Friday, July 2, 2010

Molotov Cocktail new issue (read it!); review of "The Terror" by Dan Simmons

Work has been slammin', and I've got a few other projects (writing and non-writing) going on, and my dad is coming into town any minute, so I've been exhausted and busy and it appears I shall remain so for the next ten days. Just sayin', in case you wonder where I am.

But in the meantime... Recs and book review!


Issue 8 of The Molotov Cocktail: this doesn't happen often, but all four stories are stellar. Major kudos to Josh, the editor at TMC, who also has the fourth story of the lot. I had a strange moment when I finished his; it felt eerily like something I would write. I mean... I wouldn't change a word, and it's exactly where I would go with it, but not where you would expect most people to have written the story. It felt natural -- to me. I got kind of weirded out.

My favorite story was the first, Hawk Vidal's Notes on the Back of My Funeral Program. I've slaughtered the title, my apologies to Mr. Vidal. At any rate, this is one that grabs you from the word GO! and doesn't let up. It's fucking hilarious, and you can't stop, even though you think you know just where this is going. And then... it doesn't quite go where you expect, there at the very end, and I stopped my sniggering long enough to go, "Whoa..." I may not want just what the narrator wants, but I want what he wants, if that makes sense.

To each our own heaven. Or hell.


Book review: "The Terror" by Dan Simmons.

Trying to find the fabled Northwest Passage, Captain Crozier heads his ship, the Terror, through the ice, under the glow of the Aurora Borealis and in temperatures regularly reaching 60 below. He gets stuck fast, for several winters, and something is hunting and killing his men.

So, after reading two Dan Simmons novels, I can safely say that he is not the author for me. I can understand that he has legions of fans and has won a bunch of awards for a reason. However, the two novels I read by him (the sci-fi epic, "Ilium," and this historical fiction) have many qualities in common, and they mostly tend to irk me.

Not everybody needs a POV. Write a book from one POV, Mr. Simmons. I wasn't confused, I just found it tedious.

Both books have a heavy amount of build-up. I'm talking, maybe 80% of the book is building a platform to jump off of. While I can appreciate that a certain amount of build-up is necessary, again, it's tedious. I will say this: in both cases, when you reach that final 20%, things slam together in a very exciting way. But if I'm going to read hundreds of pages of build-up, I'd like the writing to flow a bit better. Which brings me to...

The writing. While he has the occasional bright moment, mostly towards the end, the writing is fairly plodding. There's nothing wrong with it, per se, it's just boring. It lacks rhythm and a definite style, it lacks poetry and beauty. The writing is... competent. It's not bad. It's just competent.

And last, Simmons' characters fail to leap off the page, except for one notable exception, Mahnmut, who is a fucking robot. A robot steals the show in Ilium. Human characters in both books? I couldn't have cared less if they got killed and eaten (some do).

So what has Simmons got that makes him so popular? Well, they're original stories, fascinating settings, and he does detailed world-building. And as I said, when you reach the very end, it's a huge conflagration, and you can't take your eyes from it. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the spiritual element to this story. Looking back, I can see how all of this was Crozier's spiritual journey, and like any man, he fights it every step of the way.

Still, it was mostly boring as fuck.

ETA: just read the reviews on Amazon. Some readers feel the ending was "tacked on" and a "wacky tangent," etc. I would disagree. Yes, the tone of the last section is much different than the preceding 6-700 pages. Agreed. But as I said above, if you look closely, all of this was a spiritual journey. Even the "thing" hunting and killing his men is part of that journey. However, I see where they're coming from. 700 pages of gritty realism, and suddenly, you're thrust into a dream-like world where nearly-supernatural things occur. But I do believe that Simmons brought us there in honesty and truth.


I do love spiritual fiction. Kate Horsley's slender books are highly recommended, especially "The Pagan Nun." She can do deeply spiritual fiction and make you fall into her words, drown in them.


All right, time to Get Stuff Done. Writing will probably be on hold from here until next week some time, which depresses me. I did write some veeeeery intriguing 420s last night... This batch is taking a decided turn for the darker. And insects... Why all the insects? Aiiieee!


  1. 700 pages of "boring as fuck"? I'll pass, I think, though the sublimation from gritty to fantastical at the end sounds interesting.

    Have a good time with your dad!

  2. Enjoy the time with your dad, pet the pups and give B a hug. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go check out TMC.