Friday, April 2, 2010

#17 Virtual Control

So my dad tosses me this book.
Dad: “Read this. A guy I work with kept trying to get me to buy it and I refused so much that he finally just gave it to me for free. It’s his book, he wrote it, I think he did one of them self publishing things too.”
Me: “What’s it about?”
Dad: “I don’t know. Like one of those fast paced thrillers that combines technology.”
Me: “Sounds like it could be promising. Is it any good?”
Dad: “I don’t know I never read it.”
Me: “You’ve never read it? How long have you had it?”
Dad: “Like two years.”
Me: “This dude gave you his book and you haven’t read it in two years?”
Dad: “Yep.”
Me: “You’re a dick. When I publish my first book I’m totally not giving you a copy.”
Dad: “Whatever. Let me know how it is.”

The back jacket for Virtual Control by Richard Taylor, says the dude has spent the last fifteen years writing, editing, and publishing books on computer programming languages. I’m just wondering if he ever took a creative writing class or if he just assumed that, because he’d been writing computer books for so long, he could just jump into fiction writing. I feel bad that I’m about to tear this guy a new sphincter. I really do. Because if it ever comes down to me having to publish something on my own I really hope someone just doesn’t tear it apart for the sake of tearing it apart. Of course…I’m an asshole. One of the reviews on Amazon by a Richard Glassford reads as thus: The book is primarily a thriller, with plenty of suspense & action, and has some SF overtones with the mind control gadgetry. The characters are solid, and the pace is such that I found it difficult to put down once I got going. A delightful read, particularly with the characters involved. The characterizations seem a bit pulp-like at times, which I definitely enjoyed, being a fan of the pulps. I…really don’t know what book that dude read.

The plot is thus. There’s a cult, called the Full Realization Church, created by two dudes named JC and Ivan that basically uses some computer headgear called CAM to drug and mind control you (and actually attempts to convince you that mind control is something new that‘s never been used before). Now the original intent of this device is to make you feel GOOD (seriously every time it comes across it is in all caps). Like life is grand and you can get through anything. Not bad right? Well then those two guys decide to start using that mind control to their advantage, eventually going so far as to kill the President. Now, that’s where the story really loses you. Why would they want to kill the President? To put the VP in charge…who they’ve already brainwashed. But the whole reason why this other group called the Christian Fundamentalist Alliance, lead by Pastor Carnes, wants the VP as President is so they can get a law passed that taxes any religion with fewer than 1000 people. Makes no fucking sense! Anyways the other characters that line out the story are Danielle (a hottie who joins the FRC), her brother Kyle (an independent programmer and DJ), Sharyn (a Secret Service agent), and Roy (the dude who wants to assassinate the President). The story might not have actually been that bad if he got rid of the CFA and just focused on the FRC. Having them both in there is a pointless cluster fuck.

Let me begin by saying that the dialogue is atrocious. Horrible. Totally unbelievable. Whether he goes from short little “cute” conversations to diatribes. Which gets overwhelming when every character has several preachy page worth blocks of dialogue. Seriously, every single character preaches at you at some point. I won’t give you a sample of one of those, I’ll spare you. Instead…
“No. Honest.” He was horribly embarrassed. “It’s just that I know a dish that I think you’ll like that you probably haven’t had. It’s not even on the menu, but they made it for me here last week and it was great.” Say that with a Tony the Tiger voice. I imagined him turning and winking at the camera with a huge smile on his face and a thumbs up. Or this gem:
“I’m pretty sure I did it right. I took brand new Q-tips from a previously unopened package, collected some of the contact gel on one and sealed it in this brand new plastic bag.” Does anyone talk like that?

I guess my next complaint goes to the characters themselves. The dude up there who said The characters are solid must have issues. Danielle is a 23 year old divorced college sophmore who was in a life of drinking and drugging until she found the FRC. From there on she loses any “life” she had and suddenly becomes a pretty face meant for men to drool over. Of course, the way she seems to pine over men doesn’t help much either. Then you have Roy, a former Special Forces guy who works in the White House but really just listens to way too much Christian radio. Sharyn is the gorgeous Secret Service agent who would totally talk to the DJ at a party where she’s watching the VP and then totally go out on a date with him. Kyle is said DJ who was also in the Air Force who seems to be the perfect fucking guy (but daddy was an alcoholic!). Pastor Carnes is your typical Christian nut who thinks that all the founding fathers were Christian, and that the country is going to shit because we’re losing the Christians principles that keep us together. JC is your normal run of the mill bad guy who looks and talks pretty while Ivan is the geekie techno sidekick who does whatever he says. Notice something there? Typical, Normal, Unbelievable.

Let’s continue with unbelievable. Sometimes it’s what actually going on in the novel while other times it’s just the writing itself. Multiple grammar errors aside.
He held it [the business card Sharyn gave Kyle with her number on it]and imagined he could feel her essence emanating from the ink that had been in the pen that had been in her hand as she’d written it.” Yeah…that’s not creepy at all.

Just then Ben came around the corner, put his arms around them both and said, “Oh great, group hug. I love group hugs.” The two women maneuvered their arms around him and pulled him well into their embrace. They all stood there, hugging and rocking back and forth, not saying anything, for close to two minutes.” Do people even group hug anymore. In a serious context I mean.

This doesn’t include illegal wire tapping by a civilian that is totally looked over as being alright. I haven’t mentioned the guy getting shot in the chest by a rifle and flying two feet backwards. There’s the three page description of a flashlight gun. The fact that 6 Roy’s work in the White House. That Sharyn and Kyle become boyfriend and girlfriend inside of 14 days and are “missing each other” after less than a month. You know what…I’ll just close with some more little golden points for you. Know that I thought this book was terrible. On the plus side you can buy it used off Amazon for $1.

"He turned the pot on then turned and leaned back against the counter." That’s a lot of turning.

“"That meant he'd first had to figure out the resolution of the headset so he could determine the length of each scan line and the number of lines that formed a single screen image. it was a good thing that it was a standard non-interlaced resolution."

"He pulled her in closer and her pert breasts impaled his chest. She felt his tongue begin an exploration of her soft full lips. She answered by insinuating her hips against his, undulating side-to-side. His hands slid, following the curve of her spine until they discovered her buttocks; his grip tightened as he helped her grind into his strength." I’m totally going to start calling my dick “The Strength.” By the way, the first time that Sharyn and Kyle are going to have sex Danielle calls him on the phone. Naturally he stops, they talk on the phone, then he spends 30 minutes searching the web for shit about the Full Realiziation Church, before returning to Sharyn. Now I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure Sharyn wouldn’t have been there that long. In fact, considering she’s a woman who is a fucking Secret Service agent, I don’t think Kyle stood a goddamn chance period.

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