Review: Gods of War

The Gods of War (Graham Brown & Spencer J. Andrews; Stealth Books) is one of the better arguments for the traditional system of publishing-house gatekeepers I’ve seen recently. It is not merely bad, it is a stinkeroo that trumpets its awfulness from page one.

Straight up, a cabal of the shady super-rich in the year 2137 are told that the Earth’s ecology will collapse within about a year, and their maximum leader has a clever plan to evacuate them to…Mars. Which unspecified good guys have developed with a dream of turning it into (get this) an agricultural colony that can feed half the earth.

Nothing that calls itself SF but leads off with that much ignorance of the reality of Mars and the energy economics of space transport can possibly land anywhere good. Especially not when the prose is clumsy, the characters strictly cartoons, and the authors seem bent on writing a political allegory for which “hamfisted” and “stupid” will be among the mildest negative adjectives one could apply.

The only mercy in this book is that it is such an obvious waste of electrons that I was able to give up with a clear conscience on page twelve rather than forcing myself to slog through it all in hopes of finding some redeeming value. In brief: avoid.

19 thoughts on “Review: Gods of War

  1. Must be on a scale with that awful dinosaur movie featuring Treat Williams that I saw on TV. That guy has taken a long fall since “Hair”.

  2. Perhaps the lack of ‘the traditional system of publishing-house gatekeepers’ will make reviewers a much more important part of the writing ecosystem. (Perhaps these reviews were the cunning plan of ESR and/or the people who give him free books to review all along.)

  3. Elsewhere in discussions of SF, we’ve been discussing “message SF”, and calling it “grey goo”.

    This appears to have gone a step further, and thus should be awarded the category of “grey poo”. . .

  4. I don’t usually do reviews on my author blog, but I’ve been forced by similar experiences to create an “Irritated Reviews” category, just to relieve the frustration of NOT throwing my ereader at the wall. I spare the author/title because I’m trying to paint them as Things Not To Do, but I let the snark roll on.

    It’s been a great relief, and I plan to continue it. http://hollowlands.com/?s=irritated+reviews&submit=Search

  5. >I meant, “after you give up, you don’t check the ending, just out of perverse curiosity?”.

    Never occurred to me. This was bad; had I thought of it, I would have decided I didn’t want the ick on my eyeballs.

  6. Oh, come on Eric. Don’t hold back like that. Tell us what you really think about the book.

  7. I’m not sure I’d say it’s an argument for traditional publishing gatekeepers so much as an argument for always getting the Amazon Kindle free sample before you buy the actual book. :)

  8. Billions of people manage to earn a living using Windows without doing direct harm to innocent readers…the ick is diffused.

  9. “…one of the better arguments for the traditional system of publishing-house gatekeepers I’ve seen recently. It is not merely bad, it is a stinkeroo that trumpets its awfulness from page one.”

    …eh??? This is as strong an argument against traditional gatekeepers as ever. Imagine all the money that would have been spent on an editor’s time reading this draft, as opposed to doing something else.

    Granted, it’s potentially several thousand readers’ time instead. …but what if some of them actually like this stuff?

    And what about the critics? They live and breathe stinkers (ahem). Some of the best literary turns I’ve ever read are in critical pans. It’s when the really sharp knives come out.

  10. Hey, that sounds better than “Building Harlequin’s Moon,” which is probably the nadir of novels that I managed to finish without stopping to sacrifice them to Ba’al. Larry Niven’s name is on it as co-author; I hope he got paid a lot for that.

    I’d try to describe the plot, but you’d laugh at me in disbelief. Ah, okay. We have a spaceship fleeing the Singularity, which has taken over the Solar System. Damaged in flight to another star, it pulls into a convenient asteroid belt, assembles some rubble into a planetoid, then plants it full of giant trees. Then they breed up some slaves, who are raised to worship the trees, and they’re all about ecology. The planet, trees, and slaves don’t seem to have anything to do with repairing the ship, which eventually gets done without them. Then the evil ship people decide it’s time to leave, abandoning the slave population on the planetoid, which will eventually break up from lack of cohesion and kill them all. But it’s all okay, because there’s lots of tree-hugging and that ecology stuff, y’know.

    Really. The book is chock-full industrial-grade stupid. I think there’s a sequel…

  11. How about automating the gatekeeper? Word frequency or term frequency comparisons, more or less. Has anyone checked if any patterns correlate with high or low ratings from expert reviewers? Like, for example, you don’t want to see terms like “agricultural planet” or “exporting food” with high frequency in a sci-fi novel?

  12. >Like, for example, you don’t want to see terms like “agricultural planet” or “exporting food” with high frequency in a sci-fi novel?

    Depends. Asimov got away with agricultural planets around Trantor because his future’s premises included cheap energy and very effective spacedrives. But not believable in 2137, at least not without the author telegraphing some new physics first.

    This illustrates a more general point. Almost anything you could catch with a phrase match could be justified if the author is a careful enough worldsmith.

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