April 14, 2009

Your micro-review roundup: 14 April 2009

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends [and Tuesdays] I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

Although in general I'm a champion of self-published work, and in fact am known for cutting most such books a little slack when reviewing them here, I also acknowledge that there's simply a lot of subpar work within that realm of the arts too, and that this is mostly why self-publishing has the sketchy reputation it does among the public as a whole. Although I don't like lingering on such titles here, I do think it's important to at least recognize the subpar books that are occasionally sent to me, for no other reason so that my good reviews of self-published work will be taken more seriously. Today, a quick look at four such titles, among a plethora of both good and bad books recently sent to me by print-on-demand publisher iUniverse, in one big mailing earlier this winter.

Race to the Sea, by Dayton Alverson
Race to the Sea
Dayton Alverson, PhD

Near the beginning of his career-retrospective memoir Race to the Sea, author Dayton Alverson muses aloud whether there is even a general audience to begin with for a dense, dry, nearly 600-page look at the world of international commercial-fishery management, and the series of changes in white-collar law and resulting bureaucracy that the industry has seen since the end of World War Two; and unfortunately the answer is no, not really, resulting in a well-done manuscript but one that simply made my eyes glaze over whenever attempting to read more than even five or ten pages' worth at a time, even when I tried skipping ahead to random new start points later in the manuscript. Although a fine document for the family members of Dr. Alverson to own, showing exactly what this obviously much-loved man did with his adult life, and for sure a must-read for those actually in the commercial-fishery industry (as well as environmentalist policy wonks), I can't in good conscience recommend this to a general audience.

Out of 10: 5.8

Nuclear Nightmare, by James J. Collins
Nuclear Nightmare
James J. Collins

Let's face it -- ever since an amateur military enthusiast named Tom Clancy made himself a household name through his magnificent debut The Hunt for Red October in 1984, there have been a billion "armchair spies" since who have tried their hand at their own possible explosive bestseller and resulting big-budget Hollywood actioner, most of them falling far short because of a surprisingly small series of basic mistakes made over and over again. And so it is as well with Nuclear Nightmare, the fiction debut of retired criminal-justice researcher James J. Collins, which serves up one of the typical post-Cold-War thriller tropes out there to function as its plot (stolen nuclear material from post-Soviet Russia, an aging forced-retirement Cold Warrior who turns out to be the only one to understand the truth, car chases through the crumbling back alleys of eastern Europe, etc etc etc). But unfortunately these basic problems just mentioned start stacking up quickly here, and stacking up profoundly: expository scenes that read like encyclopedia entries, "casual" dialogue with all the informality of a kidnapping video, ludicrous leaps in logic from almost the very first page, right-wing tough-guy curse-heavy machismo laid on so thickly as to become a self-parodying joke. A wide miss from even its simple genre ambitions, and a title I do not recommend.

Out of 10: 3.6

One Man in a Million, by William Bicket
One Man in a Million
William Bicket

Oh boy, here we go: another mediocre conspiracy thriller from a bug-eyed raving Libertarian on how the income tax is actually against the law, and how our abandonment of the gold standard in the 1970s will eventually lead us all to apocalyptic ruin, brought on by a shadowy cabal of rich white dudes and their puppy-raping private army of IRS auditors. And don't get me wrong, I have a soft spot in my heart for ludicrously insane conspiracy thrillers, but let me tell you, they better be damn well-written if they expect to hold my attention; and it always helps, of course, if the author in question isn't some dyed-in-the-wool true believer themselves, who has used the writing of the novel as an excuse to turn in a bizarre semi-autobiographical Ayn-Rand-style rant/manifesto, completely oblivious to how batsh-t crazy they sound to those who have never had tax troubles themselves. The kind of book snotty hipsters make fun of at Amazon; but I'm not a snotty hipster and this isn't Amazon, so I'll stop my own review here.

Out of 10: 3.3

Majestic Restoration, by Bryan Roscoe
Majestic Restoration
Bryan Roscoe

This is not so much a work of literature as it is an incoherent piece of propaganda for the Christian god author Bryan Roscoe worships, complete with inexplicable xeroxes of junk mail from famous politicians that Roscoe tries to pass off as personal endorsements, as well as a page near the beginning reserved for the reader's eventual autographed color photo of the author (which one can conveniently purchase for a low fee, by the way, at this book's tie-in website), including (and I kid you not) a printed box on the page labeled, "Affix Photo Here." As such, then, it's not really eligible for review at CCLaP (and I mean, c'mon, at least give me a story if you expect me to review a book here, not just a collection of unrelated rant-like paragraph-length all-capital-letter BLESSINGS TO THE ALMIGHTY LORD OUR GOD AMEN non-sequiters), which is why this book is not receiving a formal score today.

Out of 10: N/A

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:15 AM, April 14, 2009. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Literature:Nonfiction | Reviews |