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The Chronoliths

The Chronoliths - Robert Charles Wilson This book had a fascinating premise and some nice mystery building up. Unfortunately, the main character's link to the premise and mystery was flimsy and there wasn't much resolution. Also: lots of women getting hurt as plot device for men to angst over (particularly the daughter) in this one. I expected better from Wilson.

The Warslayer: The Incredibly True Adventures of Vixen the Slayer, the Beginning

The Warslayer: The Incredibly True Adventures of Vixen the Slayer, the Beginning - Rosemary Edghill Xena + Buffy x Galaxy Quest. Mostly predictable but still kinda fun.

The Constantine Affliction

The Constantine Affliction - T. Aaron Payton Ehh... this book was okay. There was a lot to like with the gender bending, some social commentary, the steampunk setting, the mysteries... but the story as a whole needed more depth, cohesion, and originality and less borrowing from other authors and villainous monologue. The romantic subplot was unconvincing and the problem with it was solved way too conveniently. The Lovecraftian turn seemed to come out of nowhere, and there was enough going on already that it wasn't necessary. (This is the second book I've read within the past year or so that pulled this same trick. SURPRISE! CTHULU! Lazy, and didn't work well in either book.) So overall... okay.

Heroes Lost and Found

Heroes Lost and Found - Sheryl Nantus This book is the story of Jo's bottomless appetite and her insufferable relationship with the guy who spent most of the second book whining for sex. Oh yeah, and something about a rogue evil Agency fellow.

The real hero of this book isn't Jo anymore. It's Jessie, the normal guy hacker who comes up with a way to block the bad guy's access to the supers' plugs. The plugs, installed by the Agency back when the superhero stuff was all a big sham, allow Guardians to easily kill the supers if they don't do as told, and when the bad guy in this book is able to access anyone's plug he's pretty much unstoppable. Until Jessie makes a workaround and they can actually take the guy down without their heads exploding. Jessie barely gets any credit, though.

Lots of pages devoted to eating. LOTS. I like to eat too, but come on.

I found myself literally rolling my eyes every time the main character or her boyfriend/Guardian (and I don't know why he's called her Guardian, since they don't have those anymore... it felt like it was just a way to establish some kind of dominance over her) made yet another sexual innuendo. They are sleeping together. I get it. I don't need to be reminded on just about every page. I swear I have never read so many winks and references to quickies as I did in this book. If people acted like that in real life, the people around them would tell them to shut the hell up already, but everyone just winks and nudges right along with it. It got tedious fast, and became seriously distracting to the story (especially when it was happening during the often life-threatening action).

This book and the second book in this series should have had most of the obnoxious romance tossed out and been compressed into one book. The second book ended abruptly without resolution, and this one wrapped it all up.

There were a lot of issues that really needed to be explored more, like the world's reaction to the existence of aliens, how they would find and deal with new superpowered people, and what's going on with supers in the rest of the world. (And since many countries had similar fake superhero battles, you'd think someone somewhere would have spilled the beans that it was all staged, but apparently not.) There was a perfect opportunity to discuss the power dynamic in the Guardian/super relationship--and how this made Jo's relationship with Mike AND with Hunter seriously problematic (and Peter's referenced but unseen relationship with his former Guardian), but it's just kind of brushed aside and stated that most of them were good and the one in this book is just a bad egg. He wasn't so much a bad egg as he was the natural (if extreme) result of the power situation the Agency had created. You can't give one person the ability to pop another person's head off if they disobey and then say that ANYTHING between them is consensual. It's not. ALL of the supers were being exploited, and I would think that most of them were probably abused in some way, whether overt of subtle, and whether they took it for abuse or not.

And oh yeah, at the end Hunter's Guardian bracelet was released. If the Agency could do that then why didn't they deactivate and release the bad guy's bracelet? They are still playing the supers and the supers don't even realize it.

The first book got a pass for the problematicness because there wasn't any time, given what all was going on, to do much more than try to repel the aliens. Bigger fish to fry, fair enough. This book (and the second) don't get that luxury because the villain is a Guardian--a representative of the Agency that essentially enslaved the supers.

