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most overrated — 4

Once again, books that came highly recommended, but didn’t even come close to living up to their billing.

In no particular order:

code lazy

Warning: Spoiler Alert

A two thousand year old secret, a thousand year old secret society, multiple murders, an international chase that includes Paris and London, the Catholic church, and more—with all this how could The Da Vinci Code be boring? And yet, it is. As my spouse, who has read more than one of his novels and so speaks with more authority than I ever will, said, “Dan Brown is not a good writer. It’s a fun story, but he’s really not a good writer.” So it’s like bad television.

On top of boring, there are so many lame clichés and stereotypes that I was tempted to simply burn the thing—and that’s saying something coming from me; I mean, I’ll read and keep in my library books that most others would consider a waste of time (a lot of science fiction comes to mind). One example of the insulting level of the prose comes at the end of a chapter near the beginning of the book: “Langdon decided not to say another word all evening. Sophie Neveu was clearly a hell of a lot smarter than he was.” Were supposed to read this as funny, as in “isn’t it funny that a woman is smarter than the male academic/expert?” If Brown had actually made his character remain silent, it might have been more interesting.

The worst of it is that with all the potential villains and possible plots in the book, Brown collapses the whole thing to the perversity of being rich. It’s not a huge conspiracy; it’s not the systematic machinations of a society that considers some beliefs and the people that hold them good and others bad; it’s not an international gang of thieves; no the bad guy is exactly that: an individual twisted by a megalomaniacal quest only made possible by his inconceivable wealth. Not only is this boring, it’s plain lazy.

most overrated — 3

Once again, books that came highly recommended, but didn’t even come close to living up to their billing. Thanks to Luisa for reminding me of the new addition: Possession by A. S. Byatt.

In no particular order:

By the way, I’m in the middle of two books at the moment: Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra and Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis. Sacred Games promises to be very good, but it’s also pretty long. Check out my blogroll if you need a blog fix while I do my reading.

most overrated — 2

These are be books that came highly recommended, but didn’t even come close to living up to their billing. Often they create a lot of buzz and everyone seems to be reading them; when you get to them you are seriously disappointed.

In no particular order:

most overrated

Inspired by my new friend, Sarah (Disgruntled_Grad_Gal), and the last book I read (see prodigal disappointment), I now inaugurate the following list:

Most Overrated Novels:

  • Prodigal Summer – Barbara Kingsolver

These should be books that came highly recommended, but didn’t even come close to living up to their billing. Often these novels create a lot of buzz and everyone seems to be reading them; when you get to them you are seriously disappointed.

Let me know if you have candidates for the list and stay tuned for updates.

prodigal disappointment

Several years ago, at the recommendation of friends, I picked up Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven. I found flat stereotypes for characters, predictable plotlines, and clichés intended as profundities; I couldn’t finish the books. Then I found The Poisonwood Bible (#19), a wonderful, evocative story, told beautifully. Since then, I’ve been hearing from several people that her next novel, Prodigal Summer, is also very good and I finally got to it.

Unfortunately, Prodigal Summer is a throwback to her former style. It reads like a summer romance with an environmental message that feels like so much propaganda, in spite of that fact that I agree with her—I can’t imagine how an anti-environmentalist would experience the book. Now, perhaps Kingsolver was aiming at summer romance (and, certainly, she does a good job of creating sexual tension, starting with the novel’s second paragraph); that could be fun. But add to this a heavy-handed moral—“procreation is the purpose of life,” a.k.a. “you won’t really be happy unless you have children in your life”—and we’ve got a recipe for one of the most disappointing books I’ve read in a long time. Prodigal’s last sentence is “Every choice is a world made new for the chosen.” I found myself wishing she’d chosen to make a world sans this book.

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