Space Ramblings

Category Archives: Books

Why Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant Books are the Real “American Tolkien”

assholeleper

Every generation a new American fantasy writer gets dubbed the “American Tolkien”. Few of them deserve it.

George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice books are popular thanks to the terrible HBO series, but Martin is the least deserving of the title. Martin is a great short story writer, but a poor novelist and his world building is terrible.  Tolkien would have hated Game of Thrones and everything that followed.

Stephen R. Donaldson is the only writer who got called the American Tolkien and deserved the title. Not because Donaldson is a better writer than Martin. He’s much worse than Martin in almost every department except epics.

And that’s the one that counts. But there have been plenty of better epic fantasy novelists than Donaldson.

What makes Donaldson deserving of the title is that he didn’t just try to copy Tolkien. Copying Tolkien was a booming industry. Stephen R. Donaldson tried to comment on J.R.R. Tolkien’s ideas.

The Thomas Covenant books are not a series about fighting orcs. Neither is Lord of the Rings. They’re about the ethical impact of the decisions we make.

Donaldson is one of the very few writers who captured the environmental scope of Lord of the Rings. The forests and plains and mountains are characters in the Covenant books the way that they are in Lord of the Rings. Both series use the environment to give the books epic scope.

But Donaldson takes everything Tolkien did to an extreme. The Lord of the Rings books are not fond of industrialization. Donaldson creates an anti-industrial society where no one even chops wood or injures stone. Instead they’re so in harmony with nature that they figure out how everything fits together. It’s very seventies, but it’s developed so that it’s the magic system and the mythology of the books.

Tolkien’s characters are conflicted about power. They worry that using it might be more dangerous than not using it. Donaldson turns that up to the highest pitch by making his main character a man who is terrified of using power and certain that it will corrupt him. Thomas Covenant makes Frodo look like General Patton.

In Lord of the Rings, the right thing isn’t what succeeds, but what is morally right. Killing Gollum would have been the smart thing to do, but not doing is what saves the whole quest and Middle Earth. Covenant spends most of the books not killing his own Gollum no matter how much harm and suffering it brings.

Donaldson often shamelessly copies Tolkien, but sometimes he effectively condenses him. Covenant’s first dialogue with Saltheart Foamfollower about the ring works much better than the similar scene with Tom Bombadil. Not to mention that splitting up the Ents into Giants and Forrestals works a lot better. And Tolkien’s own initial ideas had focused on someone from our world traveling back in time to another age, but he could never make it work.

The Thomas Covenant books are wildly eccentric, but so is Lord of the Rings. There’s no comparison in terms of quality. Tolkien is far better. But Donaldson is probably the best at closely copying much of what he achieved. The Covenant books take the same material to extremes and Tolkien would probably not have liked the results, but he would have recognized them right down to the religious influences.

How Robert Charles Wilson’s The Chronoliths Predicted ISIS

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that Robert Charles Wilson’s The Chronoliths was a pre 9/11 novel. Its fractured world 1920247torn apart by the shadow of extremism and financial decline is extremely prescient.

In The Chronoliths, giant monuments appear in major cities across the world commemorating their conquest by a dictator named Kuin twenty years in the future. The monuments are indestructible but cause mass destruction and panic. The public is terrified waiting for the next one to show up every year, but some are attracted to Kuin.

Like the ISIS kids now, they wear Kuin clothes, join groups and run away from home to go on Haj and form brutal militias. Society is fractured between high level Adapt and Prosper collaborators who want to surrender to Kuin and a militarized government that pours money into trying to stop a seemingly invincible threat.

Kuin never puts out a political program. He might not even exist. But the teens who want to support him read their own programs into the chronoliths. It’s the idea of changing the world and creating stability that drives them.

Robert Charles Wilson writes about ordinary people caught in strange temporal events. He writes with the casual insight of memoir fiction about things like alternative universes and time travel that most science fiction writers don’t like to touch. And he makes the world of The Chronoliths seem amazingly relevant to ours.

Wilson not only nails the post-cyberpunk Amazon world in which the big data gig is predicting people’s behavior, but the fear and uncertainty of a declining America where the youngest generation is willing to turn to mass murder in a search for identity and meaning.

It’s a world with a wide generational gap, a dwindling middle class, the loss of privacy and security that faces a war against an unstoppable dictator from the future who conquers by terrorizing the past and builds shadow armies by tearing apart nations.