Very disappointing. I should have stopped after the first one.

Divergent

Divergent - Veronica Roth I admit, I read this book with low expectations. I expected not to like it.

I didn't like it. But where I expected to be angered, I was only bored.

This book is boring.

The society described in the book is ridiculous. The Dauntless really should be called the Brainless. The main character is not particularly engaging, but at least isn't a complete blank slate pushover like so many other YA "heroines". There's plenty of room here to criticize and deconstruct.

But I just don't care because the book is too damn boring to get bothered about the problematic issues it presents.

Yawn.

EDIT: Oh yeah, I forgot all about the vilification of knowledge and intelligence. Apparently valuing knowledge is very, very bad. That certainly explains a lot about this book...

The First Days: As the World Dies

The First Days: As the World Dies - Rhiannon Frater An above average zombie novel, but takes a turn toward apocalyptic romance when the men show up.

This book follows two women through the beginning of a zombie uprising. The constant emphasis on Katie's sexuality was irritating and distracting and at times it seemed like the author was a little too eager to show off her zombie lore cred, but overall it's a pretty decent read. Will read the sequel.

Hellbound

Hellbound - Tim Hawken Original and interesting, but seemed kind of amateurish. There was a strong old-school sci-fi "gee whiz" kind of feel to a lot of the scenes. And the brutally refrigerated wife... it's a tough job being a fictional wife/girlfriend/female love interest. Also, apparently all women in hell are prostitutes? Anyway, the unique and clever plot twists are enough for me to forgive what would be fatal flaws for me in a more run-of-the-mill novel. Will read the sequel.

The Onion Girl

The Onion Girl - Charles de Lint I'll need to read this book again to fairly review it. This was the first de Lint I've read, and it wasn't anywhere near what I expected. From the cover and description I was expecting something fairy tale-ish, but this is actually a beautifully written and at times completely heartbreaking story of two sisters who manage to separately survive a horrible beginning.

Eternity Road

Eternity Road - Jack McDevitt This is really 3 1/2 stars. I can't bring myself to give it a four due to its flaws, but I did enjoy it for the most part.

"Eternity Road" follows the journey of a small group of people from the post-apocalyptic Mississippi area several centuries after the world we know ends. They are searching for Haven, a town that stories tell was set up after the catastrophic event that killed off the Roadbuilders (us), and that may have historical and scientific information that has otherwise been lost. A mysterious item--a copy of Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", previously thought to be lost forever--left behind by the sole survivor of the previous, tragic expedition to Haven, offers the group a tantalizing hope of what wonders they might find.

The first 150 pages or so are a bit slow--just buildup to the group leaving. After that, however, it gets a lot more interesting. They make a lot of discoveries, and it's very clear how little they understand of much of what they find. Most technology is lost--travel is done on foot or horseback and books are all handwritten. (One character makes note of how humanity forgot how to make a printing press but remembered how to make guns.) Not all of it really makes sense--at one point the group meets a man who has basically re-invented the steam engine and the hot air balloon (and apparently knows some kind of chemistry as he refers to hydrogen), but no one has come up with a printing press still? That seems unlikely.

The characters are pretty flat and most of them come off more as checklists of traits rather than real people. (The one I felt was the best written was of course the first to die.) The romance, if you can call it that, was dry and forced and a complete waste of words. Not every books needs a damn romance, especially if it's just pasted on for a little extra word count.

However, what really detracts from this book is the ending--or should I say, the lack thereof. The book builds up and builds up and builds up the mystery about what happened to the Roadbuilders and what they would find in Haven, but then it ends with the surviving members of the group finding a cache of handwritten books that can't be more than a hundred years old, naked and close to drowning in their attempt to save the books from the rising tide. No, really, that's where it ends. Then the five-page long epilogue tells the reader that oh, by the way, the Roadbuilders were killed by an airborne virus that came from the rainforests, possibly as a population control check. By the rainforests. Also, they are still hand-copying the books they found and the remaining survivors live reasonably happily ever after.

