Ghost Ship

Ghost Shipby CLIVE CUSSLER and graham brown
GP Putnam’s Sons (Penguin) 2014

First sentence: The SS Waratah plowed through the waves on a voyage from Durban to Cape Town, rolling noticeably with the growing swells.
Novels recently published with a similar title: Ghost Ship (2014) by Robert Palmer; The Ghost Ship (2014) by CF Miller; The Ghost Ship (2014) by John C Hutcheson; Ghost Ship (2012) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller; Ghost Ship (2011) by PJ Alderman; The Ghost Ship (2011) by Gerrie Ferris Finger; Ghost Ship (2007) by Mary Higgins Clark; Ghost Ship (2006) by Dietlof Reiche
Method of selection: looked for unoriginal titles
Number of Hardy Boys adventures involving a ghost ship: 30 (31 if you count the Mystery of the Ghost Barn, which mostly takes place at sea. Experts are split on this.)
Stages of grief passed through due to not hating this: anger, bargaining, huffing

Other reviews: Lavendar and Lime

Do you have any idea how painful it is for me to not hate this? Look, it had all the trappings of a shitty book: a terrible title, an overdone cover with giant block CAPS lettering, a New York Times bestselling author, a CO-author, even a prologue — which by the way, I went back and read out of curiosity after making it easily through the first three pages. The writing is descriptive without flamboyance, the dialogue is reasonably believable, not snarky, and I even liked the font (Times New Dogsled if I’m not mistaken).

Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from literature, and I have not elbowed out extra time in my busy schedule of kite-stealing and church-punching to read it, but Clive Cussler, Graham Brown, and the twenty-or-so editors at Putnam clearly burned the midnight oil to create an epic of just-barely-not-shittiness.

What exactly are the NUMA® files and why is NUMA® a registered trademark? I did some research, and NUMA® is the National Underwater Marine Agency®, a 501c3 non-profit founded by Clive Cussler® to “preserve maritime heritage” and also to help him sell Dirk Pitt® and Kurt Austin® series novels. Now, all those registered trademarks don’t come cheaply or without a lot of paperwork, which means one of two things: either Clive Cussler worried someone would try to steal his shitty ideas (WRONG) or someone actually tried to steal his shitty ideas already (OMG).

I paged around a bit and did find some shittiness creeping in on page 21, the start of chapter three, and more at the start of chapter four, a few pages later. The writing begins to get cheesier, and more cliche.

Perhaps poor Graham Brown wrote a shitty book that originally began at chapter three, and Clive Cussler stepped in to save it; perhaps the reverse. Perhaps a young, enterprising editor realized the reputation of the good imprint he had recently come into the employ of, GP Putnam, would be forever tarnished should they print a shitty novel and stepped in to correct it. Whatever the case, it is clear now that authors and publishers are making a cold-hearted and cynical ploy to circumvent my own untarnishable review process of just reading the first three pages. But avast, I was too cunning for such reckless bamboozlement! I therefore relegate this book not to the Not Shitty category, but a new category, Not Shitty on a Technicality. Take that ye scurvy dogs!

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The Perfect Poison

by Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz)
2009 GP Putnam (Penguin)

First sentence: Lucinda stopped a few feet away from the dead man, trying to ignore the fierce undercurrents of tension that raged through the elegant library.
Clichés in three successive sentences, written while the author was eating a frozen lemonade:cool and composed, as cold as ice, chill her to the bone
Pairs well with: oatmeal, dry toast, iceberg lettuce, lite beer, unsalted nuts, dental appointments and broken marriages

Jayne Ann Krentz needs to spend more time creating characters and less time writing 122 shitty novels. Krentz is another author of “genre romance”, a genre we last met with Spellbound by Patricia Simpson. But rather than being shitty and charming, this is just shitty and crappy.

In three pages she introduces the following characters:

  • a Scotland Yard Inspector who is stout, cheerful, has a voluminous mustache and a “psychical gift” for noticing small clues at a murder scene
  • the “severe-looking” spinster sister named Hannah Rathbone
  • a handsome man named Hamilton Fairborn, with his “well-modeled” jaw
  • a coterie of offended Victorian ladies

I wasn’t sure if I was reading a novel or playing a game of Parker Brothers Clue. It seems Jayne Ann Krentz gets her novel ideas from watching Masterpiece Theatre knockoffs on the Mexican PBS (which is likely acronymed “BSP” or “SBP”).

Krentz has published six to seven thousand novels (the exact number is not known by modern science) under seven different pseudonyms, in part because she is so embarrassed about everything she writes, and in part because she has killed six other authors, all of them shitty, and assumed their identity. The editor of her page on Wikipedia (who is really Krentz working under the pseudonym “James Patterson”) points out that “Krentz created the futuristic romance subgenre, and further expanded the boundaries of the genre in 1996 with Amaryllis, the first paranormal futuristic romantic suspense novel”. Paranormal indeed.

I considered suicide once for every verb in the first three pages. Luckily shit hardly happened or I would be dead right now.

Other reviews: Jandy’s Reading RoomWorking Girl ReviewsPenelope’s Romance ReviewsMore Vikings

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Zero History

by William Gibson
2010 GP Putnam’s Sons (Penguin)

First sentence: Inchmale hailed a cab for her, the kind that has always been black, when she’d first know this city.
Idiotic clauses (see below): Glyphed in Prussian blue…a smoother simulacrum of its black ancestors…its faux-leather upholstery a shade of orthopedic faun.
You will enjoy this if you are also a fan of: eating your boogers

Perhaps I am too dumb to read William Gibson. I know what all these words mean, but they don’t fit together. It’s as if William Gibson chopped up a thesaurus with a hatchet and hammered the pieces together to make a novel. Every time I come across one of these clauses, like, “multiply flapped and counterintuitively buckled” I wait for a light to go on in my esoteric brain, the part that enjoys Baudrillard and jazz (I don’t enjoy jazz but I pretend to like it for all the jazz pussy), but instead I just groan and get sleepy. By the second page, I was in a coma.

