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Showing 1-5 of 5 reviews(1 star)show all reviews
on August 11, 2002
Usually, the Hugo Awards are a good recommendation for entertaining literature.
Not in this case. I really don't understand how this book could have been given an award of any kind. Were there NO other sf novels published in 1971?
Farmer uses historical figures as his characters as an excuse to not bother writing any characterization of any kind. Every character in the novel is completely two-dimensional. It's pretty hard to make such an interesting and multi-dimensional character as the historical Richard Burton dull and flat - but Farmer manages it.
Moreover, the book is offensively, insidiously sexist. By which I don't mean that, in the grand tradition of adventure stories, that lusty buxom babes abound! (if only!) Rather, I mean that not one female character in the book displays any initiative, independence, or intelligence. Men regard them as property, and women's only instinct seems to be to find a male "protector." The stereotypes of women as "prude," "nag," or "whore" are found in abundance. Women are only an accessory to a man, to be admired physically, used sexually, and then tired of.
Here's one direct quote: "She was the product of her society - like all women, she was what men had made her."
One cannot excuse this attitude in writing as being a product of its time - check out what Ursula LeGuin was publishing in the late 60's and early 70's!
Sexist stereotypes are not the only ones found... they're practically incidental to the ethnic and cultural stereotypes! In a world supposedly populated with people of all cultures, time periods, and places, everything seems to run in a remarkably Eurocentric manner. To regard cigars as a universal luxury item is particularly bemusing.
Still, all this would be excusable, if only the story was fun, exciting and interesting. Not so. For such a short (222p.) novel, the plot was inexcusably meandering and dull. I fell asleep on it last night, and finished it this afternoon out of some sort of sense of obligation.
I think I'll be sending the copy of World of Tiers on my to-read shelf straight to the recycle bin.
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on May 2, 2002
...perhaps there's no point to the award. I am stunned by how bad this book is. I will work hard to be succinct so as not to waste neurons on it: (1) I like "boys in space" as much as the next woman, but this is horribly sexist in a way that angers me, given that it was written as late as 1971. Women are for sex, or are killed when no longer useful to the (nominal) plot. Heinlein, with all his sexism, at least reflected the mores of his times, and provided us with numerous excellent "juvenile" novels that avoided the egregious bad taste of this one by virtue of including no females whatsoever. (2) It contains more uncalled-for violence than anything I've read in the last few years. (3) Do we really think mysterious saviors would provide steak, marihuana (sic), and LIPSTICK in our lunch-buckets? Who's catering this resurrection, anyway--McDonald's? Mary Kay? The Grateful Dead? (4) Even leaving the deplored-yet-articulated anti-Semitism, this book is rife with cultural stereotypes. (5) I kept stumbling over plot problems. To name one: Gee, if you only get fed by putting your "grail" in the "grail stone," and only you can open your own grail, I'd assume that beings intelligent enough to put lipstick in lunch-buckets would be able to track Burton's grail if they wanted to find him. Perhaps Farmer suffered a lack of imagination because he wrote the book before ATMs. (6) I would be impressed with the prose if a 6th grader wrote this. Perhaps that is the intended audience. I can't believe a publisher printed such a wooden, poorly-structured piece. I am ASTOUNDED that it won the Hugo. Compared to the winners on either side of it, it stinks even worse. I am a book packrat, but I'm seriously considering throwing this one away because I'd feel terrible if I donated it to charity and some other poor sucker accidentally read it.
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on October 24, 2001
To be honest, the writing style of this book is enough to make any seasoned reader wince with frustration. Simply put: it is pitiful.
The characters are so cardboard that they are not even two-dimensional characters; they are one-dimensional. They are clearly acting out of the author's motives, and have no motives of their own. One can literally see the clunky mechanics behind them, it is quite sad. They have sudden bursts of wisdom and understanding that they could not possibly have, and there is so much data-dumping that often one gets the feel of reading an encyclopedia entry. They also see to be speaking with the same voice: that would be the author's voice.