The book just stops. It was like the author had a deadline (or got tired of the story?), wasn't finished, and just said "to hell with it" and slapped an epilogue on it. There were so many loose ends and avenues of exploration that just went nowhere, and I think the book would have been a lot better if Silas had survived instead of one of the people who actually did. The characters with the most valuable contributions to the expedition--the scholar, the wilderness guide, and the healer--all killed. The survivors: the soldier, the merchant along to redeem his father's name, and the silversmith along to find out what happened to her brother. (He was also the only character I felt had much depth, and the only one whose death I cared about.)

For example: Silas, the scholar, would undoubtedly have tried to get a lot more information from Mike. Mike, a sentient computer AI from the Roadbuilder times, who remembered the Roadbuilders and undoubtedly had all kinds of treasure troves of information to offer, who the group kills at his request. Yes, they killed a sentient AI who remembered the people they were trying to understand. Mike says that there were others like him who survived the end of the Roadbuilder civilization, but that is never explored any further. The group took the maglev (futuristic rail train), that Mike was still running, for a long distance--so when they killed Mike I wondered how the hell they were going to get back. I still don't know how they got back since the book just trailed off.

There is also a part where they find an old Planetary Society building with a computer that was still analyzing data from the Hubble Telescopes that remain operational. The computer says that they have found seventeen artificial signals from outer space, indicating possible intelligent life, and asks for authorization to send a signal back. Chaka tells the computer to do it, so post-apocalyptic, technologically-challenged Earth is now sending out "hello, here we are's" to possible aliens. This could be really important, but the entire scene is apprently pointless though as it doesn't relate to what happened to the Roadbuilders (as I initially thought it might) and it doesn't go anywhere. And of course Silas, the most intellectually engaged and curious of the group, was too dead to investigate further.

There's also regressive gender politics, yawn, of course. (I didn't buy the author's naive assertion that most women would just refrain from having sex to avoid pregnancy. So people only have sex in his world when they are actively trying (or at least open to the possibility) to procreate. Seriously, has he met the human race?) Avila's death (shot several times after expressing previously barely indicated sexuality--of course; sexual women always die, the dirty sluts, bla bla bla yawn, and yes she was trying to save the group but the scene just felt exploitative) was terrible, and seemed like it was written to titillate as much as anything else. Overall the gender stuff isn't done as heinously as a lot of other post-apocalyptic stuff though, and the author does show that some of the other little societies that have cropped up are more open to women having a more equal role. However, it's mostly a sausage fest. And the very last line of the novel... oh the manpain. Was that really the right note to end on? Meh.

Also, Karik's actions make no sense. After his team all died except him, he had a big stack of priceless, irreplaceable books that had previously been lost... which he dumps overboard except for one. The one he keeps he hides, and wills it to a young woman he barely knows. He had to have known full well that something as tantalizing as the book could very well launch a second expedition, and he knew full well how dangerous it would be, but left no instructions and told no one. He refused to tell anyone the truth about his team and lived out his final years in self-imposed exile, with everyone believing he had failed and led the others to pointless deaths. Bringing the books back and telling the truth would have have done more to honor his dead companions AND would have kept other people (in the inevitable second expedition) from dying. Pointless, irresponsible, and selfish.

And DID they actually find Haven, or something else? The books there were in excellent condition and supposedly less than a hundred years old. What happened to the people who put the books there? (And why the hell didn't these people, who painstakingly copied out by hand thousands of books, not resurrect or reinvent the printing press?! Seriously: guns, steam engine, hot air balloons, attempts at scuba gear (?!) but not the printing press?) That is a LOT of work to just abandon. And to hoard and not share with a world in ruin.


So while the book is pretty compelling during the journey, it falls flat in end and leaves way too many loose ends. All in all, a decent but ultimately unsatisfying read that could have been great with a little more thought and a proper ending.

Blackout

Blackout - Mira Grant What the hell happened?

