Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bibliovile: Of Course There's a High Council

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The Internet is Not the Answer, by Andrew Keen
              The Internet is Not the Answer begins its preface with the statement, “Some may say the internet is the answer” and ends its preface by saying, “So no, the internet is not the answer.” I am dead serious about this.
              I am also dead serious that it never got any more surprising.
              I could have stopped with just that preface and written the whole book for him. But I didn’t. I read a lot, agreed with most of it, but hated all of it.
              There was nothing surprising or noteworthy in the book. The internet (which is not the answer) was promised as a democratization of wealth and information but has only concentrated wealth and ruined our idea of objective fact. Yeah, totally, man. Oh wait, that’s it, that’s your entire book.
That's the about-the-author photo I reference in the podcast

              Oh.
              Well, um, great. Sorry that you’re editor made you spread out a single blog post into a huge book and all, but frankly, I wish I hadn’t read any of it.
              It wasn’t bad, just severely predictable and up its own ass. You’re not blowing my mind, my dude. In fact, I’m not even sure the internet was worth it all in the first place.
              Now we’ve got increasing specificity of everything from news media to music. I don’t think there will ever be another Beatles, for instance, because the internet has made it impossible to achieve actual popular culture success without someone working to take you down from the inside. Our shared cultural values are now shared with people exactly like us, instead of across the country as a whole. I get to find any support for any idiotic belief I might have, and the stupidest person in the world to represent anything I despise. It’s like the internet was made for strawmen.
              I’m not going to get political here, because I get pretty political on the podcast, but suffice it to say—Whoops done looks like we appeased human nature a bit too far and don’t like what we got out of it.
              So no, the internet is NOT the answer.
              To what question, you ask? Oh, I don’t know, that’s not what the book was about.

Burned, by PC and Kristin Cast
              Remember the phrase “Write what you know”? It’s advice that’s often given to new writers, or sometimes more experienced writers who find themselves facing writer’s block. It’s good advice, really. If you’re at a loss of words, try writing about something that you’re familiar with or knowledgeable about to help get you started.

              The authors of Burned did not follow that advice. Burned is the seventh book in the House of Night series, written by mother-daughter duo P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and these two seem to have a penchant for writing about things they are completely unfamiliar with.
 
This book's cover is so generic. "Fine!",
says Magazine
              One of the most obvious subjects about which the Cast duo are oblivious is human language, both dialogue and dialect. The way the characters speak in this book is unbelievably frustrating. It seems like the authors assigned each character an archetype that they should fill: Aphrodite is the rich, spoiled, mean girl; Stevie Rae is the down-home country girl, Seorus is an ancient Scottish warrior. And each of these characters has a very particular accent and speech pattern that is just infuriating to read.

              For example, Aphrodite’s prayers to the goddess Nyx sound something like this, ‘I’m not real sure how this Prophetess stuff works, so it won’t surprise you to hear that I don’t know how to use the gift you’ve given me to help Stark -- but he does need my help. I mean, the guy’s being sliced up in one world and flailing around trying to use poetry and an old guy’s confusing words to help Z in another. Just between us, sometimes I think Stark’s more muscle and admittedly good hair than brains.” I mean, honestly, where is the substance in any of that? Why was any of that necessary. It’s just fluff masquerading as biting wit.

              Another thing that the duo unsurprisingly doesn’t know much about is people of color. Out of all of the many characters in this book, only one is specifically described as black. Her name is Kramisha, and she’s actually my favorite character in the book, despite the authors’ best efforts. At times, it seems like the authors just googled “stereotypes of black female teenagers” and wrote those into Kramisha’s character, because it’s fairly evident that neither of them have actually met a black person. It feels like they decided they needed a character of color and then thought, “Um... braids! She likes rap music! Let’s make up our own version of how black people talk!”

              Amazingly, though, there is one moment of cultural sensitivity related to Kramisha and the concept of race. Kramisha knows that Stevie Rae is keeping a secret about a boy, and she asks if the boy is black, and if Stevie Rae is keeping the relationship a secret because she is ashamed to be dating a black man. The boy is not black, and that is not why Stevie Rae is keeping things a secret (the boy is actually half-raven, but that’s a whole other thing). But the two characters have a decent conversation about how wrong that would be, and Stevie Rae assures Kramisha that she would not do such a thing. It’s one brief good moment in this otherwise fairly bleak book.

              Finally, it seems like the authors have only the most cursory understanding of the setting, which is disappointing because according to the book jacket, they are from Tulsa. It could have honestly helped this book if the authors had communicated their knowledge of and sense of community in Tulsa throughout the book. Instead, it just seems like they looked up Tulsa on Google Maps and figured out what cross street the Gap is located and threw that into the book for no reason.

              Overall, this book was disappointing. Not only was it poorly written, but it was poorly written in a way that made it seems as though the writers didn’t know what they were writing about, and that they didn’t even care.



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