by Ted Bell
2006 Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)

First sentence: He had never expected to survive the sinking of his boat.
Favorite sentence: Food and drinks are prohibited from this section of the library.
Three pages of clichés: the river a quiet mirror, endless jungle, fallen silent, the peace was suddenly shattered, a rain of lead, engulfed in flames, sold to the highest bidder
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Other reviews: What James Reads, Large Print Reviews

Oh Atria Books, can you produce anything that isn’t shit? I’m starting to feel bad for suggesting that Atria is just a front for a meth lab, because that horribly disparages meth labs and the hardworking men and women who strive to create a pure product that brings joy to so many. Atria Books is more like a terrorist organization, which wants you to die, and is willing to sacrifice themselves to make you die.

This book begins with a prologue, which in a work of fiction is like a middle finger to the reader. Is the prologue important to the story? It wasn’t good enough to be a real chapter, so surely I can skip it… Will it contain a useless sideshow prequel that sets the mood of the main plotline? Or is it just some crap that didn’t fit anywhere so you tossed it there?

I elected to skip the prologue and start at chapter one because nothing comes before one except zero. And zero is the part where I am sleeping, which is a better use of my time than this book was.

At first it wasn’t clear if this was a shitty book or not, but then I saw this sentence, like a dead shitty giveaway:

The river was alive with death.

Oxymorons like this are tricks hacks use to make you think they are clever, but this is the most cliché-infested writing I’ve ever seen. Reading along further, Bell inserts an inexplicable vernacular apostrophe that completely stalls your thought process:

When he heard the explosion for’ard, and felt the yawl stagger and founder…

I must have glanced back at that for’ard twenty times because I couldn’t believe it was really there.

I will give Ted Bell credit, though, for packing in a lot of action in three pages. Here’s what happened in that span:

  1. a boat travelling on a river hits a mine and gets strafed by machine gun fire
  2. the survivor enters the water only to be attacked by a “water boa”
  3. he is then captured by indians and sold into slavery
  4. he fights off his captors and escapes
  5. he fakes his own death, then jumps back into the river
All that in just three pages. And yet, Ted Bell is such a shitty writer I was bored by this story.
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