Update 1: The Worst Book I’ve Read in 2020

Cover Art for How I Saved a Planet by Stephen Quatro

If you’ve missed the original post, check this out first: https://victoriarmendes.wordpress.com/2020/08/30/the-worst-book-ive-read-in-2020/

I won’t be able to provide page markers or place markers since I read this as an EPub document with the iBooks app. I will provide direct quotes where I think it’s necessary — hopefully it will make sense. The title page of the book really made me chuckle, but I’m guessing they’ve inserted a JPEG instead of a PNG file because it doesn’t scale well on different e-readers. I also thoroughly enjoyed the publisher’s note to the reader. 

The opening of Chapter A also made me laugh a bit. Unfortunately Chapter A is also where I started to have problems because the MC starts to talk about his dad and his dad’s “whore of a girlfriend”; later in the same chapter she’s also referenced as, “a slut young enough to be my sister”. This phrase definitely fits with the MC’s disposition, but I’m really tired of reading about slut shaming. Let people bang and be happy as long as it’s consensual. We also begin to see pop culture throwbacks such as “Bedford Falls and Bomont” – a reference to small towns in the movies It’s a Wonderful Life and Footloose which I enjoyed. The Milky Way dad puns also gave me a chuckle. 

In Chapter B, Qarl begins explaining why he’s come to MC for help he explains that,

“They’re going to get rid of us, They are.”

In this case “they” is being used as a proper noun, but that’s not initially super clear to the reader. A small change to also italicizing the second “They” I think would help in this instance. As Qarl talks about the ships he’s had, he mentions a “Kate.8” which I’m fairly certain is another pop culture reference to the TV show Jon and Kate Plus 8, that is then described as being “in bad shape”. With the given context clues around that usage, I’m not a huge fan of that joke. Perhaps if a content editor could polish it a bit it could work, but it felt off to me. Later in this chapter Qarl begins to describe how he is able to change his size,

“One arm contains rubber and the other, cotton. I put on the helmet, set the dial, and voilà! I get punched or rubbed until I’m the right size.”

Ummmmmm phrasing? Oh wait that’s probably on purpose because this is where things really start to become juvenile humor instead of the satirical glory I was hoping for. Later still in Chapter B there is a sort of chase scene with a comet that just feels a little off; it should have felt intense, but instead it left me questioning the world design. Qarl’s ship requires two people to operate it when under attack, but Qarl traveled as a solo pilot to Earth to pick up the MC … so then why would Qarl need help from the MC? He’s supposed to have a fancy new ship — why would he have been given a new ship for this mission if he can’t successfully control it by himself to avoid or destroy comets?

The first note I have in Chapter C is a whole section about “The Advice Manual”. The good news is this comes in handy later; the bad news is it sticks out like a sore thumb and doesn’t feel very well incorporated into the scene where it’s presented. Next I found myself in another spot where, as the reader, I wasn’t made to care enough about the characters yet, so the fight scene felt really off:

“Qarl stood on his tiptoes and began poking his finger earnestly in my face. “Aha! That’s another thing! You don’t even properly capitalize and hyphenate words like ‘Moon-people’ when you talk.” “How the fuck can you even tell that!?!” I yelled, thoroughly exasperated. “You mean ‘fuq,’ of course. Stupid Human,” he muttered.”

This passage is kind-of funny but was a bit too on-the-nose for me because of the pacing issues — and comes up many chapters later when, again, the pacing is off. This fight scene is also where my first major gripe for this book comes from. After a “your mom” joke, MC escalates the disagreement to a physical altercation and slaps Qarl’s head off; Qarl then explains about how his head can pop off:

“Yeah, it does…if subjected to enough trauma.” He felt his head all over, as if to ensure that everything was working properly. I knew an apology was in order. “Um, I’m sorry I hit you, dude. I shouldn’t have gotten so angry.”

THIS IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE APOLOGY. Feeling anger is completely normal. Feeling emotions is healthy. What isn’t healthy is acting on anger to physically or mentally abuse someone. What isn’t acceptable is apologizing for feeling anger. An apology for physical violence is in order. I could have really used a trigger warning here. I am extra sensitive to physical and mental abuse since I’ve had to do a LOT of work with a therapist to try to process what I’ve gone through in life — and I’m not ready to unpack those life experiences on the internet just yet. I find it abhorrent that a book classified as comedy would use physical violence as a joke with no social commentary around it. I know I’ve already said that, but I’m angry about it, dang it. 

And with that, I’m going to take another break. Check back tomorrow for more updates.

Published by Victoria Mendes

I'm just a house-wife trying to cook good meals on a budget.

5 thoughts on “Update 1: The Worst Book I’ve Read in 2020

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