In which a book pisses me off

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. wtf

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.

Posted in books, rant, sci-fi

18 Responses to In which a book pisses me off

  1. loonigrrl says:

    Hmmm . . . I don’t think I’ve read this one, but you’ve got me very curious as to what it is :)

  2. Me too – very curious. Although, like loonigrrl, I don’t think I’ve read it. I have however had that experience where a book pisses me off. I can’t ever manage to finish them when they get like that though, so they’re quickly forgotten from my mind. :)

    Just think back to Eye of the Night, and you’ll feel better! :) Although I’ve read 2 books since I finished that one last week, I’m still stuck with those characters. I found myself pulling out The Green Rider by Kristen Britain after I finished EotN. I read it and the other two books in the series a couple of years ago, and enjoyed them almost as much as EotN. Don’t know if you’ve read them, but they may help take your mind off this one.

  3. Dana says:

    I haven’t been to “keen” on Sci-fi (Well, not since the grand days of the Star Wars)

    BUT, that said.

    Anya Bast’s “Chosen Sin” and Lauren Dane’s “Undercover” were an exception I made and I must say…

    Woo Hoo…so glad I did as BOTH books were FANTASTIC!!

  4. azteclady says:

    :eek: Yikes and ugh and argh! :eek:

    But look on the bright side… you won’t ever read another book by this person, yes?

  5. Wooooow. I absolutely hate books (or any kind of media, really) where women are punished for daring to have sex. I found myself trying to explain to someone why Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series bugs me so much, and the crux of it is that the main female character’s power exists only to rob men of their free will. If she has sex with the hero and orgasms (which in Goodkind’s world apparently happens every time… riiight), she’ll suck away his free will, his personality, and leave him an empty shell.

    Misogynistic much? Jeez.

  6. Tia Nevitt says:

    I recently read an advance copy of the second book in a series, where I really enjoyed the first. After I got over halfway through it, I said to my husband, “It’s kind of fascinating to watch the author crash and burn on this one.”

    And so I read on out of curiosity about how much worse it could get. The book never redeemed itself. The main character was weak beyond belief, flattered into betraying her faith and her own mother before she came to her senses at the last possible instant. Her love interest was just as bad, allowing another character to convince him to do wrong things until it was almost too late. There was no sense of adventure, and no touching friendships like there was in the first book.

    I’m not looking forward to reviewing this one. Fortunately, it is not due to release for months. So I have plenty of time to think about it.

  7. Ann Aguirre says:

    No, I most likely won’t read this author again.

    TDF, YES, that’s exactly my point and it infuriates me. Why is it that we think it’s okay to show violence to children — and that in SF/F, it’s perfectly fine for a main character to chop everyone to bits, but let them have a bit of sex and suddenly they’re filthy and deserve to die? I don’t understand that message at all.

    Tia, that sounds dreadful. I don’t envy you writing that review.

  8. I’m with everyone else…my curisiouty is piqued and now I kinda want to know which novel it is.

    I LOVED Undercover by Lauren Dane. The second novel in the series comes out in a few months and I can’t wait. I haven’t read the Chosen Sin by bast yet, but it is on my list to try.

  9. MarnieColette says:

    Interested to know what you read so I can stay clear of that one. I absolutely hate sexism as an underlying them in any book and dying because having sex is a big one. I would have put the book down – probably thrown it away too. Its a pet peeve of mine. Alpha males are one thing but blatant sexism argh!

  10. Ann Aguirre says:

    I appreciate your curiosity, but I’m not gonna post title or author. I don’t want people who love this book / author coming over to fill my house with haterade.

    Other people seem to like this book. It has 4 & 5 star reviews. Major SF authors (all men) endorsed this book heartily. So maybe I’m just the vaginal minority.

  11. erin says:

    I’ve found that traditional sci-fi, while trying to create these new, fantastical futuristic worlds, it still can’t break away from the traditional gender stereotypes. However, lately, I’ve been very impressed by some of the new, breakout authors in the urban fantasy category…Lilith Saintcrow, Jenna Black, Kim Harrison, C.E. Murphy, Laura Anne Gilman. All of these authors have created strong, believable, relateable female characters. I consider these separate from some of the fantasy/romance authors like Anya Bast, Cheyenne McCray, Sherrilyn Kenyon–these authors write strong female characters but the story is centered around the romance, the fantasy secondary.

    But the first list, Ann definitely included!!, the authors create a fantasy/sci-fi world in which that is primary and the story centers around the conflict the characters find in *the story*, the romance secondary or even background. The story is what hooks you, not the boinking.

    The thing that sucked me in about Ann’s Jax world was that it was a new world, provided new experiences and we as readers had to adjust to the sci-fi aspect of it. While I’m as addicted to the Jax/March story as anyone else–it flows as part of the story, it’s not the story entirely.

    If anyone ever wants recommendations or wants to trade names, let me know!!

  12. erin says:

    Just to clarify-I love Anya Bast, sometimes you need a strong witch, a hot but not necessary human guy and learning new things about the act of boinking. But also, sometimes you need a fast paced, laser beams and starships scif-fi that doesn’t slow down w/ too much relationships stuff. Two sides of the same coin, just depends on what mood I’m in :lol:

  13. Lisa Iriarte says:

    Oh. My. God.

    Ok, that sounds like some of the worst science fiction ever.

    Elizabeth Moon’s science fiction, Tanya Huff’s Valor series, Debra Doyle and James McDonald’s Price of the Stars series, Elizabeth Bear’s Hammered trilogy. These are some great science fiction stories that focus on the characters, and they all have strong female protagonists. Given that I like what you write and I like these authors, I think you would fit well with any of them.

    You just aren’t reading the write people.

    I also second the person above who mentioned Laura Anne Gilman. She’s not science fiction, but I love her Retrievers books.

  14. Lisa Iriarte says:

    Heh. I meant “right” people, not “write” people. Although it looks like I intended the pun.

  15. Michele Lee says:

    I agree with Lisa, it sounds like you aren’t reading the right books :) I suggest Implied spaces by Walter Jon Williams, Unwelcome Bodies by Jennifer Pelland (I think you’d really like it, it’s a book of short stories) and Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year v. 2 from Night Shade books. To the excellent SF writers I’d like to add Nancy Kress and Elizabeth Bear. BTW Jennifer Pelland publishes a lot in ezines, so you might want to google her and try some of those stories. They really are lovely.

  16. Katee says:

    I recently read an fantasy romance book. It was so horrible that I ended up throwing it across the room before I got to my normal 100 pages. The author kept switching perspectives and there was no real reason why the two main characters suddenly fell in love within minutes of meeting each other. Also, the “big bad thing” made no sense! Grr. Normally I can keep through a book because they tend to get better (The Talisman had the worst beginning but ended up being a fantastic book) but I couldn’t even do it with this particular one. Woo, that feels good to get off my chest. ;-)

  17. Lisa Iriarte says:

    Oooh, I almost forgot S.L. Viehl’s Stardoc series. Great read.

  18. Jennygirl says:

    OMG that completely sucks!
    And you had to finish the book….I completely feel for you. Find a great book fast to get that bad taste out of your mouth.

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