“Halo: The Fall of Reach” by Eric S. Nylund

(Author: Eric S. Nylund) + (Year: 2001) + (Goodreads)


Review:

*** 1.5 stars ***

Well… at least I tried.

I have a friend who is a big Halo: The Fall of Reach fan and in his attempt to get me interested in the story, he convinced me to give it a shot.

I really, really tried to like the story, the book, the writing… I couldn’t.

Halo: The Fall of Reach to me was poorly written and rather dreary, shallow and messy. Many events came to be in the book, but the story moved so little in terms of world-building. Yes, of course there were big events, but most of them were battles between the Covenant vs Deus ex machina. And my curiosity about the essence of this world was hardly nourished.

For starters, the core of the story were the war and the creation of the Spartans because of the war. But those two ideas were developed in such a strange way that I couldn’t really make myself take the story seriously. The Spartans were described in very contrasting ways, which could make sense if developed properly (the people who support the idea of the Spartans’ creation – the Spartans themselves – the horrors of their creation – the people who would like to see them fall), however the majority of these contrasts were written in a very off-hand manner, so it just seemed like that was “writing for the purpose of filling pages” in between epic battles.

And don’t even get me started with the battles. There was so much… I would say, “military jargon”? Just commands, terms, words that may make sense to gamers, but not to a casual reader… More so, however, the battles were lead solely relying on miracles, a.k.a deus ex machina. Half of the battles scenes between generic ships and ship crews went on like this:

“- We have to fight!
– Sir, they are turning around!
– Oh no, we will die!
– At least we are going to die in honor!
– There’s nothing more to do! We will die!
– UNLESS! Turn the ship, yeah, hit them Covenant bitches, uh uh, how do you like me now?!
– Oh sir, you saved us! How did you come up with this brilliant plan?
– Nah, it wasn’t anything special.”

In general I just couldn’t get engaged in the story. Not my cup of tea at all, I admit, but I still thought it might surprise me. It didn’t.

“The House” by Simon Lelic

The House(Author: Simon Lelic) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

The House was, at first, a suspenseful and quick read, and I managed to get through the first half in a matter of hours.

However, that was the moment I realized that this book is not going to live up to my expectations and that it’s not at all what it seemed to be at the beginning.

Judging by the description, I expected a truly “grisly” story with many twists and turns. Yes, there were twists, I will give you that much. But there was nothing very grisly, as there was also nothing very scary. And ultimately, the climax of the book was so ordinary and unpredictably predictable that I kept reading expecting something more to happen, because this just could not be it. It was. The book ended and I could not, for the life of me, believe that this was the actual event that we had been waiting for.

The things that The House did wrong for me were, as follows:

  1. After reading the book, I saw that many people highly appreciated the prose. Which part, though? Half of the time the characters were chatting among themselves. That was the first thing that made an unpleasant impression on me. The chapters were going back and forth between Syd and Jack and the two of them were bickering and correcting each other, mumbling, leaving half-finished sentences… I just imagined the two of them in person and they seemed like the two most annoying people that could have been telling this story.
  2. The abovementioned Jack and Sydney were such horrible people! How could any person actually root for a spineless momma’s boy and a bitch who is coked out of her mind? Seriously? Both of their narrations were of childish, immature people, who are barely hanging on the balance of their existence, both asocial, awkward and troubled. And what’s more: neither one of them actually achieved any personal development at any point in this book. Jack was annoyed that Sydney was doing drugs, but he didn’t actually try to stop her, he kind of just offended her on the topic. And Sydney did all sorts of despicable things which he just accepted because he lacks backbone. That never changed either.
  3. The villain of this book? Also the two supposed main characters. The person who was accused of being the bad guy was just so unconvincing and had such a minor presence, that I just couldn’t accept that this is actually happening and that that person is actually the direct cause of all of the events. The supposed villain’s indirect effect on the story is completely palpable, that much I can say. But at no point did they seem like they actually belonged in the present-time events in the book.
  4. The ending: generally, I support justice and retribution. So if I had known how the story ends before reading the book, I would have expected to like the ending. Yet, I absolutely did not. What happened did not seem like justice. It seemed like the origin story of yet another villain, or villains. I believe that out of the ending of this book, and namely the effect it had, or did not have, on the main characters, only more evilness and insanity could arise. No, thank you.

