30 Day book meme, 5: a book you hate

Day 5 of the 30 day book meme: a book or series you hate.

What? I’m supposed to choose just one?

Hi, I’m Mary and I hate books and movies like other people breathe. (That is, loudly, endlessly and especially so on public transport.)

I could, for example, tell you about Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver in which it turns out that the interesting enough characters of Cryptonomicon are actually projections of their exceedingly similar distant male line ancestors into the present. Plus beautiful women cryptographer something something something OH GODS IT’S A MIRACLE THE SPINE OF THE BOOK IS STILL INTACT. Or much of Isaac Asimov’s Elijah Bailey/Gladia Delmarre series. (I don’t like R. Daneel that much either, by the way.) Or, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. For starters, that sounds like a ghost answering the phone. Sort of The Ring with phones. Hello, now you’re going to die! Secondly, Roger Ebert has just seen Part 1 of the movie, and he writes: … and key actions seem to be alarmingly taking place off-screen. They do indeed Roger, they do indeed.

But, I do have a favourite hated book of all time. It’s Colony, by Rob Grant. Andrew loves Red Dwarf and found the novels quite reasonable, so picked up this solo effort set in a different universe.

I’m just going to go ahead and spoil this. You don’t want to read it.

Here’s the setup. There’s a guy who owes people some money, people who are “repossess your soul for the salt mines” kind of people that you don’t want to owe money to. This bit is irritating already, as frankly Our Hero is pretty bland, cowardly and self-pitying, and there’s no sign that we’re supposed to do anything other than wholly identify with him. Then, there’s a brief spark of false interestingness. Our hero is in desperate straits and is approached by someone clearly shady who would like to swap identities with him, and allow our hero to depart the entire planet on a settler colony ship. Safe as houses. Our hero pulls this off and boards the ship, finding people and conditions there greatly to his liking, only to discover that the shady one is a political eugenicist, opposed by nearly everyone else selected for the mission, particularly the decent ones.

What will our hero do? Why was Mr Shady so keen to swap places? Should he confess to the swap, which would appear to be the safer path if he can truly convince the other colonists? Or is there something going on here that he doesn’t know about? That sounds likely doesn’t it! Perhaps he will discover just enough to learn that it’s safer to play along, but continue to alienate everyone else with every moment they continue to believe he is Shady. Gosh, what a predicament!

But never fear! Rob Grant knows how to extricate our hero! There is a disaster aboard ship, and our hero wakes up seven generations later, when there are considerably more pressing problems, like the fact that the people who distrusted him have been replaced by disordered descendants of themselves, reduced to caricatures by inbreeding. Hilarity ensues, or does if you are Rob Grant, who clearly finds “average person at sea among humorous caricatures” hilarious. (His later book Incompetence is marginally better, but more or less on the same theme there. Why did I read that? I think curiosity to see if he could repeat this feat of coming up with a mildly interesting scenario and then sabotaging it so completely.) As best I recall, Mr Shady and whatever his reasons were for swapping identities are never so much as mentioned again. I actually can’t remember if I finished this though.

If you see this book, burn it.

One Reply to “30 Day book meme, 5: a book you hate”

  1. My reaction upon finishing Quicksilver was “that’s umpteen hours of my life I will never get back.” Perhaps the best bit of reading it was the realisation that it had saved me from the temptation to read the rest of series.

    And there’s probably nothing I can say about Harry Potter 7 that Daniel Hemmens hasn’t already said, and said better than I could.

    But on the main topic… yes, Colony has nothing to recommend it. After the drop in quality and originality in Red Dwarf written by Doug Naylor without Rob Grant (and also after reading their respective “third” Red Dwarf novels) I’d formed a theory that maybe Grant had been the greater talent there. My new theory is that they both started losing their edge around about 1993… although honestly I just don’t care much anymore.

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