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Top 5 Wednesday: Most Disappointing Reads of 2018

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the topic is the most disappointing books you read in 2018.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

I was so excited at the premise of the story, that detailed what would happen if females were limited to 100 words daily, and how American society would shift because of this discrimination. Since our current administration seems to revel in discrimination, I felt this book was going to carry a deep and timely message, such as The Handmaid’s Tale did. Unfortunately, I could not connect with the main character Dr. Jean McClellan despite the strong start of the narrative, and felt her withering contempt for her husband was too much, especially in light of what he did at the conclusion. I wanted to like this book more, but it didn’t touch me as THT did.

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

I was terribly disappointed with this book, especially after seeing many positive reviews by others. I am a fan of the zombie/dystopian genre (Revival, TWD, World War Z) so I thought this book would definitely be up my alley, but after a promising start, it fell apart for me.

Temple is a teen surviving alone in a world that collapsed about 25 years ago in a zombie apocalypse. She is practical to a fault, knowing how to fend for herself, but haunted by her memories of a younger brother who is no longer with her. During her travels she happens about a conclave of survivors in a nearby city but her independent streak makes it an ill fit for her. While there, she thwarts a sexual assault, and in self defense she kills the man. His brother vows revenge, and the rest of the book details the ridiculous pursuit between them, and reminded me of Jean Valjean and the obsessive Javert saga in Les Misérables. The people they encounter on their travels range from Southern Gothic wannabes to a deranged mutant family and of course endless zombies. The whole time people keep on remarking on how amazing and deep Temple was which annoyed me- for I felt it was pretentious, show don’t tell this characteristic. I kept on putting this short novel down which is never a good sign, and by the time the conclusion wrapped up everything, I simply did not care about any of the characters.

Artemis by Andy Weir

When I read The Martian, I was sucked into Andy Weir’s plausible science fiction story. His resourceful hero was funny and appealing and readers rooted for his survival. So I eagerly looked forward to his next book and was pleased to find a heroine living on the moon in his second novel. Imagine my dismay when my opinion of the book plummeted chapter by chapter.

You can read more about my dislike for the book in my previous blog post.

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Vaguely reminiscent of Grisham’s book, The Litagators, this story delves into the world of everyday lawyers, not the high paid corporate lawyers from his famous earlier books. Students Mike, Todd and Zola are in their last semester at a third rate law school, and up to their eyeballs in debt, when a good friend commits suicide. Shaken by his death, they all impulsively drop out of school and start to masquerade as a law firm despite no degrees.

This is when the story went absolutely sideways for me. Upset that their loans are overwhelming and with no job prospects, they decide that committing fraud and hustling unsuspecting clients is a legitimate way to live their lives. They bumble around, get caught, but then decide to double down by getting involved in a mass torts case against the bank that worked with their law school giving loans to unqualified students. In the midst of this Zola is dealing with her undocumented family getting sent back to Senegal. Mike and Todd, who quite frankly are interchangeable, manage to keep one step ahead of the authorities and the whole ending is just preposterous.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I listened to this book on audio, which had received the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album, and was prepared to love it. I didn’t.

At first, hearing Carrie Fisher’s voice was both wonderful and melancholy, due to her passing. I’ve been a big fan of hers for years, as she surpassed her Princess Leia persona, and was a well respected author plus funny as hell. The new set of Star Wars movies yanked her back into the fandom and people are eager for any tidbits about the original trilogy, so the finally confirmed romance between Fisher and Harrison Ford was big news. She writes of their romance, but yet I still did not feel it was fleshed out. She has every right not to share details there were too intimate between the two, but the romance remained an enigma to me.

She ends up being very repetitive elsewhere in the book, and much of it seemed filler. She speaks wryly of life for an actor after their biggest fame is over, and the struggles and concessions they need to make to remain relevant and earn an income. As she re-imagines some conversations she has had with her fans at conventions, I had to skip ahead on the audio as they were painful to listen to. So I ended up feeling disappointed by the end of the novel, and felt guilty thinking so. Nevertheless, her candor and humor make me want to look up more of her past works.

I rarely give up on books, and most of these books had promising starts, but they all ended on unsatisfactory notes. Did anyone else have similar feelings about these books?

-Nancy

Artemis

When I read The Martian, I was sucked into Andy Weir’s plausible science fiction story. His resourceful hero was funny and appealing and readers rooted for his survival. So I eagerly looked forward to his next book and was pleased to find a heroine in his second novel. Imagine my dismay when my opinion of the book plummeted chapter by chapter.

The book started off strongly, as Weir introduced Jazz Bashara, a Moon inhabitant since she was a child. Jazz is a young woman who is a porter for shipped in cargo, which enables her to smuggle goods on a regular basis. She hopes to curtail her hustling by passing an EVA certification that would enable her to take tourists on moon outings, but she fails. She is then open to an offer from a billionaire to sabotage some equipment of a competitor. She takes him up on it, ignoring all the red flags and moral issues about doing so, as she is only intent on the payoff. In typical Weir fashion, everything goes to hell, and Jazz veers from one catastrophe to another.

When Jazz was first introduced, her intelligence was established, and some diversity is added to the equation: she is a lapsed Muslim originally from Saudi Arabia. She has a sense of humor and her conversation is laced with obscenities and sarcastic quips. I thought she was refreshing at first, and I was amused at her attitude. She voices things that I sometimes think. Most people would be surprised at how salty my thoughts are about certain people or situations, but where I smile and keep my thoughts to myself, Jazz does not, and it got old fast. Real fast. I don’t have to completely like a main character to enjoy a book as a whole, but when you start to HATE the raunchy main character, there is a problem. In addition I did not understand why she had so many male friends willing to help her out of problems, yet she did not have a single female friend. Why do so many authors not know how to show authentic friendships between women? Why????

Despite my dislike of Jazz, there is strong world building with descriptions of the bubbled city of Artemis. A conversation occurs between two characters about the original TV series Star Trek, mentioning how it occurred about 100 years ago, which places the book’s events in the  near future of the late 2060’s. Weir certainly knows his science, as everything about the Moon colony seemed very authentic and credible. I listened to the audio edition that was voiced by Rosario Dawson, who delivered the narrative well. So considering how much I enjoyed his first book, I will try to balance my feelings about this one, and if he writes a third book I will certainly give it a go.

-Nancy

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