February 24, 2003

Weetzie Bat 2: Witch Baby, by Francesca Lia Block


Admittedly, I haven't read the first book in the Weetzie Bat series, and my head was spinning a bit after getting through the accelerated recap at the start. But only the knowledge that I had borrowed this book, and therefore had to take good care of it, kept me from hurling it across the room partway through.

Part of this is due to the oppressively pervasive use of slang-- I am so sick of "slinkster," for starters. Part of this is due to the unbearably cutesy names-- one character is actually named "My Secret Agent Lover Man." But these pale by comparison to the main problem, which is that this book is concerned with the doings of a thoroughly dislikable cast of characters, who are uniformly immature, self-absorbed, self-righteous, and bloody stupid to boot. And I'm especially speaking of the alleged adults here.

To pick one illustration, which probably counts as a spoiler despite the essential facts being given away on the first page, so if want to be certain not to have this book ruined (ha), skip the next two paragraphs... the eponymous character, Witch Baby, is the daughter of My Secret Agent Lover Man, and Vixanne Wigg. She, however, doesn't know that, despite being raised by My Secret Agent Lover Man and Weetzie Bat; her father, in other words, has been lying to her and claiming not to be her father.

Not entirely surprisingly, the central problem for Witch Baby in this book is that she doesn't know where she came from, and doesn't feel as if she belongs anywhere. Eventually, she confronts My Secret Agent Lover Man, and he reluctantly admits that he is her father, and says that he's been lying to her every day and repudiating his relationship with her for all these years because "I was afraid you would be ashamed of me." Are we supposed to take this as a reasonable excuse? Are we supposed to take this as an even remotely sympathetic character? Please.

(Again, this is just one example. Others abound throughout the book.)

Now, if this were intended as a novel in which the central character survives in a world of selfish, clueless grownups, there might be something here. But from all indications, the author expects us to like these characters.

Possibly this is another example of the New York / L.A. divide, but if you ask me, this book sucks.

Posted by Shmuel at 1:47 AM

February 23, 2003

Sir Apropos of Nothing, by Peter David

Eh. A mediocre read, not as clever as it thinks it is. I'll probably read the inevitable sequel, but without much enthusiasm. Peter David's done better.

Posted by Shmuel at 7:38 PM

February 12, 2003

Star Trek: Mission to Horatius, by Mack Reynolds

Originally published in 1968, republished in 1999, and bought new at a dollar store for one buck, this is about as good as one would expect, which is to say, "not very." But amusing at times, for wholly unintended reasons.

Posted by Shmuel at 1:21 AM

February 11, 2003

Amber 5: The Courts of Chaos, by Roger Zelazny

A disappointing finish to the original 5-book Amber series, one that leaves way too much open at the end. I think I said this earlier, but I'll say it again: Zelazny never should have been given this much room to play with in the first place.

On the bright side, I can now confidently insist that Lord of Light is his masterpiece, without having to worry about Amber being in the running. Because it's not even close.

Posted by Shmuel at 1:20 AM

February 9, 2003

Young Wizards 6: A Wizard Alone, by Diane Duane

The unresolved stuff from Book 5 continues to be unresolved, but this is not a problem, as it seems reasonable to assume that matters will come to a head in Book 7 or beyond. Once again, Duane changes lots of the rules to fit her present purposes... or, to put it in the terms of the book, she alters the kernel of Kit and Nita's universe whenever convenient.

But I'm just nitpicking. It's a good book and I liked it.

Posted by Shmuel at 8:44 AM

February 2, 2003

Enchanted Forest 2-4: Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede

These are by no means bad, but they're not as good as the first book in the series. The author never really earns the right to use the soapsuds trick as extensively as she does in these books; when it comes in at the end of the first book, it works on a temporary basis, but for it to be used this much, I'd expect some stronger limitations, or at least a better explanation, neither of which happen. More importantly, I was frustrated by the way Cimorene's character is dumbed down in the middle two books, apparently in order to give the newer characters a chance to shine. That said, book 4 is the second-best of the series, so it does end on an upswing.

Posted by Shmuel at 1:14 AM