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/
Also if you need to get caught up on my other previous installments, just scroll through my blog. I’m too lazy to link them all at this point. In fact, I haven’t written anything recently because I dread writing these posts. I thought it might be cathartic to go on a rant when I first started this series, but writing these AFTER I finished reading the book feels more like re-reading a terrible experience than going on a stress-relieving rant. I’m now asking myself how I should finish this series and avoid dragging my feet on it anymore. Could I go through and give a synopsis as I give my criticism as I have so far? Yes… but that’s what gets me stuck in this re-reading loop. So instead, I think I’ll skip the whole synopsis bits and just publish the rest of my notes with minor tweaks added. I’d really rather get back to writing my reviews as I’m reading a book – or just talking about the ones I truly enjoy.
I suppose we need to pick up on Chapter Aye:
I want you to understand something about fear. Fear is a valid emotion that occupies a portion of our hearts and minds from time to time. However, if you let fear take over, it will set limits. Now, look at where we are! We live in space, a vast place without limits. Fear can have no rule here, else it will suffocate and destroy us.
I mean it kinda works for this passage? I would have preferred a deeper delve into fear and actually have listed some of the benefits of this emotion. I feel like this is more of teaching people to ignore fear instead of actually processing it – which is counterintuitive from how that quote actually starts. Like, why say that it’s a valid emotion and then proceed to go full “black-and-white” thought pattern on it and yeet fear out of the picture?
“Was that supposed to be a joke?” I asked. “Am I supposed to suppose that you are supposing I supposed it to be so?” “Fuck, you’re worse than Qarl.”
This is supposed to be a funny bit, but it’s not really that funny when it has to be explained … also this may have more to do with the fact that I grew up on this particular flavor of humor, but I’m sooooo tired of this style. My gripe here can also be applied to the next quote:
“You can’t? Your legs look fine to me.” He bent his long pink neck down and pecked rudely at my legs with his sharp bill. “Ow! Stop it!” I yelled. Qarl snorted with laughter. “Your friend is amused by our conduct,” the ostrich noted. “Shall I continue?” He leaned down toward my legs again…
There is one quote from this chapter that has some merit to it:
If they could, I’d want them to understand that prejudice and ignorance do not stay isolated. They are dangerous things that spread perniciously and have real-life effects on their targets…
But then the chapter goes right back to being problematic. Who just sees people starting to fall in love and is immediately urged to embarrass them? Why is this impulse seen as “quite natural”? – more like quite rude
He maintained a serious expression on his face, but his eyes turned green with mischievous delight. I guessed that he would never admit it, but I knew he was being filled with an urge to embarrass the pair, an impulse that is quite natural to feel when one witnesses blossoming love in others.
And then the author starts to address how the book breaks the fourth wall – which if done right is great, but this book doesn’t really pull it off … especially when it’s being brought up SO much later in the story from when it originally started taking place and didn’t need an explanation in the first place. It would be one thing if this was a skill that was relevant and had a crucial role in the story, but it just doesn’t.
I then asked Qarl how he and other aliens could tell when someone was not spelling, hyphenating, or capitalizing a word correctly when they said it. He shrugged and told me that he couldn’t explain why most aliens had this gift of ultrasensitive hearing, just as I couldn’t explain why humans had the garrulous gift of gab.
And to further break up the story, another editor’s note shows up – which at this point the bit is SO OLDDDDDDD.
Editor’s note: Once again, we must beg your leave to continue the next portion of the narrative in poetry, as the author felt this was the best way to proceed.
“Drink!” she ordered. “What is it?” I asked. “It is the Elixir of the Damned,” she replied coldly with an unnecessary flourish of her hand. The crowd ooooohed softly behind her. “Oh…ok then.” I lifted the flask to my lips and took a tentative sip. The Elixir of the Damned was clearly ginger ale. “This is clearly ginger ale,” I pointed out. She raised her hand as if to strike me. “Shut up!” she ordered. “You must drink it.”
How does the MC have a problem with drugs (meaning he’s not into them not that he has an addiction), recognize that his friend drank something that clearly affects his cognitive function, and then is FINE with drinking a random liquid?
And then we get this quote which is supposed to be sarcastic but just comes off as exasperated:
“That is utterly stupid,” I blurted out with a sarcastic chuckle. “Your whole lives revolve around this mystery woman that no one seems to know anything about. What’s the point of all this?”
But then the author show that he does know how to write some sarcasm:
The eyes seemed to glow redder as I approached, but I’m sure my gripping fear had nothing to do with it.
“What sorts of sins get you sent here?” “I honestly can’t even remember. I’ve been exposed to so many belief systems in my life that it is hard to keep them all straight. Everything is a sin to somebody’s god.”
