Scathing Book Reviews of Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut is a book that I read by choice, and after I read it, I had two reactions.  The first was “huh?” and the second was, “I’m only 18.  I guess I’m not mature enough to appreciate it.  Well, I reread it recently, and while my first reaction was still “huh”, my second reaction was instead “The sixties were as weird as they say they were.”  While you’ve got to love a book with any character named “Montana Wildhack”, how they adapted this into a Slaughterhouse Five Movieis beyond me, but any movie with Valerie Perrine in it (Miss Tessmacher!!!!!) is worth a look.

Look, Kurt Vonnegutseemed like a really sweet guy when he was alive, and how can you not appreciate an author who cameoed as himself in the Rodney Dangerfield movie Back to School?  However, as much as I appreciate the art and creativity that went into Slaughterhouse Five, I can’t appreciate it as a “good read”.  

Leave out the stuff about the aliens and stick to Dresden and the POW stuff and I can hang with it, but Billy Pilgrim as a middle-aged guy having a nervous breakdown and maybe or maybe not being sent to a different world as the male pair of humans on exhibit at an Alien Zoo?  As they say in Mandarin – “Ay yuh!”  In Yiddish that would be “Oy Vey”.  In the “Dark Hunter” series “Holy Guacamole!” and where I come from “You gotta’ be sh*tting me”.

Here are some Scathing Book Reviews of Slaughterhouse Five that indicate the real slaughter was of Vonnegut’s reputation:

It is a novel that is ripe for discussion in a high school or college lit class that will excite the professor and utterly confuse and bore the student.

…and:

…With all due respects to the author, this is the WORST book I have ever read in my life. It is disjointed and hops all over the place. There’s no continuity at all. The prose is terrible. The back cover says it is funny without laughing, splendid art, a book without tears. Wrong! I am actually crying: that I paid so much money for this. I gritted my teeth to finish reading this book.

…and:

I finally got around to reading it recently. It is appalling that this is considered a classic and that it is studied as an example of American literature. I am especially amazed that this book is studied in English courses across America. Message to students: Question the judgment of any teacher who presents this as an example of anything other than worthless …that should have never been published.

…and:

Slaughterhouse-Five is one of those rare sorts of books whose total lack of any merit whatsoever is inexplicable in the face of its generally agreed upon status as a world classic. Had this fatalistic, dewy-eyed tripe not been written during the escalation of ‘Nam and the sudden moral ambiguity pervading American letters at the time, it would, honestly, never have made it close. This is sad. The literati have doubtless showered numerous accolades at its feet, though what, for instance, is there to celebrate in this pure dreck?

 

…and:

I’d like to tell anyone who thought it was overly strange and disjointed, I agree! So it goes… some enjoy classics like this, some do not. My english teacher told me I took it too seriously. All I have to say to him is, “Po-tee-weet!”

…and:

I might have liked it better in college when being cynical and blase was cool.

…and this review, which seem familiar from other reviews of “classics”:

I prefer Daniele Steele, and there’s no basis for telling me I’m wrong. Vonnegut is no better or worse than Daniele Steele!

…and, finally the true explanation Slaughterhouse Five’s unique style:

I’m a freshman in high school, and I was relieved when my English G/T (Lyceum) teacher confirmed my suspiciouns that Kurt Vonnegut was, in fact, high.

Scathing Book Reviews of Eragon (Book 1 of the Inheritance Cycle), by Christopher Paolini

I remember when Eragon, by Christopher Paolini first gained media attention. It was back in 2003 when all things Harry Potter dominated the book publishing world and news, and the idea of yet another unknown author creating a breakout book just seemed made for the news cycle. Plus, the fact that Paolini was in his teens just added to the newsworthiness.

