Friday, December 23, 2005

WORST IN BOOKS: 2005

I really couldn't do a traditional top ten with the worst. What makes seven worse than eight; that kind of thing. So, I do have the nominee for Worst Book Overall I read, but the other nine are just in alphabetical order. Well, here are ten (actually 11) books to avoid at all costs

WORST BOOKS OF 2005

1.CHRIST THE LORD: OUT OF EGYPT (ANNE RICE) � I don�t like Anne Rice very much. �Interview With the Vampire� is the single most overrated novel ever, but when I heard she was tackling a multi-novel series about the early years of Christ, I couldn�t resist. And it was everything I hoped for in a great bad novel. Just like bad movies, bad novels can be fun as well; why do you think those trashy romance novels do so well?

This takes place when Jesus is seven. And it is also told from his perspective, so there�s a �Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man� thing going on here. As usual, Rice�s prose is bogged down with adjectives that go on forever, and I swear to God she is making half of the words up. And the child�s first person perspective comes off very un-childlike. I�m not sure Rice ever was a kid. There were a lot of interesting ideas here that could have been tackled. Jesus, at an early age, trying to understand why he has these powers, and how exactly his mom gave birth to him, but Anne Rice is not the woman to tell this story.

2.THE COLORADO KID (STEPHEN KING) � King said he was retiring, remember? He was going to finish off his Dark Tower series (which I thought ended up being a little bloated; please don�t shoot me, Barrett) and then he was done. I was actually a little grateful for this, because the King of old is different from the King of new. Books like �Salem�s Lot,� �The Shining,� �The Stand,� etc. from the early days are horror classics, but everything post, say, 1991, is pretty damn blah. But because I love that King of old, I can never turn down the crap he writes now, hoping that maybe he will have another gem left in the old noggin. But for the past sixteen years, and disappointment after disappointment, I give up. And �The Colorado Kid� might be the worst novel he�s ever written; no wait, it is.

This is actually an entry into the Hard Case Crime series; a publishing company that gets popular authors to write hard boiled crime stories like Hammett and Chandler did back in the day. The problem is, times have changed and when someone tries to do this they usually just come off as a fun homage at best. No one writes like Hammett and Chandler anymore, but no one should really want to. Times have changed, new things are happening everyday; no reason we should always be living in the past.

But King, being the pulp lover he is, can�t resist, and he misses the mark completely. A young up and coming reporter is told by her old as hell editors about an unsolved mystery from years back, and she decides to bet them that she can solve it. There�s your premise; not a bad one, but King never really does anything new or different with it. King can write a lot of different types of stories, but I�m guessing a whodunit is not one of them. He doesn�t understand the basic structure of a mystery. He doesn�t understand how to leave the clues along the way; he doesn�t understand how to play fair. And the mystery itself is terrible anyways, so I�m not really sure what drove him to write this in the first place. But whatever, he did. Oh, and look, there�s a new King book coming out in January; retirement my ass! The best thing King has written in the last fifteen years or so are his editorials in the back of �Entertainment Weekly.� Maybe he should just stick to those.

3.DANCE OF DEATH (DOUGLAS PRESTON AND LINCOLN CHILD) � Preston and Child are most well know for their debut novel in 1996, �The Relic,� which was a decent page turner turned into a pretty terrible movie. I read �The Relic� when it came out, and never really thought much more about the two authors. A year or so ago, a friend of mine who knew I am an Agatha Christie nut and can�t get enough of Hercule Poirot told me about a character Preston and Child had been writing a series of novels about, Agent Aloysius Pendegrast, an brilliant detective who has made him self and FBI outsider due to the strange cases he always takes on. So, I picked up the books and devoured them in a couple months. �Cabinet of Curiosities,� �Still Life of the Crows,� and �Brimstone� are the most recent three, and they are the three that have lead to �Dance of Death.�

Preston and Child have decided to create their very own epic that will include all of the fiction they have written to this date (which is around 12 novels or so). In these last three books I just mentioned they each had their own self-contained adventures for our Agent Pendegrast, but there have been various subplots that have been tying themselves together, and have built up to �Dance of Death� where I guess the shit was supposed to hit the fan.

In �Dance of Death� we have a supposed battle of epic proportions between Aloysius and his thought to be dead evil twin brother, Diogenesis. Yeah, I�m not kidding. Diogenesis�s master plan is to kill all of his brothers nearest and dearest and after the inevitable cliffhanger at the end of the book keep on going from there for world domination, I guess. What were three of the most intelligently written thrillers I�ve read in the past few years have now been all but ruined by this latest chapter in the saga. This is supposed to be Preston and Child�s �Breakfeast of Champions� or �Tempest.� They are Prospero letting all of their characters be free or die terrible deaths in this case. This is supposed to be clever and unpredictable, but it comes off more harsh than anything else. Not to mention there prose is way off from previous books; this was written on autopilot. Next Summer the story concludes, supposedly, and it better be damn good, you sons of bitches.

