramón Pérez for the nonsensical Captain America story at the end was only so-so. That last little story was a captastrophe and made the titular figure look like an overbearing jerk.

Kathryn Immonen's writing was sub-par. I cannot recommend this series at all. The TV series is far more realistic and entertaining, has action, humor, and smarts. None of that was evident in this comic. In my opinion, you should go watch the TV series and forget about this juvenile effort.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Seal Team 666 by Weston Ochse

Rating: WARTY!

This was a DNF for me and it seemed like a real waste of a great title. I think the first problem was that the novel had no good idea what it wanted to be: a fantasy/horror story, or a "procedural" special forces novel. I think it tripped up going back and forth between the two. I made it only 64 pages in, which I think was a fair shot, especially when nothing really happened in that time except the highly improbable - and I'm not even talking about the supernatural! I think I can add some observations and commentary here that I've not seen in other reviews, too.

Actually the first problem was with the main character's name. Do we honestly need yet another in a tediously long line of action adventure novels featuring a main character named Jack? Seriously? Are authors so lacking in imagination that they go to trope as soon as the starting pistol cracks? I am so sick of this clichéd name that I swore off reading any more novels which feature such a character. Somehow I managed to miss that with this one, but it self-corrected! A Navy Seal would not have made that dangerous mistake! Anyway, Jack is training to be a Seal (a contraction of SEa, Air Land). He's four weeks from finishing his SCUBA training (which is only one step in a long training schedule), yet he's pulled out of it by a redheaded woman (who was so obviously destined to be his 'squeeze' that it was pathetic) to join Seal Team 666. How four weeks from the end of a twenty-four week course counts as "half way" through is a mystery, especially when there was more to come, but I let that go since there were worse problems!

This is the worse problem: Jack's specialty is as a sniper. Seal teams count not only on toughness and skill, but also on extensive mission practice leading to working together as a finely-tuned machine. You do not throw a new guy in there right as a mission is setting out! I am not militarily trained, so this is a pure guess on my part, but my guess is that a team like this would rather go one man short than bring in a brand new guy they never even met before, let alone trained with for this specific mission. I think this is especially true when that guy's specialty is sniping and no sniper is needed for this! It wasn't like he had something critical to bring, so this made absolutely no sense at all to me, because it presented such a ripe opportunity to get one or more of the team killed because of some misstep or miscue. I cannot see how this would have been countenanced.

They were operating on US soil, too, which seemed even more odd. The author justified it by saying that there is no police SWAT team trained to deal with the supernatural, but they really were not dealing with the supernatural - they were simply gathering intelligence from some Chinese guys who they knew were in this building. It was at this point in the story where the author wrote: "Walker had been watching the Chinaman's eyes." Does that sound a bit racist to you?

I talked with a couple of people (neither of whom is Chinese!) about this, and they didn't think it was any big deal, but to me it sounded off at best, and racist at worst. If this was someone's speech in the story, I can see how he might say something like that. Even the narrator might say it if the novel was told in first person PoV, but for a writer to put that in the narration when it's third person and not part of some character's speech, seems off to me. This guy who writes this used to be army intelligence which might explain a lot. He's now, apparently, defense intelligence, which also might explain a lot. It just seemed strange.

Aside from that, the story was just not interesting. The author seemed far more attached to spewing Tom Clancy-style technical descriptions than ever he was in telling a cool story about military men facing off against the supernatural. He couldn't simply say, for example, "he cleaned his gun" or "he fired his pistol" without providing a mini-description of the weapon every time. It had to be, "he cleaned his Super 90" or "he fired his MP5", which quickly became tedious in short order and irritating right afterwards. Here's one example of a partial paragraph so you get the boring idea:

And also like the M16 and the AR15, the Stoner used a gas-impingement system to automatically move the bolt back and forth, enabling semiautomatic fire down the twenty-inch barrel. Rather than the regular floating barrel, the Stoner was reworked to incorporate the URX 11 Picatiny-Weaver Rail System, allowing for better application of any mounted hardware such as laser sights, telescopic sights, reflexive sights, tactical lights and forward grips.

Now I don't doubt that there are readers out there who like stories larded with this techno-jargon, but I really don't care about it and it gets annoying when it looks like the author is more interested in showing off how much research he did, than in moving the story along nicely. It failed to grab me and I decided after a very short debate, that there were far too many other books out there begging to be read, for me to waste any more of my time on one which doesn't thrill me from the outset. This is the start of a series, and I sure didn't want to read any more of this one volume let alone another one like it.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

Rating: WARTY!

This audio book was about Vanessa 'Michael' Munroe, a young and tomboyish investigator, who is called an informationist because it sounds much more cool even though it's nonsensical. Some reviewers have drawn a parallel between this characters and Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander, but Munroe is no Salander, despite the penchant for both to ride a motorbike. Salander would never bring harm on the downtrodden.

To me, Munroe is more like James Bond than ever she is like Salander. She has guys fawning over her as women fawn over Bond. She travels the world as Bond does, and has very convenient contacts wherever she goes. She's always potentially in danger but can fist-fight with the best of them. In contrast to Bond, however, Munroe's story moves at the pace of an arthritic snail (if that wasn't a contradiction in terms), and she isn't an agent of any government. What she does is dig up information on developing countries allowing capitalists to exploit them. While she doesn't do this exploitation herself, it can be argued that she facilitates it, and is therefore not a very nice person since she evidently has no qualms at all about what will happen to the people of those countries once western big money starts pouring in.

But then Munroe is very much a capitalist herself. Recruited by a rich Houston oil baron to find his missing adopted daughter, Munroe is offered two point five million, but demands that it be doubled before she will dirty her hands looking for the lost 18 year old. So she gets five million and a year to search and she keeps the money even if she uncovers nothing which has not already been uncovered by other investigators, official and otherwise. This is not even her field of endeavor, but she doesn't mind raking it in, exploiting a grieving father.

My feeling in beginning was that this story of Emily's disappearance would end up tied to the fact that she's adopted, or it would have to do with so-called white slavery, or perhaps to do with some secret related to her adoptive father's oil business interests in Africa. Taylor Stevens is evidently an escapee from a religious cult, for which I heartily congratulate her (for the escape, not the membership!). She anchors Munroe in Texas because that's where the author lives, so maybe there's some wish fulfilment going on here. Apparently Stevens began writing because her children bored her? I don't know how anyone can find children boring, but that's what I read. Maybe the interviewer misunderstood her? Anyway, Munroe zooms off to Africa to begin her investigation with your usual hottie ex-special forces guy by her side - someone assigned to her against her will be her employer. She has no respect for him and crudely rufies him one day after they arrive in Africa so she can go off on her own and do her job without him tagging along that day. Like I said, she's not a nice person and I neither liked nor admired her.

The wonderful thing about audio books is that you can listen to them while driving and get through a lot of books if you have any sort of commute worth the name. The downside of them is that you have to put up with whatever reader is doing the job. Hillary Hoben was the reader here, and her voice was so mind-numbingly monotonous that I was ready to buy Amway products form her. In short, I really disliked it after an hour or so. There is no inflection in her reading and while she makes passable attempts to modulate her voice to the characters, it's still flat as a pancake. Worse than this, the story stubbornly refused to move. It was less of an action adventure than a no-action misadventure. It went along at a leisurely pace when I was wanting it to get going already. It was at this point that I realized Vanessa and I were destined to part ways. I can't recommend this novel based on the portion (about 30% ) to which I listened, which discounted for skimming, was quite substantial.