Things have died down since then, probably in no small part to the Eragon Moviethat was released, which was underwhelming to most, especially devout Eragon fans. Even so, Eragon has more than 2800 book reviews on Amazon as of August 2008. My days of fantasy reading are behind me now, but I can appreciate the enthusiasm behind “fannish” love for the Inheritance Cycle book series, and any book with a Dragon in it can get what’s left of my old 13 year old blood flowing. The readers who left these Scathing Book Reviews of Eragon, however, seem to wish that Bard of Dale was around with a well-strung arrow:

Arya is a beautiful elf princess that Eragon must rescue. Of course, he does. And everyone’s thinking “Oh, that had me on the edge of my seat!” Look, you can go play Super Mario Bros. and find the exact same idea: Mario rescuing Princess Peach. Link rescuing Princess Zelda. It IS possible, you know, to have a good book without a damsel in distress.

…and:

The prose is an unholy mish-mesh of melodramatic simple sentences… The story telling doesn’t involve characterization, so much as the descriptive details you might expect to find on a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet.

…and:

If someone had assembled a checklist of every fantasty cliche ever used in any work of fantasy ever written by anyone anywhere, it would’ve turned into this book.

…and:

Lordy – I couldn’t get past the first chapter.

…and:
Knowing nothing of the history of the book, I dived into my first copy and hit the bottom within the first chapter. Dumbstruck, I put the book down, wondering why anyone would have agreed to publish this dreck, which seemed to be the transcription of a rather boring gaming session with a lackluster dungeonmaster… In the end, I could bear no more. I placed both copies for sale on Amazon, sending one to a child in Alaska and the other to a reader in Portland. As for the child in Alaska, I suspect this will have been a welcome gift. To the reader in Portland, I am sorry.

…and:

Sure, the cover’s attractive, and sure, the author was a teenager when he wrote it — the book seems to have become a bestseller on those two factors alone, because it definitely wasn’t literary merit that’s caused it to sell so well.

…and:

I think I can honestly say this is one of the worst books I have ever read. If Paolini ever learns to stop manipulating his characters, come up with his own storylines, and cut out all annoying, irrelevent descriptive passages, he might become a decent writer.

…and:

Whatever editor green-lighted this book should never again work in the publishing industry.

…and:

Wow. I like pulp fantasy as much as the next die-hard fantasy lover (think Goodkind, Brooks, etc.). This book doesn’t even stand up to those admittedly mediocre books. It’s just bad. I can’t tell you how horribly dissapointed I was with this book. It was just…..bad.

…and the requisite mourning of American taste in reading:

Shame on the American public for having such poor taste in (fantasy) literature… This book is nothing more than modern hack writing at its worst.

Scathing Book Reviews of God is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens

God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens is the kind of book that a person can write only when you are so inexperienced in life and judgement to think you know everything, or old enough to have seen too much. I say that with all sincerity, as anyone that has experienced the inevitable tragedies that come with life have ample cause to doubt the existence of God, or at least to believe that while He exists, He doesn’t care.

Lots of people are angry at Hitchens for writing the Book, but none less angry, I’ll wager, than Sam Harriswho probably sent Hitchens a note saying “Who asked you to jump on my bandwagon, pal?” If you ask me, writing a book titled “God is Not Great” seems to be like a dare. I imagine when Hitchens titled the book he at least half thought “That’ll get the Old &$^@{! to show Himself“.

So what’s in the book? Nothing new, frankly. “The Old Testament isn’t Historically Accurate. ” No kidding. “Life Sucks and God doesn’t solve all earthly problems.” Not a revelation. “Science now shows that…” Science can’t measure what it can’t see. “Religous people do bad things.” We know that.

I like Hitchens, but let’s face it, this book is more like an honest man’s anger at God’s lack of visible presence and the distortions of organized religion than anything new. Logically, you can’t answer all of his questions, but life isn’t always logical. Anyway, these Scathing Book Reviews of God is Not Great think the book is just hellish:

If “God Is Not Great” is the best argument for atheism, it’s no wonder that so many believe.

…and:

I believe that this book is a great example of that Great American Disease; I AM AN EXPERT ON EVERYTHING. This book was a waste of the authors time, don’t make it a waste of yours.

…and:

Would have rated it “5 Steaming Piles,” but that wasn’t an option. Hitchens has become completely unhitched. Christopher is truly a zealot without an anchor… By all means, buy this book; it makes a great doorstop and conversation piece.

