I leave tomorrow for a month long trip to the USA. As is always the case I’m stressed out and anxious, and one of the things that stresses me out the most is having the identical bullshit conversations with people about living in South Korea and Asia in general.
So, as one does, I made a bingo card of all my anxieties. This way even if I have a panic attack while listening to someone drone on I can still feel like a winner!
It’s rare that a book I’m reading flat out and out sucks. So what makes me quit reading a book? Read on and find out!
- It’s Not You. It’s Me: That thing your book does is a fine and good thing, it just doesn’t happen to be my thing. So you do you. I’ll do me, and move on without any ill feelings.
- That Window of Opportunity Has Closed: I subscribe to the view that we have a finite number of slots for certain stories, and once you fill up those slots you’re less likely to respond to new stories drawing from the same well. This is a normal thing and not something to be lamented, as long as you’re not a shitheel about it and crap on other people’s books for not being those same books you’re crazy about.
- The Ham Sandwich Problem: While that plot thing your characters are tracking down might be vitally important to them, I, the reader, am not quite convinced why it is. It may as well be a ham sandwich for all it matters to me.
- Your Plot Only Works Because You Have Shitheels in It: This is akin to that frustration you feel when you watch a movie where the plot centers around miscommunication, and you want to scream, “Holy Hell, people! Can you all stop and just call each other for two seconds and clear up this mess?!?” It’s a fine line, because some shitheels in a book might be necessary, but not so many that they strain plausibility.
- Your Book Actually Sucks: Somehow it happened. A book with all the thrills and charisma of a plank of particle board got published and ended up in my hands. Meanwhile, someone somewhere said it’s not so bad, so I gave it a shot. AND IT WAS AWFUL. But even now I’m less angry at the book, than at all the folks that said it was good. What were they thinking those awful wrong people?
Here we are already into June and I haven’t told you what my favorite reads were for May. How can any of us possibly go on?
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson: A family memoir from an iconoclastic writer about having a baby with her transgender husband – it’s quite funny and brutal but also a bit up its own ass in that PhD sort of way where a conversation (or butt sex) isn’t satisfying unless you deconstruct the post-structural nature of Lacan’s concept of the Other while you do it. Fun fact: in the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, the ship, the Argo, was slowly repaired and rebuilt piece by piece, so the ship that returned home entirely different ship, despite bearing the same name.
Hellspark by Janet Kagan: First contact story. I loved it. I loved the worlds and all their cultures. I loved the science of “proxemics” (body language) and the nature of the protagonist’s abilities. If you think a book pitched somewhere between China Mieville’s Embassytown and CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series might be a neat thing, then, yeah, track this down.
Cortez on Jupiter by Ernest Hogan: Loved this too. As much as I loved the world building of Hellspark, I suspect the future will be more like this with shitty fast food, everyone making micro-documentaries of their lives, and a reality TV show built around the high fatality rate of astronauts trying to contact the aliens that live inside the red spot of Jupiter.
The Destructives by Matthew De Abaitua: Theodore Drown is a recovering weirdcore addict and former accelerator currently lecturing on intangibles at the University of the Moon in the year 2060, forty years after The Seizure, the world-shattering event that saw the emergence of AIs. Someone’s been reading their PKD and M. John Harrison. Great cover by RAID71. I’m all for book covers looking like covers to weird comics. Great stuff.
Get Carter by Ted Lewis: A dudely, dude tough guy novel about a gangster coming home to bury his not a gangster brother and solving the mystery of the brother’s death. Even if you’ve seen the Michael Caine movie (or live in the horrid reality where there was a remake made starring some mumbler), the book still has a lot going for it. Very clipped. Very tense.