It shared a richly but soberly paneled foyer with whatever occupied the other, westernmost, half of the building.

William Gibson, you are trying too hard. Clever, richly-appointed prose has a place, but you give your reader’s imagination no room to expand. You fill out every passage with stumbling blocks like, “Japanese herringbone Gore-Tex” and “one might have ridden a horse without having to duck to clear the lintel”. Every time you write something, your reader has to think about it. If this were a poem, it would be perfect, because we know it’s going to be over by the end of the page. But this goes on for 401 more pages! And besides being an obstacle course to read, I can safely estimate that at least 200 pages of this shitty book are unnecessary filler, which means you skimped on story.

Go back and read Hemingway. He wrote prose like this:

I woke up with a headache and took a drink. I farted. It burned. Then I beat my wife. She cried.

It’s simple, it tells a story, there’s implied tension, emotion, even humor (especially the part where he beat his wife — what a clown!). And best of all it has no confusing speedbumps like, “the floor plan gave evidence of hesitation”. You don’t have to write exactly like Hemingway, but there’s probably a happy medium.

And lastly, I don’t see why people make such a big deal about you inventing the word “cyberspace”. I’ve never said the word “cyberspace” in my whole life except when I was talking about William Gibson and his shitty books.

Other reviews: Mostly Fiction, Iceberg Ink, Big Dumb ObjectCity of Tongues

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Chasing Fire

by Nora Roberts
GP Putnam Sons (Penguin) 2011

First sentence:
Caught in the crosshairs of wind above the Bitterroots, the jump ship fought to find its stream.

Worst sentence: Nerves. She could all but feel them riding along his skin.
Biggest surprise: not coming down with terminal leukemia while reading this

Let’s get a few things straight:
1. I have never read a romance novel.
2. I’m not sure why, because this was not shitty.
3. “Chasing Fire” is a double-entendre, for firefighters on one hand, and ill-advised unprotected coworker sex on the other. Unexpected pregnancy and HPV may result, but I only read three pages so I don’t know for sure.

I knew Nora Roberts was a supermarket paperback writer, but I did not know she was a romance author when I picked this off the shelf. It purported to be about firejumpers (firefighters who parachute into wildfires), but it was only from doing a little research that I discovered this is supposed to be a romance.

This is not a literary work, it’s a soap opera, but I’ll be damned to call it shitty. Believe me I’m as shocked as you. Nora Roberts has 209 novels to her name (wait…..210……211), and being a romance writer, and with a name in such a pointy font, she is clearly marketed entirely to women. Yet I turned to page four without hesitation. I expected it to be hacky and overdone, but with only a few exceptions, it appears to be good storytelling, about a small-town firejumping girl in love with a boyish firejumping guy. The dialogue is believable and the characters presumably have very good bodies. I’d read that.

Other reviewers: Rosario’s Reading Journal, Errant Dreams Reviews, RT Book Reviews, Smexy Books, All About Romance

(Support this site by purchasing this not shitty book through the links below.)

Wicked Prey

by #1 NYT Bestselling Author John Sandford!
G.P. Putnam Sons (Penguin) 2009

First sentenceRandy Whitcomb was a human stinkpot, a red-haired cripple with a permanent cloud over his head; a gap-toothed, pock-faced, paraplegic crank freak, six weeks out of the Lino Lakes medium-security prison.

Most meaningless sentenceShe was a good-looking woman of no particularly identifiable age, who’d taken care to make herself mousy.
Even worse entire paragraph: description of complete contents of character’s wallet, including “a variety of wallet detritus”.
Things I’d rather do than read page 4: eat as many human babies as there are commas in this book.

I like swear words, if not used too gratuitously, and I love swear words directed at children. John Sandford understands this. John Sandford understands me. But unfortunately he put all his work into the first few sentences because the story falls apart before page one is over. He haphazardly shifts the focus from Randy Whitcomb to a tall bearded man and his companion and some sub-sub-sub-story about being in England too long, then to Brutus Cohn, whose name is John Lamb on his passport, then to Rosie Cruz, who is Brutus Cohn’s companion (or is he really John Lamb? Who knows? Who cares?). I was not sure who I was supposed to be paying attention to.

Perhaps the book eventually circles around to the swearing human stinkpot. Hopefully so because Sandford takes care to point out how unremarkable all his other characters are (she was wallpaper, she was background).

Coincidental best use of this book: wallpaper background

On the front flap, The Washington Post says John Sandford’s novels are beloved (which is 1 less than loved) for their “ingenious plots, vivid characters, crisp dialogue, and endless surprises”. I would like to share a sample of this “crisp dialogue”. The background to this crisp dialogue is that there’s a Toyota Camry.

“Ugly car,” he said, as he lifted the suitcase into the trunk…
“The best-selling car in America, in the least attention-getting color,” Cruz said.

If I were a slime mold, growing on a different slime mold, which was itself growing on a stack of putrid rotting cow guts in the soggiest part of the deepest chasm at the bottom of the ocean, I still would not call that “crisp”.

Other reviews: Sonia Reviews, True Crime Book Reviews 

(Support this site by purchasing this shitty book through the links below.)