There’s a part of me (the librarian part) that didn’t want to write this post. I don’t like to tell people “don’t read this book”. I’d like for people to read books and make up their own minds if it’s worth reading or not, and I think even bad books have something to teach us even if it’s just “how not to do it”.
There’s another part of me, however, that simply relishes any opportunity to tell other people about these books and why I hated them, and since I’m still recovering from reviewing *that* book, it might be good to get these other books off my chest as well.
So, without further ado, here are Gef’s picks for worst. books. ever (YMMV on all of them).
1. Green Rider by Kristen Britain
I don’t know where I originally heard about this book, but I was hungry for a new fantasy series and this was getting great reviews on Amazon (I buy too many books because of reviews on Amazon). For those of you who have never heard of it, it’s about a girl who encounters one of the king’s magic-using messengers (the titular Green Riders) who is dying. The dying Green Rider passes on his message (and therefore, his mission) to the girl, and her job is to get it to the king before sinister forces can take over the kingdom.
Seriously, this book is so paint by numbers half the words could be missing and the reader could still get the plot. Main character is Karigan G’ladeon (here Britain commits the unpardonable sin of using random apostrophes in names where they aren’t culturally appropriate), the antagonist is shadowy and mysterious–or would be if he wasn’t introduced ON THE VERY FIRST PAGE OF THE PROLOGUE WITH NO ATTEMPT TO HIDE IT (he’s known as ‘the Grey One’ btw). We have an elite fighting force known as Weapons (because they use their bodies like weapons, duh) and so on and so forth. Oh, and we can’t forget the
elves Eletians! They’re a magical, impossibly arrogant race who show up to help the protagonist out of a sticky situation with a giant crab.
In all honesty, I’ve heard it’s a blatant ripoff of Lord of the Rings, but not having read LotR, I can’t judge it based on that. I can judge it based on its terrible writing, cliches, and all around awfulness.
2. The Dracula Dossier by James Reese
Oh, James Reese, WTF happened to you? I liked The Book of Shadows (about a hermaphroditic witch who meets another witch, a couple of ghosts, and a total jerkass who is apparently a descendant of the demon Asmodeus) even though The Book of Spirits went straight into WTF territory for me, so when I heard you were doing a book about Bram Stoker meeting Jack the Ripper who is actually possessed by the Egyptian god Set (Set-as-evil-incarnate, of course), I was like “Okay, that sounds kind of awesome….”
Seriously, if you think that sounds awesome, this is not the book for you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the book does have Jack the Ripper possessed by the (evil) Egyptian god Set, but before you get to that part, you need to slog through the first half of the book, which is basically “Bram Stoker works with his theatre company” with appearances by Walt Whitman and Lady Jane Wilde, among others.
And absolutely nothing suspenseful happens for the first half of the book.
Do you remember those ads for Pan’s Labyrinth which had all those wonderful fairy tale-like scenes, and you thought “Okay, this looks cool….” and then you went to the theater and were treated to ten minutes of fairy tale-esque animation and the rest of it was a guy getting his face smashed in with a bottle?
Yeah, that’s this book in a nutshell.
The book could have easily been called “Bram Stoker Complains About His Job and Has Tea with Famous Friends–Some Murders Happen Near the End”.
3. The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker
I bought this book the day the author was in town and my university bookstore was all “Buy this book, it’s awesome!”
No, no it’s not.
To say this book is grimdark is like saying that some Heathens have a bit of an issue with Loki. You know a book is grimdark when the king and queen die of plague and the bard takes the opportunity to have his way with a small boy. Yep, it’s that kind of book.
At this point (a couple pages in) I don’t know why I didn’t just stop reading there. Suffice it to say that I didn’t manage to get much farther. You see, in between grimdark and outright squick you will find pretentious philosophical discussions that would probably only make sense if you had a doctorate in philosophy (which I don’t), suffice it to say that I just didn’t care. No, Mr. Bakker, I don’t give a shit about your characters opining on the Meaning of Life (or whatever they were talking about, I honestly couldn’t tell) for multiple pages, nor do I care about prostitutes who have sex with….men….that spew black semen (seriously, that can’t be healthy) in what is probably the most un-sexy (and frankly, grotesque) sex scene ever. (I heard it only gets worse. I don’t really care about your mages, or your people who worship a tooth (tusk, actually) and your holy wars in the name of said tooth, or well, anything to do with this book.
Suffice it to say that this book left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
4. Silk by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Silk holds my personal record for shortest time I spent reading a book before I put it down (a couple pages), and I think what it’s problem was was that it was unnecessarily wordy. You know those people who take twenty words to say what others can say in a sentence? Yeah, if this book were a person, it would be that.
Now, perhaps I’m being a little unfair, because I love Kushiel’s Dart, which has the purplest prose I’ve ever seen, but I wouldn’t call Silk’‘s prose purple, I’d call it word salad prose covered with rust (or something equally industrial), because while some part of me could piece together what was going on (ie. a girl sitting on a bench drawing with a sketchpad) all these words kind of just got in the way, and I didn’t think I wanted to sit through a whole book deciphering each passage so I could figure out what the fuck was going on, so I stopped.
The “So Bad It’s Good” Award
The Passion of Mary Magdalen by Elizabeth Cunningham
I believe I bought this one in the aftermath of all that Da Vinci Code obsessing (actually, DVC should probably be on the list of “books I like in spite of myself”). It’s basically the story of Jesus and Mary Magdalene if Mary was a bisexual Irish priestess raised by multiple mothers (who was also the dove who appeared at his baptism) who was sold into slavery by the Romans and sent to work in a whore house.
To say this book is very campy is (again) an understatement. I think it’s safe to say that Cunningham wasn’t going for any semblance of historical accuracy. The major issue that I had with this book was the way modern slang would kind of just pop in out of nowhere–and, seriously, you’re telling me in Ancient Rome the campy gay male prostitute wouldn’t raise any eyebrows, really? Even when they dress him up in women’s clothing and get him to dance for the male customers? So yeah, it’s campy, it’s corny, but I can’t say I hated the book, it’s just definitely not what I was expecting.