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Book Review: The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

February 18, 2012 6 comments

Image of a wolf's eyes.Summary:
Reuben Golding is a talented new journalist who feels as if he is floundering around with no direction in his family of wealthy, talented people.  That all changes when he’s bitten in a mysterious attack while writing about an old house on the seacoast.  He shortly discovers that the bite has turned him into a man wolf–like a werewolf, but with the ability to change every night.  Oh, and also he has an insatiable desire to devour those who smell like evil.  His quest for answers about his new situation will open up a whole new world to him.

Review:
It needs to be said that having read only Anne Rice’s earlier books, I somehow missed the memo that she went from atheist to Catholic in the early 2000s.  As an agnostic myself, one of the things I love about her earlier novels, beyond the poetic writing, is this search for meaning without belief in a god that the characters demonstrate.  So.  I was less than thrilled to find god all up in my werewolves.  *growl*

But it of course is more than philosophical differences that make this book bad.  The writing is just….not what it used to be.  The pacing is off.  Parts of the novel wax eloquent about the redwood forests, but then action sequences feel like Rice was trying to mimic the style of pulp authors like Palahniuk.  (Something that she does poorly, btw).  I get wanting to try a new style, but you need to pick one or the other.  The up and down almost randomness of the style changes made it difficult to get into the story.

Then we have the story itself.  If Rice had gone just slightly more absurd, this would make an excellent humorous novel.  Of course, it’s not meant to be.  A perfect example is one scene that I keep thinking over just for the giggles it gives me.  The scene, is supposed to be one of the pivotal, more serious ones in the book, naturally.  Reuben is in his wolf form and having just run through the forest eating animals, he stands on his hind legs and spins in a circle while singing the Shaker song “Simple Gifts.”  And then a woman in a cabin sees this and naturally they have the hot hot beastiality sex.  (Note: I do not actually find this scene hot at all.  In fact I find it really fucking disturbing, and I don’t find ANYTHING disturbing usually).  It isn’t like scenes of sex and violence in other novels that are part of an overall narrative designed to help you understand something.  It’s not an allegory of anything either.  It just is there because….yeah, I don’t know why it’s there, actually.

Then we have the wonderful presence of an atheist character who is clearly there so Rice can lecture atheists via her book.  Oh you silly atheists! Of course there’s a god!  The whole of nature is reaching toward him and yadda yadda yadda *eye-roll*  This is just bad writing.  It’s such an obvious attempt to be able to directly lecture the readers that it’s painful to see.  Particularly after knowing that Rice is capable of actual eloquent writing.

Also the whole entire concept of having werewolves actually be evil-fighting do-gooders is like a furry version of Batman. And who wants that? Nobody, that’s who.

Speaking of Batman, if I have to read one more book about a poor little privileged white boy, I’m going to lose my mind.  Aww, poor Reuben, he has a high-achieving lawyer girlfriend who loves him, a surgeon mother, a giving brother, and a professor father, but Reuben is bad at science and everyone tells him a 23 year old can’t write.  People need to take him seriously!  Poor Reuben.  And Reuben claims he changes after getting the “wolf gift” but he really doesn’t.  He still whines to anyone who will listen and runs around trying to tell everyone else what to do but never bothers to actually force himself to grow up.  He could have been an interesting main character if the wolf gift actually challenged and changed him.  But it doesn’t.  He’s still the same, whiny, privileged rich kid.  Only now he’s surrounded by the slightly creepy doting wolf pack.

Oh, and Rice?  Wolf packs don’t consist of only one gender, idiot.  Research? Have you heard of it?

Overall, this was an incredibly irritating and frustrating read that I disliked so much I’m not even going to do my usual of passing on my reviewer’s copy to my dad.  This one is going in the recycling bin.  And you all should give it a pass as well.

1 out of 5 stars

Source: Copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

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Book Review: The Flight of the Silver Vixen by Annalinde Matichei (series, #1)

Female symbol around planet.Summary:
Somewhere in outer space is an alien race consisting entirely of females.  It’s not that the men are missing; they never existed.  This race is known as intermorph, and those like our own are schizomorph.  A teenage hover bike gang steals a space craft and finds themselves on a troubled intermorph planet where they must band together and fight as warriors against demons, internal enemies, and a neighboring aggressive schizomorph race.