“Wraithborn” by Joe Benítez

Wraithborn(Author: Joe Benítez) + (Year: 2006) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I’m giving this book 2 stars only because I saw that there was a story hidden somewhere deep down there.

The abovementioned story is a very simple YA plot: a girl who just wants to mind her own business is drawn into a world of darkness where she has to learn to fight against evil, when all she wants to do it continue her life as normal.

This arc has been used only a million times in YA novels, but if they continue drawing readers, including myself, then that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

However, everything goes downhill for Wraithborn after this. The plot doesn’t have anything that sets it apart from other similar books, the heroes are in no way charming, the villain is powerful only in words and offers no real plot twists or challenges, and last, but not least, the artwork is very unappealing.

Melanie, the main character, is very, very hard to like. She’s weak, lacks will power, and is very self-centered (although here we have to mention that many teenagers are self-centered in general). But the thing which bothered me the most about her is the fact that she’s not a person who wants to help others. She prefers staying off the radar and protecting her own ass. Then, a jump to the future, and she has been completely transformed into a savior of the defenseless. I’m not buying it.

Story-wise, Melanie would not have survived at all, had there not been deus ex machina in every single issue. Every time she is in trouble, there’s a masked warrior coming to her rescue, and in very special occasions, she has magic mojo that she can’t control just bursting out of her. Valek somehow knows that he needs to find her, and also guesses every time she would be in distress, and even though they barely talk, aside from battle grunts, by the end of the volume they have developed a special bond.

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I won’t even bother commenting the other characters because they are so shallow and only there so that it seems like there’s some characters.

What bothered me the most, though, is the art. The women are almost naked, always, they have identical faces (which makes it hard to understand what they mean when they say that Melanie is unattractive: She looks just like the rest of y’all?), and they all look like sex slaves. Now, I have nothing against sexy, but there’s sexy as in sultry and/or erotic, and sexy as in just cheap. I would not say that Valek, fighting alongside his sister, whose panties are there for all to see, is sexy. I would say that is kind of bothersome, actually.

2712956-kiara__s_on_the_attack_by_joebenitez

Classy: the man and the woman on the left, Valek and Kiara, you might have guessed, are siblings.

Bothersome is also the fact that although Melanie is the hero of this book, and apparently she is to become a big badass sometime in the future, on all of the covers she is just hanging there while almighty Valek is behind her back in a fighting position. Because even when girls are strong, they still can’t make it without a guy to protect them. Great message! Not.

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The cover of issue #5. As you can see, Melanie is a fierce warrior, she needs no man, and she… Wait. She’s just standing there looking confused and defenseless in the shadow of a strong male.

“Nowhere Me, Vol. 1: Fates Worse Than Death” by Eric Stephenson

Nowhere Men, Vol. 1: Fates Worse Than Death(Author: Eric Stephenson) + (Year: 2013) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I will go with No. This is one of those books where the characters are over-hyping themselves and each other, because otherwise it would be hard for the reader to realize that something supposedly important is happening.

“Oh, these guys are rockstars!”, “He is a legend”, “Their research changed the world!” Okay then, if the author made his characters call each other brilliant, then we must be reading about truly amazing individuals. Not.

Nowhere Men is a very confusing, messy, and unconvincing attempt at sci-fi. There is no science anywhere in the entire volume, just a bunch of characters that make things happen and you are supposed to buy into the idea that they did it thanks to science. However, considering that the author doesn’t bother to give any information about the level of actual technological development in this world, or on where humanity was before the science Beatles came into the picture, this so-called “science” could as well be magic, for all the reader knows.

There is a large jumble of seemingly important individuals, including 4 interchangeable scientist gods, who did… something, and then… something happened, and some substance was created somehow. Sometime in the past someone somehow decided to put it on a spaceship for some reason, which created some kind of a virus, which is not actually a virus. Now you know as much as I do, having read the first volume.

If you stripped the story to its bare bones, you would find a striking resemblance to the Fantastic 4, including the design of the characters on the space ship. The science rockstars remain a mystery, as does their importance, however, the reader must be aware that even though they seem like a bunch of squabbling, greedy old assholes, apparently all of them are geniuses.

apci84

It’s really hard to find any characters to care about, or to be convinced to believe in any part of the story. The self-explanatory articles and interviews with the characters don’t help. On the contrary, they make the story even more dragged out, and they nudge the reader into the land of “Who cares?”.

