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JPickford

Bad books by good writers

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I'm an avid reader in that I literally cannot go to bed without at least reading a page or two.  I like genres like crime,  sci-fi, historical fiction.

I was recently stuck for something to read so I googled 'great scifi' and ended up being intrigued by Rendezvous With Rama.  Kindle had a bundle (it's a series) so I bought the lot.

The first book (by Arthur C Clarke) is excellent.  Good science fiction but poor in terms of character development.  I remember thinking he didn't even need to give the characters names as they had so little personality and character development.

The second book and subsequent books seems like a direct response to that criticism. They are also co-written with Gentry Lee (Nasa scientist apparently) and boy does it have characters.  It's also riddled with religion and dreams and magic.  FFS.  I've never skipped sections in books but finding the Sci Fi gets harder and harder as you progress.  I'm on the final book now and it's a little better.

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Yeah I agree. The first book was a perfect science fiction story, the second was a horrible mess. As I recall there was a French doctor who was had secretly fathered the British monarchs child. 

 

EDIT: just re-read this post - the doctor in question is a woman so I'm not sure how she fathered anyone's child, anyway it's ridiculous.

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The subsequent sequels, also authored with Gentry Lee, plot a continuing downward trend. I read them when I was a teenager and even easy to please me thought "What IS this shit?"

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On 13/11/2018 at 07:31, Plums said:

Yeah I agree. The first book was a perfect science fiction story, the second was a horrible mess. As I recall there was a French doctor who was had secretly fathered the British monarchs child. 

 

EDIT: just re-read this post - the doctor in question is a woman so I'm not sure how she fathered anyone's child, anyway it's ridiculous.

 

She's the main character Nicole.  Her daughter was fathered by the king of England.  But he rejected her because the british people would never accept a mixed race queen.

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What about Iain Banks? He was an amazing writer by anyone’s measure, but fuck me he hasn’t half farted out some absolute shite. Whit and Dead Air being but two, I’m sure there are more.

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I'm a big fan of Philip K.Dick, most of his stories are incredibly colourful and interesting, but The Man in the High Castle was possibly the most boring book I've ever read.

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5 hours ago, ZOK said:

What about Iain Banks? He was an amazing writer by anyone’s measure, but fuck me he hasn’t half farted out some absolute shite. Whit and Dead Air being but two, I’m sure there are more.

 

The Algebraist? 

 

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15 hours ago, ZOK said:

What about Iain Banks? He was an amazing writer by anyone’s measure, but fuck me he hasn’t half farted out some absolute shite. Whit and Dead Air being but two, I’m sure there are more.

 

While not bad a quarter of Feersum Endjinn is pretty difficult to read unless you mouth it out silently.

Woak up. Got dresd. Had brekfast. Spoke wif Ergates thi ant who sed itz juss been wurk wurk wurk 4 u lately master Bascule, Y dont u ½ a holiday? & I agreed & that woz how we decided we otter go 2 c Mr Zoliparia in thi I-ball ov thi gargoyle Rosbrith.

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Feersum Endjin is also great! There isn’t very much bad M. Banks. Banks is a different story (ho ho!).

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6 hours ago, Unofficial Who said:

 

While not bad a quarter of Feersum Endjinn is pretty difficult to read unless you mouth it out silently.

 

 

Try the audio book, honestly it was the first time I ever truly understood the book.

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23 minutes ago, Danster said:

 

Try the audio book, honestly it was the first time I ever truly understood the book.

 

I just silently mouthed the sounds while reading. Gave me both an understanding of the text and a free seat next to me on the bus during the period I read it.

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I started reading Iain Banks' books (before I'd read any Iain M Banks), and got to about his fourth (Canal Dreams or Walking on Glass, I can't remember which) and just hated it, and gave up half way through.  It took me some time after that to give his sf stuff a go, as I'd decided in my head that I didn't like his work.

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On 18/11/2018 at 11:39, Danster said:

 

Try the audio book, honestly it was the first time I ever truly understood the book.

 

The audiobook, by default, misses out on much of the way the book is expressed.

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On 13/11/2018 at 00:45, JPickford said:

The second book and subsequent books seems like a direct response to that criticism. They are also co-written with Gentry Lee (Nasa scientist apparently) and boy does it have characters.  It's also riddled with religion and dreams and magic.  FFS.  I've never skipped sections in books but finding the Sci Fi gets harder and harder as you progress.  I'm on the final book now and it's a little better.

 

Clarke didn't write a word of the Rama sequels, apparently - as with most of his co-authored books, he signed off on the plot and ideas, but let the other author actually write the fucker.

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On Iain Banks, his 'M' books vary in quality, but none of them are actually bad (Matter comes close, but is saved by the exciting climax). For his non-M books, the good ones are the exception - The Wasp Factory, The Bridge, Complicity & the Crow Road are all great, and the rest range from OK to embarrassingly shit. Transition is possibly;y the worst book I've ever read.

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Going by reputation only because I've not actually read Dracula (or any of his other books), but Bram Stoker's The Lair Of The White Worm is a bit of a shocker. Incredibly racist to start with, but it's filled with characters doing things that make no sense whatsoever, amongst many other issues. I'm not usually one for things that are "so bad it's good", but I'd say it's worth a read forewarned with this info, if you fancy a bit of a laugh.

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I have a feeling that there is a good book in The Unconsoled (there is certainly some exquisite writing), but like the protagonist it just gets bogged down and struggles to escape. 

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In the vein of this thread, I've just read 'You Were Never Really Here' by Jonathan Ames, after having watched the film. It's a really odd choice of setting and genre from the author - all of his previous books are black comedies about thinly disguised versions of the author getting into various alcohol / kinky sex-related scrapes, whereas YWNRH is a noir-ish short story / novella about a brutal, tortured contract killer / bagman who is hired to recover a kidnapped girl from a sex trafficking ring, and who predictably has to kill lots of people when the job goes horribly wrong.

 

It's a complete left-turn by the author, to the extent that I struggle to understand why he wrote it - it's like Bret Easton Ellis deciding to write a heroic fantasy novel. It's not a bad story, but it's not subversive enough to act as a satire of the genre, and it's not good enough at the actual core business of thrilling the reader to work on that level either. It fits to the template of the genre so closely that I wonder what Ames was trying to do with it - his voice just doesn't quite work in this setting.

 

I'm glad he wrote it all the same, because it was pretty enjoyable to read and it led to the brilliant film being made, I'm just slightly baffled that someone who so doggedly undermines your expectations and convention in his other work wrote something so conventional and slight.

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