Feed, the first book in this trilogy, was good. Not great, but good. By the standards of zombie novels, it was stellar. (Either the genre mostly attracts lousy writers or I've just been terribly unlucky, as most of the zombie novels I've read are downright wretched.) The second one wasn't as good, but was still okay.

And this one throws all that out the window.

Something about the author's writing style is eminently readable and I went through this book just as quickly as I did the first two, but the meandering and nonsensical plot and unsympathetic characters made it an ultimately unsatisfying and frustrating read.

You can't write a book in the first person perspective of someone who is supposedly super dedicated to the truth then try to spring a huge reveal about them in the third book that flatly contradicts what that character told the reader before. No. Just no. When the reliability of your narrator to be truthful is the foundation of a major plot point, you can't go all unreliable narrator at the last minute! I think I am actually more annoyed with the inconsistency than with the surprise incest. Though the incest was pretty gross. Seriously, wtf?

The books mentioned several times that the zombies seemed to get smarter in groups, but this was never really explored. I really thought that it was going to end up tying in with Shuan's hallucinations of Georgia. It would have made sense (at least, as much sense as what actually happened) for whatever mechanism let the zombies pool their mental power to have some kind of effect on Shaun and Georgia, but no. Instead we got a completely ridiculous and flimsy reason for the CDC to make a clone Georgia (at unbelievable expense), some other people to risk their lives to release her, and her brother lover to meander angrily around the country for a while and get lots of people killed.

Also Buffy, who died in the first book, has by this book been retconned into a Mary Sue CIA-level-plus computer supergenius. Why? Plot convenience, as far as I can tell.

I didn't care when anyone died in this book.

The big showdown at the end that revealed the big conspiracy revealed it to be completely absurd. They didn't need Georgia and Shaun to validate the President of the United States! The whole part about Georgia being cloned was shoehorned in and given a paper thin justification, but the whole book (which until that point hadn't been holding up well anyway) completely falls apart here. It is clear that the author wanted her back and wanted a romance and wanted a happy ending and by god made it happen at the expense of coherency. It was, frankly, lazy.

A disappointing end to what started out as a strong series. Not every book idea needs to be a damn trilogy, and this one should have ended with Feed.

The Night Circus

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern This is really a 3 1/2, but I liked it enough to round up. The Night Circus is an atmospheric, slow-paced novel. It is as much of a mystery as a fantasy, as we don't learn until about 3/4 through the book what the competition entails. I think the book lost a bit of steam around that point--from then on the driving force was the romance, which was obviously going to be some kind of doomed, even if they did end up together.

The characterization was a bit thin, but it actually worked the way the story is told. Going deeper into the characters here would actually have detracted from the story somehow I think. I feel about The Night Circus kind of how I feel about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (which I have yet to manage to finish): I loved the world-building but the pacing was just glacial.

The Curve of The Earth

The Curve of The Earth - Simon Morden This is an awkward book for me to rate. It is, for the most part, a well-written and interesting book with lots of good ideas and social commentary (even if the main character is a bit of a Gary Stu at times with his wizard-like hacking abilities). However...

After reading a couple of chapters it was very obvious that I was missing something, and upon consulting the internet it became clear that that something is the fact that this book is the sequel to a trilogy. Nowhere in or on this book does the publisher indicate this. Furthermore, after completing this book it is clear that it is a setup for further novels (the first in another trilogy maybe?), which is ALSO not indicated.

I wasn't thrilled with the pacing in this novel. The main character is supposed to be searching for his daughter, but he spends way too much time trying to influence his American escort and show off his cleverness to the Americans whilst not doing a great deal of searching. The author spends a great deal of time criticizing American culture and politics, which, while fun, does not propel the plot forward. However, since this book is apparently one volume of several, the pacing may work better over the entire series. I don't know, SINCE I WASN'T WARNED THAT IT WAS PART OF A SERIES.

I think I would like this book better if I'd read the ones that came before it. I would give this series a shot from the beginning--it is a compelling and interesting world the author has created, and it sounds like some big stuff went down in the previous novels and more big stuff is about to go down. I'm annoyed enough at being misled, though, that I'm not going to jump right on it. This is not the author's fault, but rather the publishers'. Take note, publishers: inadequately labeling a series so that readers end up thrown unknowingly into the middle of it might not be the best strategy. I'd be pretty pissed off if I was the author. The book is readable as a stand-alone, but feels like it's missing an awful lot.

