Monday, April 13, 2009

Worst book ever. A rant.

I just finished reading Return to Quag Keep by Andre Norton and Jean Rabe. It was published in 2006 by Tor in hardback (although I bought it at a used book store for six bucks) with a cover price of $24.95.

I hope no one paid $24.95 plus tax for this book. Because it is the worst book I have ever read and ever will read.

Here's why:

Item A) I read Quag Keep by Andre Norton (published in the late 1970s) when I was in middle school, which was just the right age to appreciate Andre Norton. I've reread Quag Keep many times--it's sort of a guilty pleasure now. It would be hard to match that sort of personal cult classic feel in any case, even by Andre Norton at the top of her game.

Item B) This book is badly written. It is badly written. It is BADLY WRITTEN. And not, I suspect, by Andre Norton. It doesn't feel like Norton's writing at all--and I believe Norton died right about the time this book was published, so I suspect she wasn't physically capable of writing and that in her collaboration with Jean Rabe she was probably as more of an idea person. I could be wrong, of course: Norton was an uneven writer, sometimes brilliant and sometimes not very good. But lordie, she was never this bad. I blame Rabe completely.

Item B1) The characters are virtually interchangeable. They all speak alike, act alike, react alike, and are all Too Stupid To Live.
Item B2) The characters are nothing like the original characters in Quag Keep.
Item B3) The writing is so clumsy, stilted, awkward, and amateurish it's actually painful to read. And the headhopping is so out of control that sometimes even the author seemed uncertain as to whose eyes she was looking out of in any given paragraph.
Item B4) Infodumping! About things that aren't important! Like when the song "Danny Boy" was written and how big Mammoth Cave is!
Item B5) Passive voice. Constantly.

Item C) The plot of Quag Keep felt like a D&D adventure run by a really good, inventive gamemaster. The plot of Return to Quag Keep felt like a D&D adventure run by a lame gamemaster who can't think past all the cliches she's steeped herself in. And no, it wasn't parody. Let's see: Characters get drunk and start a fight in a tavern, end up working as guards in a caravan (no, seriously--that's like Cliche #1 in the Big Book of Cliches), get attacked by skeletons, get attacked by brigands--and it just keeps going on and on and on, without getting any better. And don't forget the deus ex machina teleport spell!

Item D) The character I liked best in Quag Keep was the lizardman, Gulth. I even had a stuffed animal alligator I named Gulth who sat on top of my jewelry box to guard it (look, I told you I was in middle school when I read the book). Gulth appeared in chapter one of Return to Quag Keep, long enough to tell the others that he was dying and was going to travel somewhere to try and find help. Then he disappears from the book entirely until literally the last three pages.

Items E-ZZZ) The issues clumsily raised over the course of the book ARE NOT RESOLVED AT ALL. The ending SUCKS. There is NO CLOSURE. I HATE THIS BOOK.

In short, everything about this book is gratingly bad. That it was released in hardback by a major publisher is simply appalling. It's an insult to Andre Norton's career, an insult to people who enjoyed Quag Keep, and--worst of all--it's an insult by Tor Books to their readers, since the implication is that Tor assumes that their readers will buy anything with Andre Norton's name on the cover, regardless of quality.


Aaron Polson said... did you like the book?

(sorry...had to)

K.C. Shaw said...

Maybe I should go in and add some more SHOUTING. :)

Jameson T. Caine said...

"Characters get drunk and start a fight in a tavern, end up working as guards in a caravan (no, seriously--that's like Cliche #1 in the Big Book of Cliches),"

Damn! I guess I have to rewrite my epic fantasy now. ;)

Sorry to hear about the bad read. At least you still have your memories of the first book.

Jamie Eyberg said...

It kills me when publishers, and some writers (but mostly publishers) can't leave well enough alone. I am sorry you had to suffer through this one.

K.C. Shaw said...

Jameson--Do it well and you can have all the caravan guards you want! Alas, this one wasn't done well.

Jamie--Fortunately it was so very different from the first book that I can reread the first book without remembering this one.

Cate Gardner said...

LOL! I wanted to say what Aaron said but I'm too scared. ;)

K.C. Shaw said...

I did warn people by putting "a rant" in the subject line. :)

Carrie Harris said...

Snarf. I'd like a copy of the Big Book of Cliches, just so I can rant about it.

K.C. Shaw said...

The closest thing to The Big Book of Cliches is Diana Wynne Jones's Tough Guide to Fantasyland. I highly recommend it!