4.4TH OF JULY/LONDON BRIDGES (JAMES PATTERSON) � These are two of Patterson�s five novels that have been released this year. Of course, three of them have another writer�s name alongside his, so it makes you wonder if Patterson�s just signing off on some of these. But, whatever, he�s rich as hell whatever he�s doing. It amazes me that one can actually sit down and write this many books in a row that are this god awful. These were the only two I read, so I can�t comment on the other three, but I can imagine.

Patterson started off as a fine writer of little self-contained thrillers, and then he wrote his masterpiece, �Along Came a Spider,� the first in the Alex Cross series. Two movies have been made (�Along� and �Kiss the Girls�) and a third is on the way (�Roses are Red�). Ever since then his novels have been pretty bad. So, why do I read them, I�m not sure. My sister-in-law�s a big fan, and she always gives them to me when she�s done. They read really fast, and I guess I�m always hoping that old Patterson will come back, but like Stephen King, he never does.

�London Bridges� is the latest in his Alex Cross series (actually �Mary, Mary� has already come out last week or so), and it has to do with Cross chasing down about the lamest assassin that has ever seen print; he�s actually called the Wolf, I kid you not. Patterson�s fairy tale metaphors are getting to the point of outright insanity. �4th of July� is the latest in a newer series of novels he�s been writing, The Ladies Murder Club (or something like that) where a lawyer, journalist, cop, and coroner all get together and solve some mysteries. All the titles have numbers in them as well; pretty catchy, unnh. But what does my opinion matter; millions of people are reading these books as I write these words. Oy vay.

5.THE GODFATHER RETURNS (MARK WINEGARDNER) � Who�s dumbass idea was this. The book takes place between the end of the first �Godfather� and the beginning of �The Godfather Part II.� It�s about an eight year gap I believe. But the problem is we�ve seen or read the sequels, and by knowing what has happened to the characters, how does this attempt at fleshing it out anymore prove interesting for anyone. If Puzo was alive and could still write it, maybe I�d be a little forgiving, but if he was alive he wouldn�t write this. They had been trying to get him to write a new �Godfather� novel for years, and he refused. Can you blame him; look at how laughable Arthur C. Clarke has become with his �2010� series.

To top everything off, Winegardner is a terrible writer. The overuse of adverbs is one of my all time pet peeves (One J.K. Rowling is guilty of getting on my bad side doing this), but at least Rowling has imagination and can come up with interesting characters. Winegardner already had great characters and he turned them into one dimensional idiots. This dude needs to wake up next to a horse�s head. Sorry, I couldn�t resist.

6.THE HISTORIAN (ELIZABETH KOSTOVA) � I�m all for a horror novel, from a first time novelist nonetheless, being one of the top selling books of the year; I just wish it had been good. Journals are found by a young woman in 1972 (why it�s not just set in present day I couldn�t figure out; stuff like that bugs me, but I digress), involving her father twenty years earlier searching for, you guessed it, old Vlad the Impaler. Dracula.

This novel attempts to put the Dracula legend into a historical perspective hence the title, and even goes so far as to detail the conditions of his homeland and how it has evolved over the years. I seriously thought while reading this novel I was taking a course on the Cultural Aspects of Dracula. Which is not a good thing. The reason authors like Clancy and Crichton have never aroused my interest is because I�ve always felt like I was reading a textbook and not a story. The same can be said for Kostova�s debut. She shows a lot of potential as a writer, and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with in the future. However, �The Historian� is pretty trite and boring when you break it down to the essentials.

7.THE RULE OF FOUR (IAN CALDWELL AND DUSTIN THOMASON) � I have to be honest; I made it through this book, but I don�t know what the hell was going on in half of it. This is supposedly a novel that has taken these two former college buddies over eight years to write. During all that time couldn�t they have it make some sense. Here�s what I do know that happens. There are four roommates at Princeton who are trying to crack the secrets of an ancient text, the Hypernerotomachia Poliphili, and people start dying once they get close to cracking it.

However, if they do ever figure out what the text has to do with anything, I couldn�t tell you. As far as I can tell, not a damn thing happens in this book. These guys will be in their room, then at the library, then back in their room, and they keep talking, but not about anything that is relevant to what I suppose is the main plot. This was obviously published to cash in on �The Da Vinci Code� craze, and as much as I have been trashing that novel, it�s �Crime and Punshiment� compared to this nonsense.

