Hype Hype (But No Hooray)

on Friday, January 28, 2011
Be careful what you wish for. Two entries after starting this blog I bemoaned not having read Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City. I crowned it the "Book I'm Sure Would Have Made the List Had I Gotten Around to Reading It". Critics had been raving. Fellow bookworms had been raving. Jonathan Lethem was raving. Yeah yeah. Turns out they were all wrong. I read it in January and was decidedly indifferent towards it. Sure, it was alright, but what was all the fuss about? Reading Chronic City, I said, was like watching fireworks. Particularly, the fireworks during the handover of Hong Kong to China back in 1997. On that night I sat in a restaurant atop one of the city's great skyscrapers and prepared for the visual feast of a lifetime. It was spectacular for about five minutes, but then the massive cloud of smoke blanketed the city and all we saw were faint flashes, like lightning hidden in stormclouds. Big, expensive whoop-de-doo!

I should have learnt my lesson the first time. When it came to compiling my 2010 lists, I gave the big "I-didn't-read-it-but-woulda-loved-it-I'm-sure" rave to Paolo Bacigalupi's The Wind-Up Girl. Folk around booktown were talking as if Philip K. Dick himself had been resurrected, had furious sex with William Gibson and (this is sci-fi ladies and gentlefriends) produced a new Bible. You see, in the future men can give birth to inanimate objects. But I digress. Set in a futuristic Thailand, the only country to have survived some great cataclysmic meltdown and come out the better for it, The Wind-Up Girl tells the tale of some bloke who peddles genetically modified crap and his liaison with, and perhaps love for, a cyborg-like service robot chick. It's super hot. Until she starts killing people. Now, I realise I'm making this sound awfully exciting but be warned. it is not. In fact, it is shit boring. Sure, the world is brilliantly realised but newsflash sci-fi writers: It is not enough to create a great, believable world if you don't do anything interesting in it. You don't get to pat yourself on the back and rest on your laurels. That is the equivalent of jerking off into a cup, raising a toast to yourself and then drinking it. You ain't producing anything of worth and, if I might hazard a guess, it leaves a pretty average aftertaste!

With that ordeal behind me, I'm taking one final ride on the hype-train. I've set myself the task of reading Anna Karenina, one of the most-hyped books of all time, in five days. If it too leaves me as indifferent as those other two mega-hyped piles of blah then like Anna I shall throw myself in front of its tracks. Run me over indeed, but at least put me out of my misery!


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