Rosemary and Rue

Rosemary and Rue - Seanan McGuire FINALLY! An urban fantasy that doesn't suck! My perseverance is finally rewarded!

October "Toby" Daye is a changeling--half Fae, half human--who lost fourteen years of her life to a Fae curse. She is struggling along in the human world when she is pulled back into the Fae world by the murder of an old friend.

Toby is a well-written character. She's smart and tough without being overly so, she's depressed, angry, regretful, and even a bit bitter without being whiny, and she is rational and reasonable but still makes mistakes and has a few glaring blind spots in her judgment. In short, she's very human and very relatable, something that I've not seen much of in this genre. She recognizes her limitations and works within them as best she can.

I am so, so glad that the character who immediately struck me as an unrepentant predator turned out to be the main bad guy and was neither absolved of his crimes nor tidily redeemed. I'm really tired of authors waving away predatory and exploitative behavior, or worse, redefining it as twu wuv.. Although Toby realizes that this character's behavior is problematic, she has conflicted feelings about him (which is quite realistic), but does the right thing when she realizes the extent of his abuse and treachery.

Tybalt, the king of cats, was great. Oh, cats. Of course you have your own magical court, and of course you are all total but adorable jerks. Cats.

The story meanders a bit and Toby is mostly clueless and on the defensive for at least the first half of the novel. But that's okay. There's enough going on that the pacing doesn't really detract from the overall read. I've already bought the second book in this series.

Blaze of Glory

Blaze of Glory - Sheryl Nantus I needed an easy, fun read and found this in my Kindle from ages ago, so I decided to give it a re-read and found I liked it more than I remembered.

Blaze of Glory follows Jo, aka "Surf", a second-string "superhero". The superheroes of this world are indeed super-powered... but their battles are all staged by the Agency, which controls the supers with explosive implants in their necks that they will detonate if the supers don't do what they are told. It's all a big entertainment scam.

Unfortunately, an alien civilization (that reads like a strange cross between Star Trek's Klingons and Galaxy Quest's Thermians) sees transmissions of the fights, thinks they are real, and comes to Earth to fight the supers, who are completely out of their league and are pretty much massacred. Jo escapes, builds a ragtag team out of a small group of oddball survivors, and manages to save the day.

There's not a whole lot here that hasn't been done before, but that's okay. Jo is a solid, sympathetic protagonist, and the secondary characters are well-drawn, have distinctive voices and personalities, and make a good supporting cast for the most part.

The heroes get incredibly lucky a few times (there is an explanation for this, sort of, but I don't fully buy it given the scale) and there were some things that could have used some more fleshing out, but overall this is an easy and fun read.

Ghost of a Chance

Ghost of a Chance - Simon R. Green I'm starting to think that I'm some kind of literary masochist. The last several books I've read have been downright painful, and Ghost of a Chance does nothing to break my unlucky streak.

The book starts out with the three main characters setting up shop for some ghost catching. Cue the clumsy infodump summarizing each character. There's a rapid buildup for something scary--it's terrifying and off the scales and eeeeeeevil! But their leader, stereotypically brash, oh-so-handsome and overconfident JC Chance, stays totally cool and fixes it all in a snap.

This encounter, while made to sound like a big deal, was just a warm-up. They return to home base, a supernatural fighting- and studying- organization called the Carnacki Institute, and are immediately redeployed to investigate a disturbance in the London Underground. There's a gradual buildup for something scary--it's terrifying and off the scales and eeeeeeevil! But JC, once again, stays totally cool and fixes it all in a snap in the last ten pages or so. Once they reach the Big Bad, it's over pretty quickly.