8.PREDATOR (PATRICIA CORNWELL) � Cornwell kicked off her series about forensic expert, Kay Scarpetta, 12 years ago, and the first novel in this series is awesome. They�ve gotten worse one by one ever since then. The last one in the series, �Trace,� was so bad (It�s main villain was named Edgar Allen Pogue for Christ�s sake) I thought surely �Predator� had to be better. And I�m not saying it�s not, but that�s just one of those questions you would never feel comfortable answering.

It amazes me how strong a character Scarpetta was at the beginning of this series. Cornwell really set a high standard for leading ladies in fiction. Since that time she has turned her into more and more of a victim as each novel goes on. There�s physical actions; attacks, rapes, attempted murders, etc. But it�s also in the way she writes her. I�m really getting sick and tired of reading about how the person Kay Scarpetta has just met is staring at her large breasts. I don�t think anyone who has read at least two of these novels has any doubt that Scarpetta is supposed to have large knockers; I get the picture. It�s as if she detests her meal ticket. And lets do us all a favor, and quit writing the novels; try something different. It�s obvious there is a good writer in there, let us read her again.

9.THE TWELFTH CARD (JEFFERY DEAVER) � Deaver is one of the better thriller writers out there today. He has a very successful series out there starring everyone�s favorite parapalegic detective, Lincoln Rhyme, but his stand alone novels are just as outstanding. �The Twelfth Card� actually started off as a stand-alone, but his publisher wanted him to do another Rhyme novel, so he gave in and turned it into one. And you can tell.

There is nothing about this world that fits in the previous Rhyme novels. (The first book in the series, �The Bone Collector� was released as a movie in 1999 with Denzel Washington taken on the role of Rhyme and Angelina Jolie playing his unlikely love interest, Ameila Sachs.) It�s as if he concocted two completely new characters and stuck one of them in a wheelchair and gave them the names Lincoln and Amelia.

This is just an obvious bad attempt at cashing in on some previous success. If this was supposed to be a stand alone then I wish he had wrote it as one. I understand that he only sells a third of what you sell when Rhyme and Sachs are in the story, but forcing bullshit like this on us isn�t going to work for long. Although, people still read Patterson, so Deaver will probably be okay after all.


THE WORST NOVEL I READ IN 2005:

JUICED (JOSE CANSECO) � That�s right! Jose Canseco�s book. The one that will tell the truth about steroids in baseball. This is the most glorified piece of self-righteous bullshit I have ever read. The book starts off with Canseco talking about his love for steroids; giving his 100 percent approval, as if we give a shit.

It gets better. Then he goes on to talk about how he, by himself, saved baseball. How he got everyone hooked on the juice and to start hitting homeruns, and that�s what saved Baseball ladies and gentleman. He also talks about boinking Madonna and a few other interesting factoids like that.

Apparently, everyone said he shouldn�t write this novel because it would ruin his reputation as a baseball player. Well, that had been accomplished a long time ago. Now any hope you had of being held up as a credible person are long gone. Way to go, Jose. You fucking moron.

5 Comments:

At 12/23/2005 10:54:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I read The Godfather earlier in the year. Damn good. It kills me when publishers decide that the original writer isn't necessary in continuing a franchise. I wonder how many copies this new version sold, and if it was worth it to the publishers.

The Historian is another novel I'd like to read, even though I've heard it repeatedly trashed this year. Everything, including your inclusion onto this list, says, "Go away," but I am inexplicably drawn to want to read it someday.

 
At 12/24/2005 08:53:00 AM, Blogger MaraJade said...

What are some of the best you've read this year?
I'm going to need more material after I finish the Harry Potter books (that I finally broke down and started reading) and I'd rather not reread all my Star Wars and Hitchhiker's novels (not that they aren't good, but by the tenth time, you're ready for something new). . . .

 
At 12/24/2005 07:13:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Jonathan's Best and Worst List puts my reading habits to shame. I don't read enough books in a year to come up with a list, and usually they are not new releases. I read The Godfather, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, The Da Vinci Code, Animal Farm, Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew, Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Peace Like A River and War of the Worlds, only one of which was released this year. So those books would be my best AND worst list. My favorites were Half-Blood and The Godfather.

 
At 1/13/2006 06:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dullboy" was one the worst books of the year. It had everything a worst book needs, painfully stereotypical and depressing characters, mangled subplots, and nobody to root for. It was largely (poorly) plagarized from "A Confederacy of Dunces". The only good reviews on Amazon were written by the author and his cronies. May it rest in peace in remainder heaven.

 
At 3/11/2008 09:33:00 PM, Blogger ~The Zombie Hunter's Bible~ said...

We all want the old Stephen King back.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home