Review:
This book reads distinctly like what would happen if you gave a bunch of ten year old girls the ability to record their imaginary playtime into a book and try to sell it.  Everything from the dialogue to the plot screams, “A bunch of ten year old girls who like being girls but still think boys have cooties wrote this one day playing in their back yard.”

The writing is really bad.  Clear characterization is almost non-existent.  I was still uncertain as to who exactly various people were at the end of the book.  The dialogue reads as so fake that it makes you cringe.  It’s full of made-up words and ways of speaking that aren’t explained at all until a glossary at the end of the book.  For example, the intermorphs don’t swear, but they do exclaim “g’doinking” when upset.  See what I mean about ten year old girls?  If I was, for instance, a middle school English teacher, I could see some merit in the writing and would encourage the young person to continue.  This, however, is not a middle school English class.  This is supposed to be a well-written, well-realized, novel.  It is not.

Then there is the whole entire concept in and of itself.  A race of just women absolutely can be a creative way to explore gender and sexuality, and I’ve seen it done well by famous feminist scifi authors.  This is not done well, however.  The intermorphs are all either brunettes or blondes with the brunettes fulfilling the traditional male role, and the blondes fulfilling the traditional female role.  Everything about how they interact is a carbon copy of a traditional patriarchy.  Just because both genders have vaginas doesn’t make how the brunettes treat the blondes less offensive.  I also was incredibly disturbed at how the female main characters talked about the male schizomorphs.  They referred to them as “it” and as animals.  Even beards on men were degraded and feared.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a book somehow manage to be both misogynistic and misandrist.  This in and of itself is enough to warrant one star from me, even if the writing was good.  This is not a healthy way to perceive men, women, gender, or sexuality.

I absolutely cannot recommend a piece of bad writing full of unhealthy perceptions of gender and sexuality to anyone.  My hope is that the author is still quite young and with time will grow to more mature opinions, as well as more mature writing.

1 out of 5 stars

Source:  Kindle copy received from author in exchange for my honest review 

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Book Review: Arizona Free by Doug Martin

December 20, 2010 2 comments

Glowing timerSummary:
Three white collar schmucks sign up for a classic pyramid scheme selling energy drinks known as DINAmite.  Gradually, they start noticing disturbing changes in the consumers of the energy drinks and find themselves pulled into the world of a nefarious plot to change humanity as we know it.

Review:
Not in years have I read a book I disliked this much.  I generally try to find at least one redeeming quality when reviewing a book, remembering that not everyone likes what I enjoy, but honestly.  This book is terrible, and I have zero idea how it managed to get published in the first place.  The publisher’s website doesn’t give very much information on how and why they choose books to publish, so no answers to that particular question were found there.  Anyway.  On to why this is the first book ever to receive one star here on Opinions of a Wolf.

First, there’s the writing.  I felt like I had landed back in beginner’s creative writing in high school and had been assigned the worst writer’s short story to critique.  It abounds with showing, not telling.  The dialogue is painfully fake sounding.  Most of the characters are completely unmemorable, and the few that managed to put some image into my brain were simply charicatures lacking any dimensions at all.

I’ve read books before that struggled with sophomoric writing but that at least showed potential through a strong, uniquely imagined plot.  There is none of that here.  The plot changes its mind so many times throughout that I honestly have no idea what actually happened in the end.  I’m completely baffled.  You can’t throw that many surprises at a reader without offering some modicum of explanation or elaboration.  The characters are simply straight up told “This is happening now,” and they go along with it.

Of course writing and plot are the core of what makes a good book, so it’s bad enough this book fails on both of those already, but it’s topped off with a nice icing of homophobia and womanizing.  The characters and the narrator repeatedly make slams against gay people.  One of the characters, Catherine, plays tennis with a lesbian, who yet again is a characature who speaks in the most fake Russian accent ever.  This lesbian tennis player is interested in Catherine, and this of course grosses out everyone in the story, including Catherine.  Also, the lesbian is turned into a hulk-like villain, complete with horns.  I was so disgusted by the homophobia that I almost stopped reading the book, but I refuse to write reviews of books I didn’t finish, and frankly, I wanted a bad review of this homophobic piece of trash out there.

Bottom line, I can’t recommend it to anyone.  It’s completely made up of bad writing, terrible plot structure, and rampant homophobia.

1 out of 5 stars

Source: Free copy via LibraryThing‘s EarlyReviewers program

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