So I’m writing about a book late at night, once again. Tonight, though, there’s no incoherent squee of joy. Instead I’m left with this inchoate sense of dissatisfaction, as though this novel had been a pepper pot into which the author hurled all the factors (s)he could conceive of, left it to broil for four hundred pages, and then just sort of stopped writing.
The writing wasn’t bad, although I wouldn’t call it inspired. (S)he had serviceable prose. The book in question was science fiction — and it reminded me once me why I don’t read more of it. Lisa Iriarte commented on one of my other posts that she was surprised not to see more SF titles on my “best of 2008 list”, given that I write it and all.
But you see, this is the problem.
I’m only going to talk about the book in general terms, but let me summarize. The ship was commissioned to go seek out a solution to earth’s population problems, so they set off. Once on the distant planet, things began to go badly wrong, etc. I felt, at times, that parallels were being drawn regarding the starfarers reactions to the natives they encountered, parallels that harked back to, say, Europeans meeting indigenous peoples or the way the British treated the people of India. And yet I thought such veiled observations made little sense in a SF novel because the world-building wasn’t done in such a way that it seemed reasonable to me that certain historical facts would still be fresh in mind.
The mission went vastly pear-shaped until by the end, I had no idea what they’d accomplished if anything. It was a messy, messy book, and left me annoyed that I’d wasted my time with it when I have so many other things to read. But someone had recommended this author to me (not one of you guys, don’t worry. It was someone from a SF convention, and I’m coming to realize that I have very particular tastes where SF is concerned. It takes a lot to please me. Lois McMaster Bujold does, Sharon Shinn does. Connie Willis does. As you can see, it’s an elite cadre.)
But that’s not the bulk of my gripe. Much was made of the sexual practices of these natives. The captain of the ship fornicated with two alien babes (Hello, Cap’n Kirk!) and yet by the end of the novel, both these poor chickies were dead while the captain rode off into the sunset.
To which I can only respond with a resounding WTF? The message horrifies me. Women die for having sex. Men ride off into the sunset? Oh. No. You. Didn’t. This is the kind of shit that sets womenfolk back ten years. And you know, this isn’t failure of HEA outrage, either. For one thing, it’s SF and I understand that’s not guaranteed, but as a second point, neither relationship was fleshed out well enough for me to give a shit whether they came to a happy conclusion or not. But holy crap! They BOTH had to die? For suffering his penis in their hoo-has? I dunno what the point of this was in the book, but I totally missed any symbolism or profundity. I was too busy being revolted.
As this is Smart Bitch day, feel free to use this post to bitch about something, as I have. Go on, let it out. We’re here for you.