Saturday, January 25, 2014

read: The Wobbit: A Parody (2 stars)

The Wobbit: A ParodyThe Wobbit: A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. My recollections of its predecessor Bored of the Rings are of an uneven, but chuckle-filled, delight that I wanted to share with my friends. Unfortunately, this book is only uneven, sprinkled with a few smirks, and I can't recommend it.

It's a shame, really. Tolkien's books seem like a prime target for parody. As are the overblown films that Peter Jackson makes out of them (and I enjoy the heck out of both). If parody is defined as a deliberate copy done for comic effect, this book only vaguely fits the definition. All that is borrowed from the original work is a rough outline of the plot (with little comic effect) that is used to string together a hodge podge of cultural reference one-liners that don't even come close to telling a story.

A few jokes are amusing. There are some good shots at Aaron Sorkin and the walk-and-talk. Dumbledalf's conflation of the worlds of The Hobbit and Harry Potter brought a couple of smiles. Also humorous were characters like L. Ron and his disciples, the Internet Trolls (actual trolls), and the idea of Elvisking.

What didn't work at all was the character of Billy Bagboy, the obvious stand-in for Bilbo Baggins. Rather than be the charming, confused, and frightened center of the story and thoughtful representative for the reader, he was presented as an obese, lazy oaf. Without a likable character for the reader to identify with, the book counted on its jokes to drag the reader through to the end. And since most of the jokes seemed to misfire, it was a real slog to push through the whole thing.

Read the cover. Skim the first chapter or two. If you're laughing out loud, or even giggling, you might enjoy this. If not, I'm afraid it doesn't get any better and you should give this book a pass.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

read: The Ocean At The End of the Land (4 stars)

The Ocean At The End of the LaneThe Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm glad I moved this up to the top of my reading list. Neil Gaiman is an enchanting weaver of worlds and the stories within those worlds. He is somehow able to draw upon ancient knowledge that never was and make it seem present, potent, universal and real.

It would be foolish of me to try to describe this story. You can read the cover blurb and other reviews to get a flavor of that. But those descriptions are only shadows of the experience of getting lost in these pages of lost childhood and magic. What is real? What is memory? What is imagination? What is time? These are all questions that swirl through this book and are never directly addressed or answered. Or maybe they are.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

read: The New Space Opera 2 (3 stars)

The New Space Opera 2: All-new stories of science fiction adventureThe New Space Opera 2: All-new stories of science fiction adventure by Gardner R. Dozois
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I probably picked this up because I wanted to read some current short science fiction and saw that John Scalzi had an entry. Since I did not sit down and read it cover to cover, it looks like it took me about three years to get through it. As is typical for an anthology, some of the stories were pretty good, some not so much. I can't think of one that knocked my socks off. But most were worth the read.

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