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The idea behind this blog is to share my opinions about Post-Apocalyptic Literature, Films and Ephemera as well as my random nattering on a regular basis.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Of vanity novels and commercials made of win

I'm sure that I cannot be the only person to have unwittingly stumbled across a vanity novel. Just in case you have been lucky enough to not run across one of these jems yourself, I'll explain about them just a bit. If I understand it correctly these are books that are the goats of the literary world. No one wants to publish them. So what ends up happening is that the author will generally pay for the book to be published themselves and will hence forth be able to proclaim to their friends that they have a book published. (Is this so much different than blogging? Perhaps not.) Another way to think of them (I figure) is to compare them with Independent Films. Some of these go to Sundance and are great and others go directly to dvd.

Also like many of these type of books, a strait to dvd movie will fool you into thinking that it's a good movie. Then as you wade into it the realization starts to settle in. 'Oh my ... I have chosen poorly.' The same thing happens from time to time when I get into a new book. As a completest I power though the book. Now don't get me wrong I don't automatically hate a book when I make the discovery that it's been been independently published. These books run the whole gamut from really terrible and readable only because it's the literary version to Blood Sucking Freaks the best/worst horror movie of all time to absolutely fantastic and completely unforgettable (and not for the faint of heart). The following are either vanity books or are published by a tiny publisher with my verdict on how good or bad they are.

The New Madrid Run by Michael Reisig.

Finishing The New Madrid Run was the genesis of this post. Before I mentioned that self published books range through the whole spectrum from bad to great. This book falls into the middle. Not good, not bad just so-so. I had avoided reading it for quite some time. The reasonings behind this avoidance are many. Firstly: I read a book called The Rift by Walter Jon Williams. The Rift was also about The New Madrid fault. But it was just a local sort of disaster and in no way apocalyptic. The New Madrid Run just looked too similar to me. Secondly, the word 'run' is in the title. That didn't make me literally run from it, it made me think of all those 'Endworld' books. In an earlier post I went on in detail my love of The Executioner books and let's not fool ourselves here: they are Harlequin Romance novels for dudes (Since David Robbins is a pen name for Don Pendlton I'm not surprised). But I outgrew those type of boilerplate books. So it took me a long time to find myself in the mood.

I'm glad I finally got to it though. It was a bit amateurish and the writing a bit ham-handed at times. But I went with it because I'm a game day player and by the time I was about half way through I was completely enjoying it. At times the plot was predictable and the dialogue was pretty stilted. I saw Travis eventually getting together with Christina. I didn't think it would happen so soon though or that they'd nearly make out over the cooling corpse of her boy friend. I also deducted points for Travis standing in front of a mirror and describing himself. That was damn strange. Also, as I read it Nissin started a new Chow Mein Noodle add campaign and the character of the Sensei was so stereotypical all I could see was the Noodle Master in my mind. Voice and all but with swords and not chopsticks. It almost replaced The Chicken Man commercial as my favorite one, but not quite.

I also had a hard time at the beginning of the book too because he so clearly meant it to read as nonfiction ... a cautionary tale. I got over it though. All in all the book made me think of Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler A cheesy good time. I recommend it.

Junk Day by Arthur Sellings.

In this book the cause of the end is never spelled out. It follows Bryan as he scavenges and runs into trouble with various bands of rapscallions. I read the book some time ago and I guess I only remember that it was hard to get into and totally unremarkable. I did like the descriptions of the highways being cleared of debris then walled off and fortified then finally taxed and patrolled by men in the employ of the local strong man. This book falls in the middle. I just remember it being slow and a bit tedious. Also I paid way too much for it. It most certainly wasn't worth $23 plus shipping. Worth reading? Yes. I think I may re-wade into it. Give it one more chance before I give up I guess. I paid for it after all.

Alone by George Washington III

Once again I was fooled by The Last Man On Earth section at
Alone by George Washington Paullin III comes in at the very bottom of the scale. The book is unreadable. I only finished it because I paid for the thing and wouldn't let it get the best of me. I had to power through it in a single sitting too. It was like when I had to run a mile in fifth grade. I knew if I stopped I wouldn't start again. Life is just too short and luckily enough so is this book. I recommend that anyone who wants to read this think again and perhaps read the phone directory instead.

I looked for it in my collection of read books and even under the bed. The last place I remember seeing it is at school. I took it to class to allow my students to see what may happen if they refuse to proofread their work. I must have left it there. The book was filled with errors. A couple on each page. In some cases I can overlook the occasional typo. I’ve made plenty myself. I even managed to overlook all the strange errors in '48 by James Herbert because it was a great book and, because to me, it looked as though he had an unfortunate experience with the 'correct all’ feature on microsoft word. Also ’48 has the same basic plot of The Afterblight Series. I should have been prepared for a whole bunch of errors when I noticed one on the back cover. WOW, is all I can say. Do not waste any time or money on this pile of shit.

It’s Only Temporary by Eric Shapira

It’s Only Temporary is one of those rare fantastic books. It is just beyond words. The deal is that a giant asteroid is going to strike the Earth just off the coast of New Zealand. It’s going to hit so hard that it will kill everyone. There are some scientists who think that .00001 or .00002 of the human race will survive. The governments of the world knew about the asteroid for years but chose to keep the knowledge from everyone until there was only six weeks left. Some people keep working some people commit suicide. Everyone deals with the knowledge that the world will end in their own way.

The story reads as a journal of sorts told from Sean’s point of view. He chooses to spend the last six weeks of his life watching television, smoking pot, spanking the monkey almost constantly and also hanging out with his parents. On the final day though he decides to go looking for his girlfriend. So he says his final tearful goodbye to his mom and dad and sets out through a world that has no tomorrow, second thoughts, regrets or punishment.

This is by far one of the best books I’ve read … ever. Just writing about it now makes me want to read it again. It’s very short so I may press the pause button on ‘The Hopkins Manuscript’ (I’m only 2/3 of the way through and the moon has just landed) and give It’s Only Temporary’ another go. I bet I finish it tonight.

Bit of trivia about the book. If you preordered it the book came autographed and with a bonus chapter called ‘Speaking of Butler’. I chose wisely and preordered. Well worth it. And the cover -- the asteroid/skull thing is righteous. Also I'm on the fence as to it's 'vanity novel' status.

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