The Chronoliths vision of a divided America panicked by global terrorism, the end of privacy, financial collapse, teenage extremism and cities torn apart in ways that closely resemble 9/11 is amazingly prescient for a pre-9/11 novel.

It’s one of the very few Science Fiction novels to talk about where we actually are.

And its failure to win the Hugo for Best Novel over the fangirls and status seekers who gave it to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods foreshadowed the controversies that would turn the Hugo into a joke.

The Chronoliths isn’t Wilson’s best novel, but like Vinge’s End of the Rainbow, it’s one of the few that seems to capture where we’re headed. It’s hard to look at the beheadings, the teens running away from major cities to join militias and not think of the way that an uncertain future drives people to find certainty in brutality and terrorism.

Why George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice Novels Suck

640_george_rr_martin_conan_tbs

I’m talking about the George R.R. Martin novels, not the terrible campy TV show that hipsters watch in soccer bars. That’s just Deathstalker the 100 million dollar TV show with a better class of actors, slightly less nudity and more gay references than a season of South Park.

I liked Game of Thrones. I liked Clash of Kings. By Storm of Swords, I was having my doubts. By Feast of Crows, the problems were too obvious to ignore.

 

1. A Song of Fire and Ice depends on soap opera gimmicks, not consistent plotting

Think of 24. The show’s plot was incoherent but it kept you watching by constantly throwing in twists and turns. An entire season made no sense but it didn’t matter because you were watching for the suspense and the shocking turn. The Following does the same thing now.

The Game of Thrones novels are a novelistic version of 24.

George R.R. Martin depends on gimmicks to make up for what he lacks in plotting. His original novels, Dying of the Light, Armageddon Rag, were big on atmosphere, but their plots made no sense. That’s still true in Game of Thrones, but Martin spent enough time working in television to borrow its plot gimmicks.

Characters are killed unexpectedly. Characters seem like they’ve been killed off, but they’re actually alive. (Martin has at least twice shown the body of a character only to reveal that he’s alive. Or is that three times?)

Some characters rise unexpectedly and then fall equally unexpectedly. There’s a name for this. Soap opera.

And just like on a soap opera, the gimmicks worked for a while until they became repetitive.

How many times have you seen this one? A character with no real battlefield experience, Robb, Daenerys, Tyrion, suddenly turns out to be Napoleon until they suffer an unexpected setback and lose everything.

All this furious activity disguises the fact that the novels are going nowhere and readers have figured it out. A lot of the frustration isn’t just because Martin isn’t writing novels, it’s because he isn’t moving the story forward. He knows he can’t move it forward. All he has is a bag of tricks. And he’s repeating them too often.

George R.R. Martin’s final trick is to sell the lack of forward motion and consistent plotting as gritty and realistic. Peel away all the gritty medievalism and it’s as gritty and realistic as Days of Our Lives.

 

 

2. Martin is good at Character, Bad at Endings

Do you know what Martin’s early novels all had in common? Botched endings. If you’re waiting for A Song of Fire and Ice sequel that gives you what you want, don’t wait. Martin isn’t capable of it. He’s a good writer, but a bad novelist.

Think of Lost. The show was great at telling the stories of individual characters. It just couldn’t do anything with them in a story. The character sketches were compelling. The story went nowhere. The ending was a disaster.

After five novels, Daenerys is the only character with a meaningful arc whose story has been advanced. Tyrion has a meaningful arc but his only job is going in circles. The less said of the rest of the crew, the better.

In Game of Thrones and Clash of Kings, Martin builds the equivalent of Lost’s early seasons. But once that’s done, like the show, he has nowhere to go. He’s bad at plot and he doesn’t care about it. Like the Lost writers, he just wants to play with character sketches. He doesn’t want to do anything more with them.

Like Lost, Martin randomly kills off characters. He brings in new compelling characters. But the real goal is a status quo in which the setting continues and nothing gets resolved.

Lost wasn’t a mystery about a secret island. Viewers just thought that. It was a way of letting the writers play with a bunch of characters. A Song of Fire and Ice is about letting Martin play with characters. It’s not about big battles or figuring out the mystery of what lies beyond the wall or how the dead can walk again. Readers just think it is.

They’ve been wrong all along.

 

 

3. George R.R. Martin isn’t Tolkien

The Game of Thrones novels are promoted by claiming that George R.R. Martin is the American Tolkien. There are writers who might deserve that honor, probably Robert E. Howard, but Martin isn’t one of them.

There’s very little original worldbuilding in Game of Thrones. Most readers never realize that because the books are told intensely through first person immersion that create a sense of unearned reality. The world seems like it exists, even though it’s very thinly sketched.

