Monday, July 24, 2006

Ballsack of the Nut People

You know the old saying that you can't judge a book by its cover? There's at least one exception to that rule: Balzan of the Cat People #2: The Caves of Madness. I barely made it through one chapter before putting this book down in disgust. And it's not even entertainingly bad. Here's the paragraph that pretty much made me hate this book before I even got to page 10:
He was a tall man, a humanoid, with two arms and two legs and a head growing between his shoulders. He was hairless, except for the tousled brown crown of his head and the area around his genitals. He had five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot, and he normally wore clothes. His features--two eyes, a mouth, a nose, two ears--were sharp and set close to his skull, which was more or less oblong. He was an alien to this world, a planet twice the size of the earth which had spawned him, a world with two moons, an unknown number of continents, and at least three sentient races. He'd never known his parents. He was an adopted member of the Cat People. He was a wanderer in self-imposed exile--what men on another world might call "a loner."
Thank you Wallace Moore, author of this crap, for telling me the hero has a head between his shoulders! And that he wears clothes! And he's a loner! What depth of characterization! And I love how we go from learning about Balzan's pubic hair to a mini-dissertation on his adopted homeworld, all in a single paragraph! Sheesh.

What really gets my goat is the tremendous inefficiency of style at work here. If Robert E. Howard were writing this story, we'd discover all the relevant setting information as quick throwaway lines in the midst of slaying foes and wooing wenches. Not that everyone has to write just like Howard, mind you. People who lived and wrote before Howard was born are excused from adopting his style.

So here's the lesson for the day: just because someone at Wikipedia puts something on a Selected Reading List doesn't mean it's going to be good.