Category: book review

How Much Can an Ending Ruin a Book/Movie?

I was reading a book this past week. One I was generally really enjoying. I tend to keep a running track in my mind of what I’ll be giving a book or a movie as I read or watch it. The baseline for me is a 5/10. The more I like it, the higher it gets (obviously). With this one, I was pretty sure it would be getting a 7 or so, but then as I got farther in, I began thinking it would be more of an 8. I was really like the plot progression, the science fictiony aspects of it were all working. There was about 10% left in the book according to my Kindle, which felt just right.

Except when I went to turn the page at the end of the chapter, and it popped up with the Acknowledgements, instead. I wondered if my Kindle had just done something strange, jumping ahead for a random reason. (It’s been known to happen.) But nope. The rest of the book was just a sneak peek at Book Two in the series.

I was quite upset, for a number of reasons. For one thing, I hadn’t been expecting a book two. Nowhere had it seemed like this was the start of a series, so it felt like a real sucker punch. But more than that, I felt robbed of a real ending. The one that existed just sort of . . . stopped. There was no real denouement. No real climax even. I mean, there had been a scene that was important to the characters. It was exciting, but it tied up nothing,. It didn’t bring any feeling of resolution to anything.

It just stopped talking.

And that ending alone tanked my rating of the book from an 8 to a 4. I wished I hadn’t read it to begin with. I can’t in good conscience even recommend it to other people, despite the fact that I enjoyed it for 95% of the time. Why not? Because I felt betrayed by that ending. I lost my trust in the author to know what a good story needs to satisfy its readers. Why in the world would I put myself through that again, even though the start of book two was right there. I could have bought the next book right away and just continued reading.

But I’m not going to. It felt like a cheap money grab, and I’m not rewarding that with any more of my attention.

I’m not going to tell you which book or author it was out of professional courtesy, but I’m curious if any of you have had similar experiences with a work. You liked it for almost the whole thing, but then the ending soured the rest of it completely. Thinking over my experiences, there have been a few times it’s happened to me, but nothing in recent memory. I know many fans objected to the ending of LOST, but to me that’s something different. The series had an end. It just wasn’t an end that satisfied some people.

Then again, it satisfied me, and so perhaps that’s why it feels different to me. I’m sure there are some who thought this book’s ending was just fine . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Book Review: Fuzzy Nation

Fuzzy NationFuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a big fan of John Scalzi’s writing style. Let’s get that out of the way right off. He has an easy narrative voice that I enjoy reading, and it’s easy to breeze through just about anything he writes. So even if it were a lame book, I’m saying I’d be more inclined to have a great time reading a Scalzi book than another on the same topic.

But Fuzzy Nation is far from a lame book. A snarky surveyor with dreams of striking it rich finds the Mother Lode on a far off distant planet. Things look seriously up for a good few days, until a motley group of alien cat monkey things show up in his house and exhibit alarming signs of possible sentience. Could the Mother Lode belong to them? Yes, if they’re sentient and count as people. No, if they’re just smart animals, like trained Spaniels.

The book tackles a number of very weighty topics, and it does so with a breeze and finesse that hard to find these days. It’s not often you get a great plot that also makes you reanalyze larger implications of life in general. It’s a book that makes you think, even while you’re having a great time.

But Scalzi doesn’t shrink back from having terrible things happen to his characters, no matter how much we might like them. It’s the George RR Martin principle. I’m not saying everyone you ever loved in this book will die, but I am saying anything’s on the table, and those sort of stakes really up the ante for me.

I blazed through this book in a few days, and I gave it an easy 10/10. A bit of language here and there, but other than that, just a smashingly good read. If you like science fiction at all, you should check this one out. If you like cats and/or dogs, check it out too.

If you like cat monkeys, then I assume you stopped reading this review a few paragraphs ago and are already deep in the narrative.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Book Review: The Marathon Man

Marathon ManMarathon Man by William Goldman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been a William Goldman fan for just one of his books. (The Princess Bride, obviously.) I’ve also appreciated him for his screenplays (Butch Cassidy, Princess Bride, All the President’s Men, etc.) So when I saw The Marathon Man on sale for Kindle, I decided to give it a shot. It was also turned into a movie with Dustin Hoffman in the seventies (which I have not seen).