Also most of them have never read Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. The similarities are so heavy that if Williams had the guts he could put “The Series that Inspired Game of Thrones” on the reprints and dare Martin to do anything about it. And while Williams isn’t as good at the characters or the intrigue, his world is more realized than Martin’s poor copy of it.

The pseudo-medieval European religion and history are far more realized in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Martin just tosses them out there inconsistently. He doesn’t create a compelling fantasy universe the way that Williams does. George R.R. Martin creates compelling characters. That’s a lot, but it’s not great fantasy.

Martin’s early novels and stories did do some compelling worldbuilding with the Manrealm. It could have been one of Science Fiction’s great universes. But Martin dropped it and did a lot of television. And television is the only thing he can do.

The HBO series Game of Thrones bastardized Martin’s novels, but before it did that, Martin bastardized other people’s work to create A Song of Fire and Ice.

 

 

4. Martin is a good writer, but he never learned to write novels

George R.R. Martin has written some amazing short stories and novellas, but he never learned to write novels. Instead he gave up and went into television. He still doesn’t know how to write a novel.

A Song of Fire and Ice is popular because he used television writing gimmicks to disguise that fact. But the novels stretch on indefinitely because it’s all gimmicks and filler.

Martin can’t end the series because he’s never successfully ended a novel before. Each new novel in the Fire and Ice series just drags on even more. By Dance with Dragons, Martin wasn’t even bothering to pretend that he was ending a novel. And he didn’t. It’s just a chapter in a serial. And the serial can go on forever if the audience doesn’t notice that it’s going nowhere.

Kill a character. Bring him back to life. Up. Down. It’s all an attempt to avoid another failed ending.

If Martin really wants to do right by his audience, he needs to take a break from the universe, which he’s been doing anyway, and write a separate unrelated novel, and not one of the Cards universe collections, plot it out and end it successfully. Then he can take what he learned and apply it to the series.

Not that he will. The HBO cash and all the associated merchandising money keeps flowing in. Martin has become ridiculously famous. He can keep cashing in without delivering. By the time the HBO series ends, he can copy whatever it did with the elements he laid out or he can drag it out for another ten years.

But whatever he does, A Song of Fire and Ice will be mostly forgotten in a generation. The novels are not going to stick around because Martin can’t deliver and soap operas have limited rereadability.

I wouldn’t be too surprised if Martin, like David Gerrold, never releases a final chapter, but just basks in the fame until it goes away.

 

Old Mars by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois Book Review

oldmars

Price: Several Slightly Less Mediocre Softcover Themed Anthologies

Number of Inner Light Ripoffs: 6

Number of Good Stories: 3

Number of Great Stories: 1

Number of Stories by Martin Pals: Too Many

Reason for Existence: George R.R. Martin Twinkie Fund

Themed anthologies are invariably bad. Asking readers to pay 30 bucks for a hardcover themed anthology is insane hubris even for George R. R. Martin who put out a hardcover collection consisting of things like his unpublished TV scripts. But here’s Old Mars anyway.

On paper, unpublished paper, Old Mars sounds like a good idea. A tribute to the Mars of John Carter that we lost when we saw the real Mars.

On actual paper, Old Mars is a miserable collection of bad writing from both good and bad writers. The worst offenders are Chris Roberson and Melinda Snodgrass with stories that are terrible and mediocre at the same time. But that’s also the overall tone of Old Mars.

Old Mars has more ripoffs of the Star Trek TNG episode The Inner Light than an entire fanzine. This collection is filled with humans encountering Martian artifacts and getting visions through them of the lost Mars that was.

Story after story of the same thing. And almost none of them are any good.

Aside from S.M Stirling and Mike Resnick turning in another overpulped homage, this isn’t John Carter’s Mars. It’s supposed to be Ray Bradbury’s Mars if Bradbury had been a hack who could barely spell his name. Countless stories of conflict between human settlers and Martian archeology. Countless stories of the one human who can magically detect the original Martians while no one else believes him.

That’s not even the weirdest part there. There are two, count em two, stories of 16th century British sailing ships traveling to Mars at the command of an English King. The second story was by Martin pal Daniel Abraham, but it’s still too much.

Some of the mess that is Old Mars can be put down to mediocre writers. Who picks out Melinda Snodgrass for a theme anthology? Or Chris Roberson, a guy whose story about pirates on Mars reads like something a six year old would come up with? But how do you explain Michael Moorcock’s pulpy entry which is bad enough to be pulp, well enough written to remind you that Moorcock can write, but still a bad story?

