Telling you who I don't like is perhaps also useful. Most books that
I don't like I don't finish, though, so this section is quite abbreviated, being restricted
to authors I truly dislike but for one reason or another actually finished the book.
CAVEAT: These opinions are sometimes half-baked. I reserve the right to
change my mind without notice.
- Anne Moir and David Jessel, for `Brainsex'. On page 50 we have a `test'
to see how male or female your brain is. There are 10 questions, and you choose
answers (a), (b), (c) for each question. After the test, you score it like so:
Males get 10 points for every (a), -5 for every (b), and 5 for every (c).
Females get 15 points for every (a), -5 for every (b), and 5 for every (c).
The authors (of this supposedly serious book) then note that most males will score
between 0 to 60, while most females will score between 60 and 100. Can they
really be that stupid as to miss why that happens? I would fail any first year
student who couldn't figure that one out. And this passes for serious
research. Nobody has pointed out, I guess, that in scoring differently for
males and females, they introduce into the test the item they're testing for. I can
give a test, on that basis, which will sort out male and female much more efficiently
with only one question: `Choose (a), (b), or (c).' If male, take 10 points for any
choice. If female, take 15 points for any choice. Most males will score 10 points.
Most females will score 15 points. D-uh.
The rest of the book consists of unsupported allegations. Heck, maybe some of the
research they cite actually has some basis in fact, and maybe there really are significant
differences between male and female brains. But the only really solid case this book makes
is that some journalists and some scientists are pretty dim.
- John Barnes tops the `worst fiction'
list. I am extremely sorry to put him here;
I absolutely loved A Million Open Doors, and Mother of Storms was superb.
But when Kaleidoscope Century came around, I finally noticed his obsession
with extreme sexual violence. Maybe I'm dumb, or numb, or something, but I
thought the gruesome bondage/violence in A Million Open Doors was a necessary
grotesquerie; in Mother of Storms I thought a couple of scenes were distastefully gratuitous; but in Kaleidoscope Century the penny dropped: it seems
into it. This man is John Norman cubed---he has the talent of a great
artist (KC disturbs me still), but his works are corrupt.
I will never read a book
of his (knowingly) again.
- Piers Anthony. He reached a peak of sorts with the early books in the
Xanth series, which are more or less all right. His early material is poorer,
and he seemed to drop back to that level, when I quit. Haven't read
any for years now so it is possible he has improved again; but given his
known proclivity for quantity (which necessarily must sacrifice quality)
I strongly doubt he's any better.
- John Norman. His early works had some power and he had some skill;
but quite soon he turned his fantasy books into dominator pornography. It's
our theory that he's actually a henpecked husband, dreaming of a real life.
- L. Neil Smith has been removed from this
list, pending another chance---he seems to have a lot
of fans out there. Maybe I am wrong about him.
- Joel Rosenberg. At least one of his books, ostensibly written from the
point of view of persecuted Jewish people, manages to promote hatred for the
Jews in a very effective way. A miserable performance, and (most likely)
- Mary Gentle. Her `Grunts' book started from a neat idea (telling the
story of the typical `Lord of the Rings' story from the side of the orcs) and
through disorganized thought and just plain bad writing went completely to
- Keith Laumer. I understand now that Keith Laumer is dead, for
which I grieve.
It's weird to have him on this list, because he's
also on my favourites list for his early works. But his last books
are simply unreadable; to my horror I hear that this was a consequence
of age and illness.
But regardless of how bad the books became at the end,
anyone who can write the Retief series, and end it with `A Diplomat at
Arms' (much the most serious of the Retief stories, and by far the best)
has earned an infinite number of chances.
- Dennis L. McKiernan. Well... well... I had him on this list,
because I didn't find the first book of his that I read very exciting.
But I just got a very nice email message from him, complimenting me
on my book list, and agreeing with my taste in books. My opinion of
myself as a nice person (don't we all wish?) suggests that maybe I ought
to give him another chance. He has a new book out---Into the
Forge---I'll try that one.
- Christopher Stasheff. Again he started well, with `The Warlock in Spite
of Himself'. He tried to get out of the formula, but I guess it's a living.
I haven't read any of his later ones, so I suppose he could have pulled himself
out of his slump. This review is unfair. I'm going to give him
another chance. I haven't read anything by him in years---and he has
lots of fans, or he wouldn't still be writing.
- Paul Edwin Zimmer. Miserable son of a dissolute bat and an impotent mole,
he has defaulted on writing the third book in a trilogy, and has left us hanging for
ten years now. Dammit, the first two works were GOOD. His last effort (a short
novel intended to get him out of the corner he wrote himself into) was miserable.
- David Eddings. Not to my taste.
- John de Chancie. Minor---better than `nothing to read'.
- Philip Roth. Spider Robinson's quote "the latest drool from
Philip Roth" says it all.
- Stephen R. Donaldson (again it is the later work which lets us down).
- Stephen King. (later work: Carrie and the Lawnmower Man were good)
- Terry Brooks. Shanarra? Derivative, and poor derivative at that.
However, he improved a lot, later---the Magic Kingdom books are worth
- Frank Herbert. If you can read the "Dune" books without
thinking of the word "pretentious" you'll be ok with them. Whipping
Star and The Dosadi Experiment were very good, though.