There's so much fail in this book it's hard to know where to start. Each character can pretty much be reduced to two or three character traits, and only JC gets any development (and his character development is terribly cliche and makes no sense based on what the reader already knows of him). JC Chance: knowledgeable but overconfident leader. Happy Jack Palmer: depressed, pill-popping telepath. Melody Chambers: "girl geek" (yes, actually described as such) tech support. Natasha Chang: "femme fatale" (again, actually described as such). Erik Grossman: sleazy Frankenstein. Kim Sterling: damsel in distress.

There is so much infodumping and summarizing in this book that it almost feels like author's notes rather than narrative in places. Here, for example, is the introduction to the Crowley Project:

Whereas the Carnacki Institute is concerned with gathering knowledge of the unseen world in order to protect Humanity, the Crowley Project doesn't give a damn. All they care about is amassing knowledge and power for the sake of the Project. The only investigate hauntings so they can take advantage of the situation and exploit it for their own ends. Some say they want to rule the world, and some say they already do. The Crowley Project loot and brutalise all the manifestations of the unseen world because they want to know the secrets of Life and Death. They want to rule not only this world but the afterworlds, too. They want it all.

Some of them eat ghosts, consuming their energies and absorbing their knowledge and memories. Some of them create bad places on purpose, poisoning the psychic wells of the world with awful technologies and bad intent, dripping bloody bait into the waters to attract otherworldly monsters. For the fun of it, and the sport. They create disasters and glory in destruction, and dance in the aisles of crashing planes. Just because they can. Do what thou wilt is the whole of their law. They are the main rivals of the Carnacki Institute, and so it has been for centuries. Because the Light must always be at war with the Dark, or because Good and Evil simply cannot abide each other; or maybe because every coin must have two sides. Two organizations, forever at each other's throats; two small fish in a pond that is so much bigger than either of them have ever realized.


The above passage is the narrator, not a character. It's one of the most ham-fisted, simplistic descriptions I've ever read. Nancy Drew villains were more dimensional and better described. I've never read another book by this author but I know he's published quite a few books, yet this is woefully amateur work. When your English teacher told you back in third grade to show, don't tell, this is what s/he was trying to get you to avoid.

Despite being evil evil evil puppy-kicking do-no-gooders, the two representatives of the Crowley Project that we meet end up teaming up with and helping the Good Guys. Okay, then.

Then there's the gender and race fail. The main female character is Melody Chambers, described at least twice as "girl geek". That sound you hear? It's me rolling my eyes right out of my head. Melody seems to have little purpose in the book except to fuss over some gadgets and declare that her readings are off the charts! or like she's never seen before!. Her instruments and readings do absolutely nothing to advance the plot. She's like Uhura from the original Star Trek, or better yet Gwen DiMarco in Galaxy Quest. ("I've got one job on this ship! It's stupid, but I'm gonna do it!) There are also lots of snide comments about her sex life (holy shit, women have sex?! who knew?!) made by Happy Jack, their female boss at the Carnacki Institute, and the narrator. She declares near the end of the book that she intends to reward Happy Jack with sex for saving her life. The male characters, unsurprisingly, are not treated this way.

And then there's Natasha. Oy vey. She is the first and only clearly labeled POC in the novel, and here are some of the phrases used to describe her upon her introduction: "self-made femme fatale", "beautiful creature", "dark hair, dark, slanted eyes, and an even darker heart," "looked down on as a half-breed by all her peers at school", "mixed-race background gave her an exotic air". Seriously? Also, she's wearing a pink leather catsuit, the preferred attire of "half-breed" "femme fatales" the world over. I guess.

I should note for the sake of balance that both the Carnacki Institute and the Crowley Project are headed by women... the former of which criticizes Melody's sexual proclivities in front of her teammates and the latter of which is rumored to eat mice and human hearts. You go, girls!

