Joseph Dylan lives in the Emerald City of Seattle with his three flying monkeys (also known as "cats): Bella, Schmeagals and Kali.
He is currently writing his first novel with a completion date in the second half of 2013.
He is horribly single, but hopes to rectify that soon with a willing (one would hope!) and erudite lady.
This member has not published any books.
Smashwords book reviews by Joseph Dylan
on July 22, 2012
I had so very many problems with this book. I had high hopes for it since one of the authors has a very useful "How to Write" website. But reading about wafer-thin characters constantly doing dumb things eventually gets on the nerves so much that one finally checks out from the book's otherwise admirable level of dramatic tension.
Let's start with Valkerie, the main character. From the very opening scene, I knew we were in trouble. Implausibility after implausibility occurs in that first chapter, but at least the character shows some toughness and gumption, matching the stature of that tough woman on the cover of the book. Not so much as we get further into the book, however. Because Valkerie, as it turns out, is a complete and total wimp. In fact, I don't think it would be unfair to call her a "typical, whimpering female character" (or "caricature" if I were to be less kind). Instead of confronting male characters throughout the book who are rude to her, threaten her or otherwise try to control and dominate her, she's pretty much a standard shrinking violet. I found this to be horribly boring, as well as completely implausible (there's that word again!). Would NASA really insert an astronaut late into mission prep for the MOST IMPORTANT MISSION IT'S HAD SINCE THE FIRST MOON LANDING who was such a weak sister? I sincerely doubt it. But most of all, it was simply disappointing, because the bad-ass female character that I thought we were going to have the pleasure of getting to know over 200+ pages suddenly becomes the opposite of the independent, tough woman we were led to expect. It's entirely disconcerting and the true failure of the book, as well as a gigantic missed opportunity.
Do I have enough time and space to convey to you how much I disliked the "Bob" character, the second main character in the book? (and how implausible I found the Bob/Valkerie love story?) Bob, in short, is a complete idiot. Not only that, but he's a BUMBLING idiot. I can think of few things that make less-appetizing reading than having one of the main characters be a socially-retarded, bumbling misfit. Not only is it boring, but it's also just EMBARRASSING. I want to read about heroes, not zeros! Bob also has the honor of giving us an absolute clinic on HOW NOT TO TALK TO WOMEN. One suspects that the authors are equally inept at romancing the female race and that this bled into the character. And the funniest thing is that, despite his utter ineptness and his unmatched ability to make himself into the most unattractive male character in the history of literature, he still GETS THE GIRL IN THE END! WHa?? No woman I know would be attracted to a guy who shows constant displays of paranoid jealous rage throughout the book. This is how women get shot by ex-boyfriends. Those ex-boyfriends are named "Bob". And again we have the incongruity of an obviously unbalanced mind being assigned to NASA's MOST IMPORTANT MISSION EVER! Inconceivable!
The other characters are almost not worth mentioning. Some NASA administrators written skeleton-thin with cliche after cliche, a hot Asian (Diversity! Well, almost, since everybody else is white) astronaut who's a "tough girl" fighter pilot who promptly gets knocked to kingdom come early in the book so that she has absolutely ZERO CHANCE to show off her "tough female" abilities (I'm sensing a theme here of strong women NOT actually being strong!). Then we have Kennedy, a privileged rich kid (had to reach for that character name, didn't they?!) who's a hot-shot pilot and commander of the Mars mission who also, get this, is TOTALLY FREAKIN' NUTS! Yep. A complete mental case is able to COMPLETELY FOOL NASA's army of psychologists and doctors and make it through the "grueling" selection process. Inconceivable! (I'm using this word now instead of "implausible" because it has greater humorous connotations)
(WARNING: Don't read any further if you want to avoid MAJOR SPOILERS!)
And then we have Josh, the square-jawed, handsome and completely cliched All-American boy who's bumped from command of the mission by Kennedy's scheming. He's still part of the mission though, being the main contact on the ground for the crew and Josh REALLY wants this mission to succeed so that future missions, of which he might be a part of, will get funded. So what does Josh, our All-American hero decide to do? Yep, you guessed it: he plants a BOMB(!) on the spacecraft that will disperse a cannister of bacteria on the Martian surface which the astronauts will then find and then announce to the world that they've found life on Mars, assuring funding for future missions. Yep, COMPLETELY plausible! ;) I mean, planting a bomb on a spacecraft... nothing could go wrong, right? Yeah... anyways.