The part that I did like, more or less, was the art. It was solid, well-made, and comforting. I was glad to see that they didn’t go for anything more experimental, because that would have added to the overall ridiculousness of the volume.

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Thanks, Nowhere Men, see you never. 

“Smilla’s Sense of Snow” by Peter Høeg

Smilla's Sense of Snow(Author: Peter Høeg) + (Year: 1995) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Denmark)


Review:

Smilla’s Sense of Snow depicts the victims in the world of the strong. The struggle of the outsiders in the country of their conquerors. It tells a lot about the systematical overtaking of the Danish culture against that of the Inuits. It also shows the cold world of power, money and desire for fame and glory, which is common for all people, but has no equal than that of the Western, developed, world, where people have already managed to get what they need to cover their basic needs, so they now have the spare time to struggle for things less essential, but just as important to them. Smilla’s Sense of Snow in some ways encapsulates everything that I have heard about the cold north of Europe.

This is also the point in which you can see the gap between the developed world and the third world countries. In the former, they fight for glory, in the latter – for survival.

However much Smilla’s Sense of Snow told me of Denmark, as a book it was a lot more mediocre than I hoped. While I do have my prejudices against people whose main motivation in life is power and money, I am not saying that I dislike the people in countries like Denmark. On the contrary, I have recently developed quite a fascination with this small and less loved Scandinavian country (especially as I have so many Swedish friends who dislike it). Therefore, I did have high expectations for Smilla’s Sense of Snow.

The first 100 or so pages were very good and riveting. The mystery developed fast and it went deep. I had no idea what to expect and I was eager to go further. After those first 100 pages, though, things started getting increasingly worse. There was a constant stream of characters who served the same purpose, had the same personality, and all hated the main character, Smilla. At one point, more than halfway through the book, I just gave up trying to keep track of everyone. Too many names, too many unimportant stories, too much fluff.

And don’t even get me started on the stories. From the mystery around the death of a young boy, this book took so many turns, went through so many sub-plots, so much insanity… The author didn’t stop for a second to throw one thing after the other. Each of these elements could have made a fine book all on their own, but Høeg was relentless: murder, drugs, smugglers, Nazis, meteorites, legends, science fiction, ships, agents, killer parasites, Inuit culture, snow, ice, ice, snow, BDSM, ice, missing mothers, dead fathers. Not one of the stories was even finished. Most of all, I expected some sort of a conclusion to the death of Isiah, but I did so in vain. Høeg tried, but failed miserably, to explain the death and give closure. And I was there asking myself “Was that it?” Not to mention that the meteorite story did not fit into the world of this book at all. It was as if I was reading two different books simultaneously, and neither me, nor the characters could understand what to make of it.

If you think that, taking all of this into account, this was a fast-paced book, you would be wrong. For every half a page of intense action, there were 20 pages of descriptions of how many centimeters there are from the door to the light switch, and what the quality of the silence in the room is, and last, but not least, ice and snow and ice. I know that the book’s title is Smilla’s Sense of Snow, but to be describing in detail every state of snow and ice for pages on end is quite special. Not in a very positive way.

Lastly, Smilla might be one of the least pleasant main characters that I have read about. She is extremely angsty, but I failed to understand WHY exactly that is. Sure, her life was not a fairytale, but for example, why did she hate her father so much? What was the reason for that? I never got it. I just knew that she hates him, so by default we have to hate him, too. Also, Smilla is so self-contradictory that she is not a realistic character at all. She spends 99% of her time in the present moping around and daydreaming about 50 shades of snow; and in her memories, she is spending extensive amounts of time reading to Isiah or giving him baths. However, while that was happening, she also managed to go to 20 expeditions to Greenland, to write 2000 papers, to get 89 university degrees, to be arrested 50 times, to tag polar bears, to spend time on ships, to be a part of a million institutions, to sit around and hate her father, to run away from home and go to Greenland without money or documents, to become a person of interest to the police, to investigate, to be well schooled in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering… Do you see where I am going? And now, her age: 37. As a conclusion, I would say that Smilla is not a very well built character. She is mean for no reason whatsoever, she hates everyone, despite having had a mostly good life, and she is rude and self-important.

I like him. I have a weakness for losers. Invalids, foreigners, the fat boy of the class, the ones that nobody ever wants to dance with. My heart beats for them. Maybe because I’ve always known that in some way I will forever be one of them. 

Err… why?