Really, it was a blast of a book. The premise is straightforward: a PhD candidate gets involved with a spy ring. It’s your classic under-prepared protagonist in an impossible situation. It’s set apart from other thrillers by a couple of things. First off, I was impressed with Goldman’s skill of writing third person effectively, inserting the character’s views into the narration in a way that made things (for me) very readable. (Actually, I enjoyed it so much I thought I’d give it a shot in writing. I didn’t make it past a few paragraphs with each attempt. Pulling it off was really difficult for me, which made me even more impressed.)

Second, I liked how focused Goldman kept the story, going into details in the scenes and really fleshing them out. You can have something that takes five minutes in real life take pages and pages in a text, or you can sum it up in a sentence, or you can skip it entirely. Goldman knows when to dive deep and when to skim. (If you’ve got a thing against dentists, this is a book to skip. Trust me.)

The book did what it was designed to do: kept me turning pages, even after I wanted to go to sleep. I love it when a book does that. In the end I gave it a 9/10. If you’re looking for a fun summer read, give this one a shot. Sure, it’s from the 70s, but it’s aged very well.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Book Review: On the Shoulders of Titans

On the Shoulders of Titans (Arcane Ascension, #2)On the Shoulders of Titans by Andrew Rowe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not all books are meant to be a work of art. When I pick up a novel, I’m not always expecting it to change my life. In fact, there are a number of times when I actively avoid reading a novel, since I’m looking for a different experience. Something that I can just read and have a good time turning the pages.

Andrew Rowe’s Arcane Ascension series is perfect for this.

It’s part of a genre called LitRPG. Basically it’s an RPG roleplaying game in book format. (Not choose your own adventure, but rather is if you were watching someone play through the game.) Magic is dealt with in terms of levels and mana power. Interestingly, this gives the book a very “hard magic” sort of feel, with precise limitations and abilities, though since often the book ends up revealing new abilities out of nowhere, this is a very surface level “hardness.” On the surface, it sounds like it wouldn’t work, but man have I enjoyed reading these two books. It’s rare these days when I look at the progress on my Kindle and I’m disappointed to see how little left I have in the book, since I’d rather just keep reading.

Is it high art? By no means. It’s probably the literary equivalent of Fruity Pebbles. But you know what? I really love Fruity Pebbles. I could eat that cereal all day long, as long as I had enough milk.

If you’re looking to read about a ragtag group of students trying to save a world from falling into chaos and destruction, and you love reading about how someone figures out all the angles so he can game the system, then this book is for you. (Though read the first one in the series first, obviously.)

If not . . . then probably better head elsewhere. More Fruity Pebbles for me . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Book Review: Taran Wanderer

Taran Wanderer (The Chronicles of Prydain #4)Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of my favorite series growing up was The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander. I never got into any of his other books, but I loved reading about Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper and his adventures, and I reread the series many times. The Book of Three, Black Cauldron, Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King. I loved them all, but my least favorite was Taran Wanderer. Even years later, I remembered the book being sluggish and not nearly as engaging as the other novels. Not enough cool things happened, as I recalled. Interestingly, my friend Dan Wells had listed Wanderer as his favorite of the books.

I’ve been rereading the series now, and I finally got to Taran Wanderer again. Dan was right. That isn’t to say my twelve-year-old self was wrong. There’s not nearly as many “cool things” at work in the book as there are in Book of Three or Black Cauldron. It’s a voyage of discovery for the main character, and that kind of sailed past me completely when I was reading it the first time.

I’m older now, however. Maybe a bit more mature. And I can appreciate what Alexander was up to with the novel. Up until that point in the series, Taran was all about adventure and glory. He dreamed of being someone important, without really understanding anything about how the world works. It was easier for him to just live in his fantasies. To transition from that character into the Taran of The High King takes real work and effort. It had to be earned, and so Taran embarks on that journey.

I loved seeing the character through new eyes. Studying how Alexander broke him down and had him realistically change his outlook on life bit by bit. Too often it’s easy to just read a book and know you like it without thinking *why* you like it. When I was twelve, I certainly didn’t. But there’s always an underlying reason. Something the author is up to that makes the book or series work for you. I call it the engine. What drives the book and makes it hum.

Sometimes the engine is nothing more than “what happens next.” The plot is built so well you just want to keep turning pages. Sometimes it’s the beauty of the language itself. It can be the characters, or the world building. History or horror. Even today, it’s rare for me to be satisfied with a book that runs pretty much solely on “journey of discovery.” But Taran Wanderer pulls it off perfectly.

If you haven’t read this series, I really recommend it. It still stands up well today. And far from being the weakest of the five books, Taran Wanderer is a favorite.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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