page contains a fair number of book reviews, the vast majority of which are positive (my average rating is 3.82/5). I thought it would be interesting to therefore share with you a selection of reviews from among some of the books I did not enjoy. The reviews are 95% spoiler free.
"The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss (2007) - Fantasy
Blurb (from GoodReads): The tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature.
My review: "The Name of the Wind" is a tedious, meandering love story masquerading and packaged as fantasy. Large swaths of the text are devoted to the unbearable pining of an adolescent over the first girl to ever say two words to him. The style of the book was heavy-handed and almost unbelievably pretentious. Rothfuss sees fit to liberally infuse the exposition with little pearls of wisdom about love and life which sound like they could have come from any community college freshman in a creative writing class.
Still, I held out some hope that perhaps, as is sometimes the case, the ending might redeem the mediocre content of a book. No such luck. The book ends not on a cliff hanger or with any means of hooking you in to read the next one, but with this bizarre, sociopathic tirade of threats from one character to another. Maybe all would be made clear or mitigated once reading further volumes (maybe not though), but I'll never know." (written 10/18/2015)
"God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist" by Victor J. Stenger (2007) - Atheism, Science
Blurb (from GoodReads): Physicist Victor J. Stenger contends that, if God exists, some evidence for this existence should be detectable by scientific means, especially considering the central role that God is alleged to play in the operation of the universe and the lives of humans. Treating the traditional God concept, as conventionally presented in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, like any other scientific hypothesis, Stenger examines all of the claims made for God's existence.
My review: If you want to read a book that argues in favor of atheism, I advise you to read literally almost any other book written on the subject. "God: The Failed Hypothesis" offers nothing substantive that the other atheistic books out there don't provide. Stenger is a physicist, and as such, this book will give you a bit more physics than the others, but where this one fell drastically short was the presentation and style. Victor Stenger may well be a fine scientist, but his writing is that of a high school text book; accessible, but humorless and dreadfully boring. The actual content of the book is sound, his arguments and analysis are valid and in accordance with all the available scientific knowledge and data, but good luck getting through this one. (written 10/28/2014)
"A Shadow in Summer" by Daniel Abraham (2006) - Fantasy
Blurb (from GoodReads): The city-state of Saraykeht dominates the Summer Cities. Its wealth is beyond measure; its port is open to all the merchants of the world, and its ruler, the Khai Saraykeht, commands forces to rival the Gods. Commerce and trade fill the streets with a hundred languages, and the coffers of the wealthy with jewels and gold. Any desire, however exotic or base, can be satisfied in its soft quarter. Blissfully ignorant of the forces that fuel their prosperity, the people live and work secure in the knowledge that their city is a bastion of progress in a harsh world. It would be a tragedy if it fell. Saraykeht is poised on the knife-edge of disaster.
My review: The far-Eastern themed setting seemed refreshing and original, but this book left me waiting for something - anything
- to draw me in. The story had almost nothing in the way of fantasy, action, adventure, or any meaningful struggle or conflict. The plot was glacial, the characters uninteresting, and their relationships forced with a heavy hand. "A Shadow in Summer" gave me no reason to continue on to the other books in the series. (written 11/26/2014)
"The Shadow of the Torturer" by Gene Stone (1980) - Fantasy
Blurb (from GoodReads): It is the tale of young Severian, an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers on the world called Urth, exiled for committing the ultimate sin of his profession -- showing mercy toward his victim -- and follows his subsequent journey out of his home city of Nessus.
My review: There was a musty, scholarly dryness to the writing that, in and of itself, can work, but when combined with vague storytelling and incomprehensible, one-dimensional characters, rendered the book extremely difficult to immerse oneself in. The world and its history seemed interesting from the hints and allusions sprinkled throughout, but not enough to sway me to wade further into a story that, in swaths, makes little sense, and with characters I don't care about. (written 12/26/2015)
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon (2003) - Fiction, Young Adult
Blurb (from GoodReads): Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor's dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.
My review: To be frank, reading "The Curious Incident" was a thoroughly unenjoyable experience, even downright grating at times. To whatever degree the style and content of this novel accurately represents the thought process and/or experience of those unfortunate souls so afflicted, then perhaps it can be useful in that regard as an educational tool. As a piece of literature, however, I found little of value. By its very nature, "Curious" has a built-in defense mechanism against criticism; it's a poor story told even more poorly, but it was written so on purpose
, and it is about an autistic child, which conveys an unspoken ultimatum of insensitivity to any who would express distaste. I, however, have never been able to square the circle of convincing myself that irritating mediocrity is somehow more enjoyable or valuable than it seems by virtue of having been created intentionally so. There it is. (written 4/5/2017)
"The Mismeasure of Man" by Stephen Jay Gould (1982) - Non-fiction, Science
Blurb (from GoodReads): H
ow smart are you? If that question doesn't spark a dozen more questions in your mind (like "What do you mean by 'smart,'" "How do I measure it" and "Who's asking?"), then The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould's masterful demolition of the IQ industry, should be required reading.
My review: The synopsis of this book was hugely misleading. I was expecting an interesting, thought-provoking exploration on how we measure intelligence today
. Instead, I got a textbook-like history lesson on all of the racist and pseudoscientific ways people used to measure it decades or centuries in the past. Let me sum this entire book up in a sentence to save you the time in reading it: "People back in the day had really stupid and racist means of measuring intelligence." (written 4/26/2013)
"The Anubis Gates" by Tim Powers (1983) - Science Fiction, Time Travel
Blurb (from GoodReads): Brendan Doyle, a specialist in the work of the early-nineteenth century poet William Ashbless, reluctantly accepts an invitation from a millionaire to act as a guide to time-travelling tourists. But while attending a lecture given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1810, he becomes marooned in Regency London, where dark and dangerous forces know about the gates in time. Caught up in the intrigue between rival bands of beggars, pursued by Egyptian sorcerers, befriended by Coleridge, Doyle somehow survives. And learns more about the mysterious Ashbless than he could ever have imagined possible.
My review: The plot itself was clever, both in conception and in the twists, but the story seemed to blur by at erratic, breakneck speeds. It was difficult at times to determine what was happening, and even more so to care. The plot synopsis, in summary, looks very ingenious and intriguing, but I did not enjoy the way it was written. The characters were two-dimensional, and no part of the story was allowed to breathe, but rather was frantically crammed down your throat. We've all read books that were agonizingly slow paced, but this one left me feeling like I've stepped off a roller coaster after too many cheese fries. (written 8/28/2014)
If you find these reviews interesting, useful, dead-wrong, or offensive, feel free to let me know.I'm on YouTube. twitter.com/AmericnDreaming