Another thing was the way he handled descriptions. He simply gave off exact details in absolutely no order. One of the most importiant things in description is putting the details in an order (e.g. up to down, left to right, near to far) that is accessible to the reader. Farmer ignored this primary rule, and as a result it came out as unsortable. It is alright to break the rules, but one has to know how to break them. In his inept hands, the writing of the book is garbage, and he only embarrases himself and falls flat upon his face in mud. He was also far to exact to leave any room whatsoever to the imagination of the reader. Do I really care that the guy's nose was exactly three and half centimetres long or that the objects were spaced five and a quartet inches apart? I often had the impression that the characters carried measuring sticks about with them. Another thing was that he switched from the Metric System to the American Measuring System. That is called inconsistency.
There is also rampant sexism. When Burton said that he did not care much for woman's brains, I nearly threw the book across the room, but lucky for the book it did not belong to me. Besides, in a society where there was no pregnancy, the whole male-domination thing would not have happened. For some reason, Farmer seems to think that women were only there for one function and I will leave it at that. Anyone with any sence would be appaled by this [...junk] just as I was. It is due to people like him with attitudes like that, that women had to endure thousands of years of riddicue and suffering. It was simply unacceptable to find views such of his in a book in this modern, civilized age.
The only things that kept me reading to the end was that it was quite short for a novel, and the plot was original enough that I just wanted to see what it developed to in the end. And in the end there was no reward for my time enduring his ill-wrought pose, and I do not feel like investing more time to read another volume.
Trust me, you do not want to repeat my mistake and waste your time on this book too. Had I the option, this would have received negative stars. This was hands-down the single worst book that I have read, and the worst book that could ever be produced, ever.
And one last question: How in the name of goodness did this ever manage to get published? It is so maddening that this can be published, when there are far better authors out there slaving away who do not receive any recognition. Where were the editors? Asleep? Hypnotized? It is sad that such a book ever won any awards- but hey, if this is the cream of the crop, I hate to even imagine how bad the terrible books are.
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on October 17, 2001
You already know the premise: Humanity reincarnated on the shores of a river 20 million miles long. Unique spin on life-after-death, and the first book (To Your Scattered Bodies Go) is good enough to make you want to read more. The snippets of 'something bigger' looms large throughout the series and much of the good writing and story telling carries through into the second book (The Fabulous Riverboat). There is, of course, a requisite amount of 'cheese' that you must eat, but not so much that you get a stomachache.
If you make it through book 2, STOP THERE! If you continue on this little 'adventure' you are destined for a profound disappointment, as the story is seemingly more compelling, but descends into an ever-increasing series of convenient coincidences, plot shortcuts, and a finale that is ultimately such a hack job that I wish I could slap the author (Philip Jose Farmer) and sue him for false advertising.
Book 3 and 4 ('The Dark Design' and 'The Magic Labyrinth' respectively) are an abomination! Never mind the gratuitous follow-up 'The Gods of Riverworld', which convinced me that, at some point in the writing of this series, Farmer decided to start smoking crack. I can only say that he completely destroyed the compelling fantasy that he began as surely as if he'd thrown it into a blender and hit 'puree'. Save your time and money...please.
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on October 17, 2001
To be honest, the writing style of this book is enough to make a seasoned reader frustrated. Simply put, it is pitiful. The characters are so carbord that they are not even two-dimensional characters; they are one-dimensional. They are clearly acting out of the author's motives, and have no motives of their own. One can literally see the clunkly machanics behind them, it is quite sad. They have sudden bursts of wisdom and understanding that they could not possibly have, and there is so much data-dumping that often one gets the feel of reading an encyclopedia entry. They also see to be speaking with the same voice: that was the author's voice. Not to mention the rampant sexism. When Burton said that he did not care much for woman's brains, I nearly threw the book accross the room, but lucky for the book, it did not belong to me. Besides, in a society where there was no pregnany, the whole male-domination thing would not have happened. It was disgusting. The only things that kept me reading to the end was that it was short, and the plot was intresting enough that I just wanted to see what it developed to in the end. And the payoff for my hard hours of enduring his baddly-wroght prose? None! There are more questions than answers, and I do not feel like investing more time to read another volume. Trust me, you do not want to waste your time and hard-earned money on this book.
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