The closest to the advertised vision of Old Mars comes from S.M. Stirling’s Sword of Zar-Tu-Kan. But that’s just another story set in Stirling’s own Old Mars, an idea he had long before this anthology and extends from his novel, In the Courts of the Crimson Kings. Old Mars is just a paying market for an existing Stirling universe.

Phyllis Eisenstein’s The Sunstone is YAish, but is the best of the Inner Light reworkings because its Martians are understated tour guides keeping a hidden culture alive, instead of the ridiculous visions in other stories.

The Queen of Night’s Aria by Ian McDonald is the best and only genuinely great story of the lot. Martin and Dozois know it which is why they positioned last. And that means they also know the value of the rest of the lot. McDonald delivers a personal story of an eccentric Irish musician contrasted with a world in which War of the Worlds has been going on since the invasion, the British and the Ottoman Empire are trying to occupy Mars while dealing with a bewildering array of species and a ruthless Martian Queen plotting under the surface.

Queen does what the rest of the stories in Old Mars fumble to accomplish, casually tossing off locations, technologies and a war without infodumps and while keeping the focus on an eccentric character and his ambitions. It’s a masterful performance that only makes the rest of the volume seem that much worse.

Sorry Amazon, Paperback Books Weren’t Invented in WW2

books_rogue_ybcw90

There’s a big fight on now between Amazon, Hachette and bestselling authors to decide on the best way to screw readers and ordinary writers.

The writers have formed Writers Union. Amazon formed Readers United.

But Amazon, even though it made its big splash selling books, doesn’t seem to know where paperbacks came from.

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents — it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

The existence of the term “Dime Novels” would tell you that it didn’t happen that way.

Paperbacks weren’t invented in the 1930s. because our ancestors weren’t morons. They existed long before that.

Amazon is probably talking about Albatross Books in the 1930s while leaving out the rather complicated history and just shifting over to Penguin. That’s fine, but pretending that paperbacks were invented then is stupid for a company that makes money selling them.

Amazon is pretending to champion readers. Writers United is pretending to champion writers. Both are lying. They’re fighting over a percentage of profits from eBooks.

Is Science Fiction Fandom Hopelessly Polarized?

argument-380x258-tm

This isn’t just about Larry Correia and Vox Day. Or Jonathan Ross. Or Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Or Mick Resnick. Or all the rest of it. The bitter accusations and counter-accusations. The outrage and counter-outrage and counter-outrage-outrage.

Science Fiction, like a lot of publishing, rests on more than ever on writers marketing themselves over social media. That’s why we pretend that Scalzi is a good writer, when he’s actually a bad writer and an entertaining blogger.

It’s what he has in common with some other recent big names.

We have less of a fandom of writing now and more of a fandom of writers and causes. Followings of writers who are the best at online presence because they polarize and mobilize.

The Hugos have been worthless for a while, but the 2014 finalist list shows how easy it is to rig them. After Vox Day’s appearance on the list, I don’t see why any writer would even want to be associated with them.

But it’s all about the marketing. And the marketing is now all about the politics.

It’s easier to market yourself as a writer if you have controversial political views. It’s much harder if your views are ordinary, boring or if you don’t have any.

A bad writer with an entertaining and controversial online presence. A dramatic online presence. Beats a good writer with little online presence.

In a fractured marketplace where that same audience is buying movies, video game and a dozen other things, politics pulls people together. Fandoms built around writers with a commanding online presence have more power because fandom is a pale twisted shadow of what it once was.

Science Fiction is polarized because that’s what stands out in a crowded and mediocre marketplace. You can’t set yourself apart from the latest 40 urban fantasy series or Martin imitators who are growing out their beards, but you can set yourself apart by being loud and obnoxious.

Maybe this is what’s happening with our politics, but it is what’s happening with our Science Fiction. And then everyone is outraged and outraged by the outraged and no one can hear themselves talking because they’re screaming talking points at each other.

And you pick a side, any side, join in, because that’s fandom now.

Tschai and Demon Princes: The Journey is the Destination

 

Jack Vance’s book series of Tschai Planet of Adventure and Demon Princes are long winding journeys that end abruptly and in an anti-climactic fashion.

(Spoiler alert for those who need them for books from the sixties.)

Adam Reith arriving at the empty steppe to find a working spaceship, rubbing some dirt between his fingers and Tschai “exhibiting its rotundity” before it vanishes.

