The Scorch Trials

mrstTitle: The Scorch Trials

Author: James Dashner

Summary: Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he would get his life back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to…

Burned and baked, the earth is a wasteland, its people driven mad by an infection known as the Flare.

Instead of freedom, Thomas must face another trial. He must cross the Scorch to once again save himself and his friends.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 1/5

Review: I read The Maze Runner about a year ago, and it left with a lot to say. While i loved the story, setting and mystery of the book, the writing was atrocious. The writing in this sequel did not improve, and unfortunately the story, setting and mystery only went down hill. So much so, i couldn’t bring myself to finish the book.

I gave up a little over halfway through, when i realised there was nothing about the plot that was fascinating enough to keep me reading–to keep me reading a book written this badly. I disliked it so much, i don’t even think i can bring myself to write much about it. I’ll take it one aspect at a time:

The plot: This started well, with the safety the kids think they’ve found turning on them. Things changed quickly and so dramatically it was easy to stay interested, to want to keep reading. This lasted through their time in their limited dorm-type space, through the tunnel of molten head-eating machines and up to their exit into “the Scorch”. After that, things started to go downhill. A few days of the boys slogging through the heat, getting nowhere fast, nothing happening… it was dull, to say the least. When they finally made it to the city, to buildings, to other life forms, i thought things might pick up. But after that, it just seemed like action for the sake of action, rather than anything the was driving the plot. IDGAF about underground tunnels and cranks too far gone–i want to know more about WICKED and what the hell they’re doing to these kids. It was at that point i had to give up.

The characters: Minho was still my favourite. I think because he seems the most real. His emotions seem close to the surface, but he’s also pragmatic and wants to get shit done. Despite there being a smaller number of characters, we still don’t get to know many. In fact Thomas, our (still lack-luster) lead, comments a few times that he can’t even name a lot of them. Way to be a dick, Tommy. I guess that way you don’t have to emotionally develop when they die. Talking of Thomas, i hate him. A large part of that is because we’re experiencing this from his POV, and the writing of that POV is absolutely terrible. Some of that is because he lacks any kind of emotional depth. He doesn’t mention Teresa, the girl he shared such a deep and meaningful connection with who went missing, for several chapters, then suddenly claims she’s all he can think about. He’s sobbing and angry when he finds her but has to run and leave her behind, but as soon as a new girl shows up he’s eyeing her up and getting touchy feeling within minutes. There are a dozen male characters, they can’t get hooked up with the new girl? With each other? You can’t have a female character who isn’t a love interest?

Finally, the writing: It is bad. So bad i have to wonder if this was even edited. Did they accidentally print the first draft? Dashner can not write. It’s all tell, no show. Things stated plainly with no feeling or mood. Questions asked blatantly, outright leading the reader rather than enticing them along. Settings described in unnecessary detail, but the emotional states of the characters and evocative atmospheres are consistently absent. His pacing is off, he fails to use language to immerse the reader into the moment, instead dragging them along awkwardly. While i was reading this sequel, my partner attempted to read the first book–operative word: attempted. He didn’t get past the first chapter, and it took him so long because we were sitting together reading out the best examples of the appalling writing. It was fun for 20 minutes or so, but only when you have someone to share the cringe-worthiness with.

I’m throwing in the towel on this series. I officially don’t care how it ends. Call me when someone opens a kickstarter raising funds for a decent author to re-write the entire thing.

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The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories

9780141187068Title: The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories.

Author: H.P. Lovecraft.

Summary: This selection of stories ranges from early tales of nightmares and insanity such as ‘The Outsider’ and ‘The Rats in the Walls’ through the grotesquely comic ‘Herbert West—Reanimator’ and ‘The Hound’, to the extra-terrestrial terror of ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, which fuses traditional supernaturalism with science fiction. Including the definitive corrected texts, this collection reveals the development of Lovecraft’s mesmerising narrative style and establishes him as a hugely influential—and visionary—American writer.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 1.5/5

Review: Disclaimer: I could not actually finish this book. I usually squirm uncomfortably at the idea of not finishing a book, but i was not enjoying this. I think it helped that it is a book of short stories, so i didn’t actually stop reading mid-story. I finished one, with four left to go, and just could not bring myself to continue.

It started off badly in the first story. This line, in particular:

Grotesque beyond the imagination of a Poe or a Bulwer.

This is still the one line of all that that annoys me the most. It’s lazy. He’s saying, “Imagine something horrible that Poe or Bulwer would write about, well, this is worse.” How about describing it yourself, mate?

This laziness was not an isolated incident, but is the only one where he actively uses other authors’ imaginations. No, his most frequent crime, for me, was being unable to actually describe things. The whole mood or flow is ruined by scattered and repeated insistence that things are “indescribable,” “unnameable,” “unutterable” or “unmentionable.” Occasionally he’d make the effort and declare something “hideously indescribable” or “gruesomely unmentionable.” It got to the point where i was physically cringing and rolling my eyes about it. He’s supposed to be setting a mood, creating an atmosphere and transporting me to another world of horror and suspense. Instead i was left wondering what the hell was so bad, because i can’t imagine what he won’t describe!

It wasn’t all entirely bad, though. ‘The Outsider’, ‘Herbert West—Reanimator’ and ‘Cool Air’ i actually thoroughly enjoyed. While ‘The Hound’, ‘The Rats in the Walls’ and ‘The Festival’ were also good. They all had interesting subject matter (my three favourites all being about the living dead, i’ve only just realised), genuine suspense, adequate descriptions and mood setting and they didn’t drag on too long or get bogged down in insignificant details. I would easily recommend these six individual stories.

Unfortunately a few very good stories can not make up for a book filled with a majority of bad ones.

The last straw came with the title story. Cthulhu, i was so disappointed. It’s told second and third hand by a man after going through his grandfather’s notes (and notes of notes) and acquiring a written account of an encounter with Cthulhu from a now-dead sailor. It’s a very convoluted and overly complex way to tell a story. What really bothered me, though, was the narrator’s hypocrisy… or stupidity, it’s a fine line. He claims he made his discoveries regarding Cthulhu by accidentally piecing information together, that he hopes no one else will do that same and that he will never knowingly supply a link to this information. He then goes on to explain the connections he made, what exactly Cthulhu is and what it could mean for mankind, and puts his account into the file with all the information he used to draw these conclusions. Yes, that way no one else will ever figure it out.

Some of the explanatory notes told me that Lovecraft was highly influenced and inspired by Edgar Allan Poe… i just don’t see it myself. Poe was a master as creating an atmosphere in a few short lines (even if he was the opposite of Lovecraft in his insistence of over describing things!), whereas i felt little to no atmosphere in Lovecraft’s work. Poe wove interesting tales with twists and surprises, Lovecraft prattled on and never really got anywhere before ending on anticlimaxes.

Sorry, but my new nickname for him is Lovecrap.