There's also Kim. Kim is dead and only appears in the novel as a ghost, but that doesn't stop JC from inexplicably stepping well out of his shallowly-defined character to fall in love with her at first sight. Despite already being dead, Kim is in danger from the Big Bad Evil Whatever which is literally pulling her around to lure JC away from his companions. It works, and he abandons Happy Jack and Melody to be tortured by Natasha and Erik. He fights off the Evil's illusions with his own willpower, and battles his way through multiple train cars full of demons to rescue a dead woman that he just fell in love with. At first sight. The demons tear him up, as well they should, but fear not: by the power of Deus Ex Machina, he is saved and reunited with his still-dead new girlfriend. Said girlfriend fawns over JC, constantly reaffirming his awesomeness just in case we didn't catch how awesome he was from the narrator's fawning. The only time I liked Kim was when she put the poor cat out its misery--she was mostly just there to motivate JC.

While the male characters avoid the unnecessary sexualization that the female characters receive, they don't really do much better in the characterization department. JC is a Mary Sue, a know-everything badass who knows or figures out all the answers and can literally kick demon ass. A bunch of demons. With divine intervention when he finally becomes overwhelmed. (And no, there is never a solid explanation given for this.) Happy Jack has the potential to be interesting--a telepath in the world described in this book would pretty much have to be, as he is, heavily medicated, depressed, and nervous, but he just comes off as whiny and tedious most of the time. His drugs seem to kick in almost instantaneously, which is odd, and completely alter his personality to turn him into JC-lite+telepathy. His biggest accomplishments in the book are in tandem with Natasha, undermining his standalone usefulness. Erik Grossman (oh, how cleverly named these characters are!) is in fact quite gross and is so over-exaggerated as to be cartoonish. Combine Boris Badenov with Dr. Frankenstein, give the result an extra coat of slime and bad dialogue, and you have Erik.

There was no real camaraderie between the characters. In fact, if this book is any indication, I'm not sure that this author can characterize his way out of a paper bag.

Which is a shame, really, because when the author isn't endlessly infodumping, poorly characterizing, and putting out cringeworthy dialogue, he's pretty damn good at creating a chilling atmosphere and vivid, horrific imagery. There are some really unsettling passages in this novel. Alas, they never last and are quickly undermined by JC's ability to shrug it all off.

The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure: A Holistic Approach to Total Recovery

The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure: A Holistic Approach to Total Recovery - Chris Prentiss The story the author and his son tell about the son's addiction is interesting and compelling, and there is undoubtedly some merit to a holistic approach to addiction treatment. Of course many substance abusers would benefit from intensive therapy. Of course many substance abusers are self-medicating for undiagnosed/untreated/improperly treated underlying issues.

However, this book ultimately reads like a 300+ page ad for the author's unbelievably expensive luxury rehab facility. I know someone who called the facility, desperate for help, and was told $20,000 per month, but online searching indicates it can be well, well above that--I've seen talk of $60,000 per month or even more. Prentiss pimps his facility early and often, and his solution to addiction is pretty much to throw money at it. Lots and lots and lots and lots of money. There is no help in this book for someone of limited or even moderate means.

On a personal note, I know someone with a serious addiction problem, and his very poor, disabled veteran father (who recommended this book to me) wants very badly to try to scrape up the money to send this person to this facility. That's just terrible, and I have to question the ethics behind Prentiss's approach.

Very early in the book, I got a bad feeling about the author. In the part his son wrote, in the very first paragraph he describes how he (the son) was named:

I didn't have a name for the first month of my life because my dad couldn't think of the right name. My mom told me it was extremely frustrating because she thought it wasn't right for me not to have a name. They called me "baby" or "him". After a month, my dad came up with Pax and I was off and running with a brand-new name."


Pax inadvertently reveals his father to be a controlling individual with little regard to his own wife's discomfort. An attentive reader will find more examples throughout the book. Combined with the ever-present pimping for his ungodly expensive rehab center, Prentiss comes off as a real snake oil salesman and I can't help but find suspect everything he's written. It's a compelling anecdote, seductive even to those looking for a solution, but anecdote is not evidence, the author has an angle, and there's not much else to back up Prentiss's impressive claims.

If you or someone you know has an addiction problem, by all means read this book. Maybe you will find something useful. But read it with a critical eye, and don't expect a panacea. See also: http://www.laweekly.com/2008-06-26/news/buying-the-cure/ .