After said bomb is inadvertently set off (geez, never saw that one coming, eh Joshy?!) and disaster ensues, which the crew barely escapes from with their lives, they suddenly become as magnanimous as Jesus himself when they forgive ol' Joshy-poo and keep secret from everyone that JOSH PLANTED A BOMMMMMMMB ON THEIR SPACESHIP THAT NEARLY KILLED THEM ALL. Inconceivable!
Meh. THis book wore me out, with the Guiness world record for "Number of Implausibilities in One Book", the insipid dialogue and the failure of the female characters to give as good as they got. I give the authors credit for instilling the piece with dramatic tension, however. They were very effective at making you want to see what happened next, even if the characters and their actions were completely and utterly grating. But at the end of the book, you feel a bit cheated. Is it a page-turner? Sure. Does it have any lasting effect beyond that of a breath mint? Only if you choked on said breath mint, which I most assuredly did.
- The Fifth Man
on July 22, 2012
(WARNING: major spoilers throughout)
Yawn. I've already written an extensive review of the first book in this series, Oxygen, so I won't bloviate too much in this review (unlike the last one!). In short, I liked this book even less than the last one. The razor-thin characters are still here, the horrifically-executed "love story" between Bob and valkerie still drags its mouldering corpse across the pages, and hey, our sexy tough female Asian (Diversity!) reporter... err, astronaut finally makes an appearance! Yay! But this is pretty much the same mix of implausibility and smart people doing dumb things that the the first book was.
Where to start? How about the junior high school-level "romance" between Bob and Valkerie (geez, why couldn't they just have spelled her name correctly?!)? I'm surprised they don't start passing notes to each other and carving their initials in Martian rocks. Bob's still a bumbling idiot, alienating everyone he comes near, but gosh darn it, Valkerie still stubbornly loves the big ol' lug despite his every effort to make himself completely unattractive. There's no tension here because we KNOW they'll get together in the end.
How about the fact that the authors continually maniuplate you into believing things that aren't true? Does Valkerie really see an alien when she looks out the window? Or how about when she's in the cave at the beginning of the book? I don't know. She's our main POV character, but when that character may or may not be imagining things, it gets very difficult to know what's going on or to trust anything she sees. I guess that's the authors' intent, but unreliable narrators are usually left in the realm of first-person POV novels, not third-person.
And what's with the kid gloves in the way they handle Kennedy. The dude is utterly nuts and TRIES TO KILL THEM, but they gamely keep giving him opportunities to kill them again and again. Haven't these characters ever heard of three strikes laws?! And what's with the idea of traipsing about without spacesuits? (for example, when Bob and Lex take the rover to check on a seemingly-wounded Kennedy) Seems like a good way to get yourself killed pretty quick on such a harsh environment as Mars.
And hey, whoa, what? Bob EXPOSES HIMSELF TO THE MARTIAN ATMOSPHERE WITHOUT A SPACESUIT? I think he gets a little freezer burn but is otherwise fine. Mmmkay.
More false leads with EECOM being the scapegoat that we're set up to believe, some hilarious SUPER-ROVER attacks on the main habitation unit on Mars (how exactly is one able to control a rover on Mars from Earth when there's a 20 minute delay in receiving signals EACH WAY?) and then a breathless escape from the planet made possible by the inexplicable sacrifice of the formerly-crazy Kennedy... blah. This book really had little reason for being other than to make the sequel that the publisher wanted. The authors obviously had very little "story" to go on for this one (Oxygen: 156,000+ words, 5th Man: 140,000+ words. Both of which include lengthy appendixes) and had to inject dramatic tension by misleading the reader repeatedly.
Oh hey, the main love interest of Josh/Jake/Jim (really, who cares, any generic name will do for this generic character) is the REAL bad guy because her dad died from getting AIDS from a dentist and she's adamant about preventing the Martian astronauts from returning to Earth and potentially contaminating the planet with Martian bacteria. Mmmkay. So she's a scientist, and a very good one, but also completely irrational? Getting AIDS from a dentist? What are the odds there, buckaroo? One in a billion? It's pretty much like the rest of this book: completely implausible.
I'm disappointed, because I thought Randy would write better books than this due to his excellent writing advice. I give him credit for completing the writing of the books and for the sales and credit he's earned for them, but for my money (and yes, I did give him some of my money, so he wins in the end!), these two books were highly-disappointing and simply bad literature.