Kirth Gersen arriving to find that Howard Alan Treesong, the weakest of the series’ villains, has already been immobilized by his victim’s parents only to have him commit suicide and then complaining in a brief scene with Alice Wroke, who like Reith’s Zap 201 is really the latest girl he has ended up with, though Alice at least shares his passion for revenge, that he has been abandoned by his enemies.

cugele thei rehr

Kirth and Adam are only truly alive on their quests. Adam frequently debates whether he will even be able to leave Tschai. Kirth becomes progressively more ruthless and yet unwilling to kill his enemies. He misses Lens Larque twice and misses Howard Alan Treesong. He complete Lens’ revenge for him coming close to crossing into the dark side.

After defeating the Demon Princes, with his skills and endless fortune, Kirth faces the same crisis as the demon princes who were undone by the need to find pursuits, grand or petty, to match to their vast power. It’s not unlikely that Kirth will become a demon prince.

Adam’s skill set as a scout is only truly of use in a place like Tschai. There’s no room for men like Kirth and Adam on civilized worlds. And they are too empty to live on them.

Kirth Gersen has few interests. He buys a chess playing toy toward the end for the novelty. He considers settling down on Methlen yet knows it’s nothing but a fantasy. Adam Reith is even more of a cipher. Nothing is known of his past. His profession requires him to tackle dangerous worlds. He’s only truly alive on Tschai.

A conventional author would have written of Anacho, Traz and Zap 201’s responses to enco0uro_caza011untering human worlds and the Federal service’s war with the Dirdir, but topics like that did not interest Vance. The abrupt departures and conclusions of both series is Vance closing the door once there is nothing of interest to write about.

Vance, a tourist in real life, was also the author as tourist, laying out the fanciful wonders and baroque irritations of strange places and turning away when it was time to go home and there was nothing more to say.

Adam Reith and Kirth Gersen are tourists with incredible skills who are vehicles for exploring strange imaginary worlds. When the tour ends, the air leaves the balloon and the story ends. Reith and Gersen are driven by the plot on a quest that will destroy the purpose of their journey. Their journey is their destination and their destination ends them.

Their mission is the self-destruction of the animating force that gives them purpose and meaning.

Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson book review

81thYuZtG7L._SL1500_

Robert Charles Wilson is the only modern Science Fiction writer who has made alternative universes his theme and writes about them intelligently. (The less said about Turtledove, the better.)

Wilson’s alternate universes are surprisingly quiet and personal places made up out of small town, residential houses and personal struggles. History takes place around them like an ocean passing around a piling, but the worlds are rooted in the small town house with the lit window and the man or woman behind the glass staying up late at night and considering their choices.

It’s been that way ever since the eighties and while Wilson has taken a few false steps recently with the Spin series, an oversized and poorly told set of novels that is outside his normal range, despite the praise they received (these days if a novel wins a Hugo you know it’s probably terrible and unreadable), he returns to familiar territory with Burning Paradise.

Burning Paradise is less obviously an alternate universe novel than it is a pod people novel, but that’s common enough for Wilson. Less commonly, Burning Paradise reads so much like a teen novel that I have to wonder if it wasn’t intended to be one. But it’s still a return to familiar Wilson territory with an alternate universe, ambiguous moral choices and lonely small towns.

The pod people or the sims, fake human beings controlled by the alien entity of the Radiosphere, give Burning Paradise more of a feeling that it’s out of time. Most of Wilson’s novels feel like they’re throwbacks to what Science Fiction might have become without the New Wave and the radiosphere, a field of living particles around the planet that also acts as a hive mind, reproducing itself by taking over an intelligent species, feels like an idea from the 50s renewed with more modern concepts.

Burning Paradise contrasts the biologies of two species, the competitive hive minds of the radiosphere who control communications and infiltrate the planet to impose their Pax Radiosphera on a world at peace, and the four children of the Correspondence Society, the only group of humans that is aware of the radiosphere and trying to fight it, along with a scientist who has spent time researching the radiosphere and his estranged wife and their aunt.

The Correspondence Society lives in a world built on a lie fed by television programs, radio transmissions and phone calls manipulated by the radiosphere. Its members dodge inhuman killers who look like ordinary people. And both the radiosphere and the humans converge on a single destiny.

Burning Paradise isn’t perfect, but it is interesting and while the plot twists can be guessed ahead of time, Robert Charles Wilson avoids the neat ending that the novel seems to be working toward and instead ends on a more ambiguous and human note.

