Friday, 11 March 2011

Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson, Hellhole (2011)

I did consider reading this oulipo-style experiment in anti-writing. It's very promising: viz., a title that can only make the reader think of a Spinal Tap song, and (double viz) some terrible, terrible prose:

It was the end of the rebellion, and this day would either make or break the freedom fighters. General Tiber Maximilian Adolphus had struggled for half a decade against the corrupt government of the Constellation, taking his cause across the twenty central Crown Jewel worlds and riding a groundswell of popular support—all of which had led him to here. A last stand where the old regime was bound to collapse.

The battle over the planet Sonjeera would decide it all.

The General’s teeth ached from clenching his jaws, but he stood on the bridge of his flagship, ostensibly calm, confident. He had not intended to be a rebel leader, but the role had been forced on him, and he’d never lost sight of the goal. The ancient, incestuous system had oppressed many populations. The more powerful noble families devoured the weaker ones to steal their planetary holdings. Ultimately, even those powerful families split up and tore at one another, as if it were some kind of game. It had gone on far too long.

For five years now, the General’s ever-growing forces battled oldguard loyalists, winning victories and suffering defeats. Any reasonable person could see that the bloated system was rotten, crumbling, unfair to the majority. People across the Crown Jewels had only needed a man to serve as an example, someone to light the spark and unify their grievances. Adolphus had fallen into it by accident, but like a piece of driftwood caught in a whitewater flood, he had been swept along to his inevitable destination.
Yes, indeed, the Galactic Empire is named after the slang term for testicles; yes, the authors do write in a random, jotting-shit-down-as-it-occurs-to-them manner; yes they positively revel in both clichĂ© and mixed metaphors ('riding a groundswell of popular support' ... like, uh, some kind of surfer, I guess); yes that third paragraph there, the one beginning 'The General’s teeth ached...', may be the worst piece of writing I've read all year. So I did consider reading this one. But then I decided against it. Standing there in my local bookshop, I read the first page, closed the cover and put it back on the shelf.

So, I can't offer an assessment of this book's overall quality, I'm afraid. Maybe, in the immortal words of Will Self, it turns into Tolstoy on p.2. Somehow I doubt it, though.


Nathan said...

I can't say that I've read anything that Herbert and Anderson have done together (thinking here mostly of what I'm reliably informed are utter desecrations of Dune). But I have read a few books of Anderson's War of the Seven Suns series, which seems hackish but not entirely unpleasant. And I have read Brian Herbert's The Race for God, which could be the worst novel I've ever read.

YodasEars said...

Given what they did to Dune, I can safely say that your page 1 appraisal is almost certainly correct...
With their Dune books, I managed to read 9 (!) of them, before finally cottoning on to the fact that they weren't going to get any better. Ever.
They've opted for nasty people doing nasty things as plot lines. Never mind that:
a) no-one has any real motivations other than "oh they are so cruel"
b) nothing ever happens that's not someone being a monster...
So, my experience says: Kevin & Brian? RUN AWAY!!!

Carter said...

I'd invite you to the Amazon forums and the Orthodox Herbertarian website to sample some more of this horrid logic-defying attempt at a cash-grab.

Hellhole (of Dune) is nothing more than KJA's renamed and repackaged attempt to write more Dune. It is my theory that the book is nothing more than clippings and plots that KJA wished to add to his nuDune attempts.

Some highlights: Hellhole is supposed to be a harsh rustic environment, yet no attention at all is given to life on limited resources (quite the opposite in fact). The vicious storms that require hardened or shielded structures, tear up the ground and leave scorch marks across the earth are nothing more than a bad CGI background to a settlement that takes pride in its "rolling hills covered in a corduroy" of vineyards.

And again, KJA wants us to believe that rocket propelled ships can break the speed of light and a society of people with an average IQ of 75 could build an interstellar empire.

There are several MAJOR characters who are given nothing more than one or two lines describing their appearance, and one major character that has not a single word describing her. She is a name and actions alone.

Considering what I've posted here, that is enough to keep any serious reader of sci-fi away, but I've merely scratched the surface.

The book gets 5 stars simply from the shock entertainment value of how horribly written and thought out it is. Read this book and you will everything else you have ever read will gain a full star's worth of value.