If this wasn’t also based on actual religions I probably wouldn’t have an issue with it, but broad sweeping gestures like this are just not my cup of tea because it just isn’t accurate.
“Well, ignorance and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. Someone can be astute at knowing many things, but the danger often lies in what he chooses not to know.” “But surely someone can never know everything.” “This is correct. However, one must always be aware of how much he does not know and be both open to and willing to learn new points of view. “In addition,” the old man continued, “one must never become haughty and overconfident in his knowledge, for there is always more to learn, and even the wisest can be wrong. I would rather admit that I do not know something than think I know the answer when I actually do not. Come, I want to show you something.”
This is fairly decent I guess, but I don’t think the juxtaposition of ignorance and intelligence is quite the proper comeback for the previous line – to go with the analogy of this being a car and this issue being a squeaky wheel I’d rather spend more time talking about the blaring issues that are more akin to a cracked drive shaft or broken oil pump.
“So you’re a poet?” I asked. “I dabble here and there. Thoughts and ideas are not limited to the prose form. Sometimes, the best way to express something is with a poem.” “I like poetry too. Haven’t written anything in a while though.” “Well, when this adventure is over, maybe you’ll find the time to try again.” “Maybe. So far, I feel like this trip I’ve been on has just filled my head with a lot of useless information.”
Again with the 4th wall breaks I’m not looking for *facepalm* … and then an attempt of social commentary continues but again misses the mark:
“I’m so sorry. You are a guest in my home. You shouldn’t see my sorrow.” “Don’t be sorry,” I stopped him. “One should never have to apologize for sadness.” The irony of my words did not escape me, given the source of my recent conflict with the Maryvillians, but they seemed like the right words to say in the moment. Besides, I think I really started to believe those words even as I said them. I knew that this man’s sadness was vastly different from the one that ruled the nearby village, born out of a deep and undying love for a woman he knew well for many years. But I also knew that sorrow was a complex emotion, and I was starting to wonder if perhaps it was not up to me to judge the nature or merit of another’s grief.
blah blah blah more stuff happens and then we get lines that line up with the MC being incredibly self-centered, but it’s not fleshed out enough. Scars and pain are much more complex than wounds that have healed. One of the popular examples of grief is of grief being a button in a box and a ball in that box hitting the button. In the beginning the ball in the box is huge and constantly hits the button, but over time the ball shrinks and doesn’t hit the button as often. The button never goes away, but unless something rattles the box it probably isn’t going to be pressed – unlike in the beginning where virtually anything rattling the box will. Why this isn’t included in this passage? IDK
“I just want to make sure I make the right choices. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to hurt or scar me.” “Pain is, unfortunately, an unavoidable companion to life. We can hide from it, but it will always find us.” “So what can you do?” “Don’t be so afraid of scars. Scars are wounds that have healed.” I pondered his words before replying. “I hadn’t thought of them that way before, but I suppose you’re right.”
And then there’s a passage about money which is a HUGE oversimplification which I would say is written by someone who has never experienced financial hardship… again, if this was not set in the real world as a base then I wouldn’t gripe about it as much … BUT THIS SETTING STARTS OFF ON THE REAL EARTH NOT SOME ALTERNATE UNIVERSE OR THE AUTHOR’S CREATED WORLD
“Why do we save money? To spend it later. Why do we pass it down to our children? So they can spend it. Why do we give money to charity? So others can spend it. The chief end of money is to be spent.” The old man looked at me in amazement. “Words so wise from someone so young,” he mused quietly to himself. “I will take those words to heart.”
Then there’s more social commentary that misses the mark due to oversimplification:
“They are always obsessively grieving over various ‘sins’ that they find in others.” “The act of finding faults in others is a fault in itself,” the old man pointed out. I nodded in agreement. “I think they are realizing that the universe is changing, and they are becoming more desperate to preserve their way of life. They’re always casting blame on others.” “A desperate person will always find something to blame,” the old man noted. “Ain’t that the truth,” I agreed, glancing down at a beam of light stretching itself out on the floor in front of me. To my surprise, the sun had risen over the forest, its rays streaming in through the single window in the Vream’s hut. “Well, I suppose that’s my cue to go,” I said. “Much as I’d like to stay, my friend Qarl needs my help.”
And along those same lines are some very terrible thought patters (aka all fanatics are dumb) – I – just – just why:
I thought of Madame Stringent as he said this and nodded. “So I’ve discovered,” I replied. “The sad thing is that some fanatics are actually quite smart.”
And then we get the old fishing adage, but for some reason it’s tweaked for no apparent reason? I have another adage for this which actually does apply: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
“Talk to a man,” he said slowly, measuring each word, “and you give him a friend for a day. Teach a man to talk to himself and you give him a friend for a lifetime.”