The Spin series may have moved Wilson into the front rank in sales, but it’s good to see that he’s still doing what he does best with novels like Burning Paradise.

Jack Vance’s Darsh and Frank Herbert’s Fremen

download

Jack Vance wrote The Face, the fourth novel in the Demon Princes series after his friend Frank Herbert wrote Dune.

The Face has Jack Vance’s own take on the desert people who adapt to the environment, but Vance’s Darsh with their female mustaches, aggressive manners, overt thievery, inedible food and horrifying mating customs are so much more colorful and real than the Fremen.

Dune’s Fremen are there to be noble warriors. The desert has boiled them down into survival mechanisms with a hidden cause. The Demon Princes’ Darsh were made aggressive and obnoxious by the desert. They are intolerant of authority and can’t work together. Their macho attitude expresses itself as Plomash, they duel and conspire against each other, their marriages are based on mutual hatred and they dwell under giant metal umbrellas that rain water that make their homesteads more memorable than those of the Fremen.

Like the Fremen, the Darsh have something valuable that everyone wants and it’s tempting to see the Darsh as a more realistic take by Vance on his friend’s most famous creation.

When Vance wrote The Face in 1979, Herbert had turned Dune into a huge franchise. Children of Dune had become the first Science Fiction bestseller 1976 and its sequel was eagerly awaited. Dune had transcended its original characters and become a story of the environment. And The Face is also about the environment, but the environment doesn’t make its men and women noble, but ignoble.

The Darsh, a wacky mixture of Gypsies, Arabs, Eastern and Southern Europeans, feel much more real than the Fremen because of their glaring flaws and their zest for life. They may be horrible people, but like so many of Vance’s fictional characters and cultures, their horrible enthusiasms make them come alive.

Vance’s description of Darsh gastronomy alone brings more life to a culture than all of Dune does for the Fremen.

Their food is seasoned with vile condiments, so that they may better savor cool pure water; they drink offensive teas and beers if only to exemplify this typical perversity, which they value for its own sake.

The traveler must adjust himself to a Darsh meal as he might a natural catastrophe. It avails nothing to pretend relish; the Darsh themselves know that their food is repulsive, and apparently derive a perverse pride in their ability to consume it regularly.

 

World War Z – Max Brooks’ Boring Zombie Apocalypse

war-z

If I had to choose between rereading World War Z and facing a zombie apocalypse, I would go with the zombie apocalypse.

World War Z by Max Brooks isn’t just a bad book. It’s an unreadable book. It’s like a zombie Tom Clancy without any understanding of plot or storytelling. Writing in conversational first person from multiple viewpoints would be a difficult enough trick for a professional writer. Max Brooks isn’t up to it and not just for all the obvious reasons.

Open a page, any page, here’s what you’re going to find.

Gagron rolls a cigarette, looks at the waitress

Then we brought down the T-Hawks in xa-320 time. Buenos Aires was spread open in front of us. The Dawbies (*Dawbies were the nickname given by Argentinian special forces to their purchased Russian A-260s) and Zebras were everywhere. I didn’t know what to do. We stood around for a bit. Then Zebra was on us. That’s where I got this scar.

Senor, I still have nightmares about it today.

World War Z would be defensible if it were an actual collection of stories about an actual war. But it’s a fictional collection of fake narratives about zombies that skips the zombie part more often than you would think for some kind of second rate war trauma narrative for a war that never happened.

Max Brooks spends too much of World War Z establishing global references for every country he hops to, but the actual zombie outbreak falls between the cracks except for an early scene in China and a battle in Yonkers. The references are supposed to lend authenticity to a story that just isn’t interesting because it’s buried in Wikipediaisms, in footnotes and factoids and footnotes in factoids.

World War Z might have made for a decent novel if it had tried to tell a third person story in real time. Instead its first person aftermath interviews are not only a pointless gimmick, like blood on the camera lens, to make a story seem authentic by adding a filter to it, but it bypasses most of the interesting parts of a zombie war.

That is what’s so strange about World War Z, from its fake classics book cover to its trauma case files it wants legitimacy that doesn’t belong to a zombie story. Like a movie about Lincoln killing vampires, a story about a zombie apocalypse is never going to be legit.

Max Brooks’ dubious accomplishment in World War Z is to make a zombie apocalypse seem boring by treating it like the aftermath of the Vietnam War, instead of a story about monsters that eat people.

Post Navigation

 
Custom Avatars For Comments
UA-32485431-1
%d bloggers like this: