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Here are a few recent book reviews. They pained me.
The Number of the Beast The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I feel very conflicted about this book. It's one of the ones that I've re-read every year or two; it's large, and once you start it it's very hard to put down. Heinlein, whatever his faults, was a storyteller - and a gripping one.

But his faults are largely on display in this book.

When I was a young teen, my brother and I used to torture each other by reading particularly ripe and painful passages out loud to each other. This book, and the "Notebooks of Lazarus Long" excerpts from Time Enough For Love, comprised our list of pain. They were truly retch-inducing.

But that damned Heinlein really WAS talented. Witness the fact that I've read the book more than ten times in the past couple of decades.

The flaws are many? He gets really creepy on the sex. The "old man Heinlein" voice is particularly noticeable - it's a bit jarring and weird for everyone to banter and quip like someone from Kansas City in the 1930s. The incest angle gets really sickening, to be honest - why does he glory in it in so many books? I have to wonder.

And towards the end the whole thing basically falls apart. I'll avoid spoiling it, but basically reality sort of falls apart and things just get weird. There are lots and lots (and lots and lots) of obvious in-jokes, some of which I get, and some of which I don't. That gets old and tired after a while. I'll also say that there's something of a loss in the book; it starts out first-person in the voice of one protagonist, but then starts rotating between viewpoints in each chapter. Towards the end, when the original lead is "speaking", it feels as if he's somehow lost. They're all just merging into a single Heinleinian superman/woman.

Which reminds me of a parody of Heinlein that my teen-aged self wanted to write, come to think of it. His later characters are all sex maniacs, and all act, think, and talk the same - like an idealized Heinlein, I presume. If he hadn't had a gift for storytelling on a par with that of Rudyard Kipling, he would never have gotten away with it.

I've gone back and forth on this book. I hated it the first time I read it (shortly after it was first published), warmed up to it again...and now, decades later, I find myself more repulsed by the sex and incest angles than I used to be. Maybe I'm just getting old. Nonetheless, I'll likely end up reading the book again in another year or three.

View all my reviews.

JLA: The Tenth Circle JLA: The Tenth Circle by John Byrne

My review

rating: 1 of 5 stars
I'll keep it short and sweet: this "graphic novel" sucked.

Ever read a comic book, and suddenly been embarrassed because you've suddenly realized that the writer(s) obviously never got the memo (released to the industry after Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns) that comic books are supposed to actually be intelligent, and that they're now written for adults and not for particularly dim-witted teens? Ever suddenly felt ashamed and amazed that you were actually READING a piece of sophomoric trash?

Then you know exactly what I went through with this one. A painfully stupid and cheesy vampire enemy confounds the good guys. And apart from the bad writing, I have to say that the art was rather pathetic, too. The lead vampire looked like something from a third-rate comic in the early 1970s, by an untalented artist who had recently seen Nosferatu.


View all my reviews.

Justice: Volume 1 (Jla) Justice: Volume 1 by Alex Ross

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
I'm glad I got this out from the library, because I'd have been pretty annoyed if I'd paid for this utterly uninspiring and unmemorable piece of work.

What is it about DC and Marvel that they simply CANNOT publish a memorable or well-written comic or miniseries unless one of a very small number of writers is part of the project? At this point, if it's not by Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman, my expectations are virtually nil.

I read the whole series - volumes 1, 2, and 3. What was it about? The bad guys (primarily Lex Luthor and Brainiac) get together and screw over the good guys (the usual cast: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Justice League of America).

Look, the art is the usual brightly-colored eye candy. And the characters are the same old classic characters who can be magic in the hands of a decent writer, but are leaden and uninteresting in the hands of the usual DC gang of incompetents.

Worst of all, the whole damned thing was confusing. Was it just that the original comic book miniseries assumed that the readers were all desperate fanboys who were reading everything that DC produced, and so left half the plot out of this series because it was all covered elsewhere? I doubt it. All I know is that for much of the novel I didn't know what was going on. And worse, I didn't CARE.

Confusing, poorly written, uninspired. I read it two or three days ago, and the ONLY memory I have from it is Wonder Woman looking like a zombie because she was poisoned and was therefore turning back into earth. I didn't know she was made from earth to begin with - I'm pretty sure that's just something the writers added for this particular series - but from three all three volumes that's the ONLY thing I remember. And it's not really WORTH remembering.

And I have a good memory, mind you!

Sad. Just sad. I don't understand why DC won't or can't get decent writers. Someone should smack them with a clue-by-four.

View all my reviews.
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