And then we get this line, which at this point is a “no shit, Sherlock” moment:
It has been my pleasure, but do tread carefully. Advice can be misleading, you know.
Oh great, we’re back to shitty “sarcasm” that isn’t actually sarcasm and also a joke that doesn’t work because it has to be explained *facepalm*
“Well, we’re kinda new,” the second lawyer admitted, a sheepish look on his face. “Clearly,” I quipped sarcastically
And even more bad oversimplifications that get turned into maybe a joke, but I can’t tell anymore:
But perhaps executioners couldn’t afford to have souls.
“Nice ride!” I exclaimed. “Thank you,” Travvis replied with a grin. “It’s the latest WheelMobile model, the Hx9. Comes with all the latest features.” “It’s amazing.” “I shouldn’t brag though. You know what they say: the nicer the vehicle, the bigger the asshole that drives it.” He chuckled merrily.
Why? Just y? I’m so tired of this shit.
Chapter N: – the one where he tried to write some LGBTQIA+ representation, but it’s not the kind of representation I really want because again with the oversimplifications of complex issues … but also this is somewhat “original” content because this is part of the fantasy setting for these books so I guess it kinda works even though I REALLY don’t like it?
“Why did you leave?” “I was actually kicked out by the village council.” “Oh shit, how come?” “They expelled me for being a gaylien.” “What’s a gaylien?” “We are a rare species of alien. We possess the Jenkins O’Yenkins gene.” “What does the gene do?” “Several things. For one, it causes us to be much happier than most. You will seldom see a sad gaylien. We also reproduce asexually—TMI, I know—and can see more colors in the light spectrum than any other species.” “That’s cool. What colors can you see that we can’t?” “All kinds. Rorange and broink and blurple and bleige and grellow and grold and whilver and vindigo and chartravender and so, so many others.” I was intrigued by the thought of colors that my eyes had never seen. “That’s really fascinating! What is it like to see so many colors?” “Well, to me it’s normal, but I love that the universe is so beautiful and colorful. I recognize that what I possess is a gift, and I’m grateful for it.” “So the council didn’t like that you were a gaylien?” “Not at all.” “Why not?”
I was too different. The worst sin was that I was too happy for them. I couldn’t mourn the absence of Mary like everyone else did. Trust me, I tried, but the sorrow just wasn’t there. It took me a long time before I found out about the gene I had. Once I knew about it, everything made so much more sense.” He continued, “But the council doesn’t believe in the JOY gene. They think I chose to be this way. And so they eventually got rid of me.” I shook my head. “That’s terrible.” “Not as terrible as choosing to live a lie would’ve been. To stifle my natural joy would’ve been torture. Trust me, I know from experience.”
Mother, please stop,” Travvis said gently. A silence fell over the chamber. I couldn’t believe my ears. “Don’t call me that!” the judge scolded. “You are no longer my son. You have chosen a life that is contrary to our ways.” “Mother, it’s me. Please listen.”
It’s not a fucking choice and there is no commentary directly around this to say it’s not a choice. Yes it’s introduced that he was born that way earlier, but they’re not reinforcing the point here where it really matters… and then there’s a shitty take on Shakespeare (maybe? tbh I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan unless the production is put on in it’s original form because the modern translations often miss the point of his works but this is a whole other tangent I could go on and this run-on sentence is long enough already) that doesn’t enhance the experience?
