Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Bonfire Books of 2012 (Burn)

The reason I am using the expression "Bonfire Books" is that in one of my novels read this year, a character has to decide when the need for heat is desperate which of his precious books he will allow to be used for kindling and which books must continue to be saved from being burnt.

In no particular order and with no set amount, these are the losers of 2012 :

Put On The Bonfire! The Worst Of 2012! :

First up, Disputed Land by Tim Pears, the actual book from which the above reference comes. Though there is an interesting twist, the twist is not well executed enough to save this book from ultimately being a bunch of dull middle class types arguing about money over the Christmas table.

Next The White Lie by Andrea Gillies. The novel begins with a great concept of a family murder, but family ties rapidly feel convoluted and the central conceit that a wide group of extended family have all conspired to keep this secret over quite a length of time feels preposterous. I didn't even finish this.

The other book I failed to finish was Turbulence by Samit Basu, a tale of superheroes set in India, it's woeful wooden dialogue meant that I couldn't keep going with it no matter how hard I tried. 

John Niven's The Second Coming wins the prize for 'the biggest letdown of 2012' with an opening sixty pages of hilarious originality sliding swiftly into mediocrity and cliches.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Yasuta Tsutsui was 2012's biggest waste of money unless you enjoy paying to read the losing entrants in a high school short story contest. Not sure if it was the translation but regardless it's dreadful. 

In September JK Rowling returned and broke many hearts with her first adult contemporary, The Casual Vacancy, I say heart breaking because the novel essentially about class struggle and middle class snobbery dealt so unequivocally in cliches it was like reading a satirical hyperbolised mock Daily Mail article, except she meant it seriously.

Similarly irritating were Chris Cleave's The Other Hand and Amanda Craig's Hearts And Minds both novels suffering from the same complaint, their authors having used a narrative structure to bleat at their readership about "issues" from the moral high ground, pompously tell them how they must think and feel, if it were possible to die of "smug" both these authors would now be deceased. The anti-capitalist, pro-vegan, rantings that spoiled Scarlett Thomas's PopCo are naught by comparison. 

In April, wanting to read a book about Neuroscience, I picked Lone Frank's The Neurotourist though this was non-fiction, my issues with it were similar to the above books in that she hijacked the topic for discussion, to extensively promote her own feelings and beliefs in quite an egotistical way so that it quite failed as a "topic book" or "science book" and became an opinion vehicle. An arrogant opinion vehicle at that.

The disappointment in that book came hot on the heels of terrible disappointment in All The Myriad Ways an old short story collection by Larry Niven. Discussion about the relevant science behind the title story in various non fiction books I'd read whetted my appetite here, but all the excellent concepts behind each story were frankly, dreadfully executed.

Left of course, is Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov a book which I gave a more scathing review than any book I've ever read by calling it "a wanky book about a wanker for wankers" Pretentious in the extreme; I loathed the thing.

Now, with that rant off my chest I will turn to the heroes of 2012!!! 


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