Pedo Snore Screed of a Octafish

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

This is the worst novel I have ever reviewed for Ferretbrain. That’s a big claim, but I am confident it is true. I am confident it will remain true for a long, long time. I got an e-mail out of the blue from someone I thought I could trust, asking if I was interested in reviewing a fantasy novel, I said yes, I read this book, it changed my definition of what “terrible” is because my previous conception of awfulness wasn’t sufficient to encompass just what a disaster this is.

Trigger warnings for rape and pedophilia by the way, gang.

The Waters Rising is, in principle, a sequel to A Plague of Angels from way back in 1993. It came out in 2010 in the States and 2011 in the UK, making it eligible for the 2012 Arthur C. Clarke award, which it was shortlisted for. Christopher Priest got very angry about this on the basis that the book feels more like fantasy than SF, and the Clarke is supposed to be a SF award. Then again, China Mieville won the Clarke with The Iron Council, which is fairly clearly fantasy, and the SF/fantasy borderline isn’t as clear as some people might like. Then again, Priest was angry at the Clarke judges not just because he thought the books they picked weren’t SFy enough – he also thought they were shit and should never have been in the running. I haven’t read all of them because I have no particular desire to stay current with every single book which is currently making waves. But I have read this one. Dear God, I have read this one until I was sick to the back teeth. I can confirm that it shouldn’t have won an award. I can also confirm that in its present state it probably shouldn’t have been published. There’s trash authors who self-publish because no publishing house in its right mind would release their bilge who, despite their utter lack of anything resembling authorial skill, effortlessly manage to outwrite this crap. The book is terrible in both conception and execution.

The thing about Tepper is that her books are polemics. She makes no bones about this. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, she has a following anyway. I’d never read any of her work before this and am unlikely to in the future; I was mainly aware of her because Beauty was honoured with a spot in the Fantasy Masterworks series, but based on valse’s assessment this seems to have been a mistake. Of course, it’s possible to do polemic without being tedious or preachy, but on the evidence of this book Tepper seems to be completely incapable of doing so; on top of that, a lot of what she preaches here is reprehensible (there’s a nasty eugenics spin to the story) or actually counterproductive to the various causes she espouses. She’s known as an eco-feminist, yes, but she’s the sort of eco-feminist that embarrassess all the other ecologists in the room by behaving almost exactly like the sort of total cartoon that climate change deniers like to paint ecologists as.

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What Is Worst In Film?

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

So recently I invited Dan and Kyra to come watch the new Conan the Barbarian movie with me, and they agreed because friends don’t let friends go into that sort of situation alone. It gave us a lot to think about and process, and you can rest assured our post-match analysis was pretty animated, but it’s only now that I think I’ve got my thoughts about the film in some sort of logical order.

Spoiler-free summary: it’s so bad that after it was over I went out and immediately bought the blu-ray of the original film so that Arnold Schwarzenegger could take the pain away in glorious high-definition.

But to understand just how much of a failure it is, we need to go right back to the beginning – to the original Dino DeLaurentiis-produced series of Robert E. Howard-themed movies, which spawned a horrifying tidal wave of second-rate imitators. Now, to be fair I’m not averse to 80s barbarian B-movies, but it’s a “so bad it’s good” sort of deal – they’re bizarre, badly acted and bizarrely-costumed cultural wreckage from a particular era and fun to watch when you’re in the mood for something completely fucking laughable, though they’re sufficiently offensive that I wouldn’t blame anyone for reviling them. The new movie is horrendous not just because it fails to replicate the success of the original, but it fails to be entertaining even on the lowest common denominator level of the imitators. Before I get to reviewing the remake, though, I want to give mad love to the original, and give its two sequels a kicking along the way too. Partially because there’s something comforting about shooting fish in a barrel, and partially to put this new failure in context.

In case you didn’t know, by the way, Red Sonja‘s premise and script are based largely on rape. So, Fantasy Rape Watch tag gets ticked, those as are likely to be triggered be warned.

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The Reading Canary Tackles the Mystic Swordsman

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

The Reading Canary: a Reminder

Series of novels – especially in fantasy and SF fiction, but distressingly frequently on other genres as well – have a nasty tendency to turn sour partway through. The Reading Canary is your guide to precisely how far into a particular sequence you should read, and which side-passages you should explore, before the noxious gases become too much and you should turn back.

Kane: One of Conan’s Heirs

That particular brand of low fantasy that’s referred to by fans as “sword and sorcery” is, to a large extent, all about the protagonists. While it is true that a few of the early pioneers of the genre, such as Clark Ashton Smith, didn’t feel a need to include recurring protagonists, preferring instead to develop a recurring setting, ever since Robert E. Howard wrote his genre-defining Conan the Barbarian stories the presence of a well-defined main protagonist has become a key feature of the genre.

Appropriately, many – if not all – of these protagonists have been responses to Conan. Howard’s contemporary, C.L. Moore, wanted to write about a female hero, and invented Jirel of Joiry. Fritz Leiber, beginning in 1939 but continuing into the 1970s, treated us to stories of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, who far from scorning civilisation as Conan does have a full and rich enjoyment of the finer things in life. Perhaps the most deliberate inversion of the Conan archetype is Elric, Michael Moorcock’s product of the 1960s, whose physical weakness, emotional fragility and reliance on wizardry is in striking contrast to just about everything Conan stood for.

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Freedom to Pillage!

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.


There is another thing I ought to say about pirates. Last night I saw a movie on TV about us, and it got a lot wrong…

More known for his multi-volume series than for his stand-alone books, Gene Wolfe hasn’t written a non-series novel in 16 years. Pirate Freedom bears the proud distinction of being a Sci-Fi channel “essential read”, as far as I can tell because it happens to have come out in the wake of Pirates of the Caribbean. The publishers are happily going along with this and have made sure that the guy on the cover bears a vague resemblence to Jack Sparrow. To be fair, as a response to the increasingly irritating Pirates franchise, Pirate Freedom does a good; it manages to be historically accurate and avoids whitewashing the subject, but at the same time avoids going too far the other way; Wolfe understands that a good pirate story should be fun and exciting, not po-faced and grim.

However, Pirate Freedom isn’t just a response/tribute to Johnny Depp; it’s also Wolfe’s meditation on his own religious beliefs. The main character (and narrator) is Father Christopher a kid from the near future who moves to Cuba with his mafioso father after the fall of the Communist regime. While his dad opens up a casino, Christopher is shunted off to a monastery that doubles as a private boarding school, and eventually becomes a novice there. At some unspecified age – I’d guess 16 or 18 – he decides to leave, but when he does so he isn’t in the mid-21st Century but the late 17th, when the monastery was built.

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