Farewell to thee, thou dearest of all plants, Which wert, short time ago, a fairest dream, But now, whether by Fate or merely chance, Art robbed of Life’s minutest spark or gleam. It seemeth strange that thou wert once so tall, So full of life, so strong, and, oh, so green, When now a frail and wilted thing is all That in this tragic moment can be seen. Where art thou now, fair jewel of the wood? Art thou forever gone from Time and Space? Dost thou lie here where once in life thou stood, Or in some sweet, ethereal resting place? Recall I well thy last few hours of life— A mirror of thy existence overall; How hard thou fought, through pain and toil and strife! Alas! At last thou finally hadst to fall. Thy withered leaves and drooping stem now speak A strong and silent message from the grave: In life, fight on, although the way be bleak; In death, be strong, have courage, and be brave! Farewell, thou beauteous flower of the wild! It is with sorrow that I turn away. But by thy death, the grown one and the child Shalt find the strength to[…]
And now we’re back to social commentary that misses the mark again:
Turning to me again, the bullfrog continued. “I couldn’t help overhearing earlier that you spent some time in Maryville.” “I did.” “Tell me, how did you find their way of life?” “Confusing…strict…sad.” “It is all that and more,” the bullfrog declared. “Religion is one of the deadliest poisons ever self-administered by livingkind. It is an enemy of free thought.” I was a bit taken aback by his candor but wasn’t sure I disagreed. The bullfrog wasn’t finished. “Absolute authority is another foe of the mind. Why do we need the rulers of Hob? Why do we need a queen? We are capable of governing ourselves.” One of the Queen’s soldiers marched over to silence the frog leader, but the Queen stopped him. “Let him speak,” she instructed calmly. The soldier backed away. The bullfrog blinked at him before continuing. “If we do not like our rulers, perhaps the problem is not the choice of ruler, but rather that we are not meant to be ruled. Why trade one master for another?” The Queen listened intently to his words but chose—perhaps wisely—not to engage. When they weren’t zapping flies or bellowing aphorisms, the Freckled Fraternity[…]
And there’s another issue where the phrasing and the intent are at a huge juxtaposition here where the frogs sound like they’ve been sniffing their own farts for too long when they’re criticizing those who proudly sniff farts. A tonal change would probably fix this issue:
“We are not like the birds,” he continued, “who preen themselves haughtily to impress others. We are not like the fish, who travel in schools, incapable of independent decision. Nay, we are free in body and mind. Our aim is neither to be special nor to conform to others, but to be truthful.”
And now for Chapter O – as in oh my gods why am I still writing this; all I’m doing is mostly copy and pasting at this point, and I still really want to yeet my computer so I can have a better excuse to be done with this already.
Another “just why was this even necessary” moment:
Then there was the man from the mathematics department who insisted that, in Earth-humans, brain was inversely proportional to beauty. “There’s even a formula for it,” he informed us excitedly. “It’s y = 1/x.” Incidentally, this was also the formula for representing someone falling in and out of love, he pointed out. After showing us a graph of his equation, the mathematician proudly showcased his array of acute triangles and their not-so-cute counterparts.
The realization spread over me in a sickening wave. It was all making sense now: the dysleqsia, the blue skin, the horn pencil, the obsession with the letter Q. He was one of them! Qarl had had a major hand in planning this whole adventure. Of course this had been his plan all along.
This revelation this late does not make the MC feel “wise” as aforementioned in his talk on money with the WiserMiser …
“Hold it!” he shouted. “Don’t hurt me. I come in peace.” “And you’re gonna leave in pieces!” I shot back. I grabbed Qarl by the neck and lowered my head until my eyes were level with his. “I can’t believe I trusted you, Qarl. You betrayed me. You betrayed all of us!” Qarl laughed aloud. “No, I didn’t,” he protested. “Look, I can explain everything. Just let go of me.”
And why is MC making himself judge, jury, and executioner when there’s a whole chapter devoted to lawyers and how a misunderstanding can cause needless death???
“Well, Qarl, you’re kind of handing me these reasons on silver platters, you know,” I replied, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “It’s not like I’m digging deep for them.”
Again with the horrific use of “sarcasm” *rolls eyes and facepalms* … And, OH BOY AM I SO EXCITED, there’s even more social commentary that misses the mark:
I shook my head in stunned disbelief. “I can’t believe you helped construct one of the most feared things in the entire universe. Do you have trouble sleeping at night?” “I sleep just fine, thank you very much,” Qarl retorted instinctively, before lowering his voice. “Like I told you before, my past with Hob is something I’m not exactly proud of, but it happened, and I can’t change that.”
“I bet if you asked most of these aliens if they wanted to go back, they’d say no. This place is a paradise. Their worst fear has become their safe home. Why should they go back to the other side now?” “I suppose you’re right,” I reluctantly conceded. “But what about the humans banished here? Do they want to escape?”
Making consequential speculations about how “people” think and feel for them without asking them is dangerous. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH … And then we get some abusive language with in-group out-group mentality – I believe that could be classified as racism, or in this case speciesism:
What other conclusions could I possibly come to, you blue freak!” I shouted at him. “Do you deny that you’re one of them, that you were born and raised on Hob, that you’re one of their kind?”
And idk how many times I’ve seen this phrase in this book, but I’m so tired of reading this:
which I won’t bore you with now, but suffice it to say
And now for my last bit of feedback:
Don’t tell me the ‘Great Traveler of the Universe’ is lost in his own creation,” I remarked sarcastically. “Wouldn’t that be a hoot, you stuck in here with me for all of eternity?” I chuckled.
This could work as sarcasm, but it’s not funny sarcasm when you have to explain it (an ongoing theme in this book). Having written cues by changing the text to bold or italicized to make the point would be much more effective.
If I ever decide to read through a book that I would DNF again I may post about it as I’m reading it, but good LAWD I am never putting myself through this again in this fashion.