…and:

Welcome to the animal farm. The barnyard animals have finally taken over the farmhouse from those awful farmers, but now the pigs are dressing up like people and acting just as bad! Its humorous to see the “new atheists” embrace the same rigidity, anger, and strident dismissal of any disagreement that they find (rightly so) disturbing in religion.

…and:

The book should be re-titled, “God Is Not Great, But Christopher Hitchens Is!!!”. From what I have seen of Hitchens on C-SPAN and various TV talk shows, I would say that he embodies the worst of the personality traits of adherents that have tainted organized religion throughout history: a pompous sense of self-certainty about everything, an absolute black & white view of morality, a strong tendency to label common human failings as pure evil, a propensity to demonize & vilify persons with whom he differs (e.g., Clinton, Kissinger, Mother Teresa), a dogmatic confidence in his own grasp of empirical data and ethical inferences therefrom.

…and:

Dude, God exists! How can this guy even say she doesn’t? He drinks alot and has a puffy nose. I hear Jesus talking to me every day, so he must be wrong.

…and:

I expected reasoned argument from an intellectual. Instead, what I received were half-arguments and half-truths from a half-wit.
…and:

You think by writing this garbage he’s going to change thousands of years of religion. Sounds full of himself to me! Have fun in Hell!

…and:

Another book written by an author who knows absolutely nothing about the subject he writes about!! Followed by reviews from people who know less than the author!

…and a review title that must irk the BeJesus out of Hitchens:

The Sean Hannity of Atheists

Scathing Book Reviews of the Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is many things to many people. To some, a fun fantasy. To others, the cornerstone of their reading list. To an unfortunate few, a way of life, and to Peter Jackson, an admirable achievement and cash cow.

I read the Lord of the Rings for the first time back about 1982, and my first thought was “Wow, this is amazingly similar to The Sword of Shannara!”. After I got a bit older I realized it was actually vice-versa. I’ve probably read it about 2 times since, once after the Peter Jackson Film came out.

Do I like it? Sure, but as I’ve matured, I’ve begun to look at it the way I do “Star Wars” – good, but embarrassing to think I once valued it so highly.  After all, in the end its just a fairy tale. These Scathing Book Reviews of the Lord of the Rings don’t “boo” it, but they’re like Gollum in that they give it a “Hisssssssss….“:

I could barely make it through the first novel. I found myself having to force my way through a sea of overwrought description. Tolkien’s writing style, if one can call it a style, is dull and overly wordy. His characters are flat, especially his female characters, who all just seem to be waiting by the sidelines for the men to come home. I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of them…

…and this from a reviewer that is, shall we say, a bit too well informed about Fantasy novels:

I cannot believe all the hype this series gets, it is a boring, stereotypical fantasy that leaves all its wizards being REALLY old farts with long white beards, diminutive characters in more way then one (Yes, I know that this was a really bad pun)I have never disliked a fantasy other then this one, and I have read more then enough to make this claim (well over 300 books of this genre in the last 5 or so years).

…and:

i cried because i spent seventy dollars for this “classic” edition hearing how good this piece of crap was, so i was like, “hey, why not???” i struggled through the hobbit and the fellowship of the ring before i cried. another reason i cried was reason i cried was because THEY SUCKED!!!!!!!!!! i have read the sword of shannara by terry brooks and even though it followed the same plot, it was a billion times better than this piece of b.s.! I mean, what’s up with those defunktitated songs?!

…and:

This book is not good, it is a neverending story to me. THe beginning was so sucky and did not make you want to read at all. I read Fellowship of the ring. I got to this council part, and i felt like I had had anough. I was like 200 pages through the book and all I had read was how the Hobbit walked through the jungle, and how good hid breakfest.

…and a negative comparison to the “prestigious” Dungeons and Dragons novels:

This book have no depth and noone can compare these with DragonLance ChronicLes or Dark ELf series.

…and:

Scathing Book Reviews of A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purposeby Eckhart Tolle is yet another in a long line of “Success Literature”, – a book genre which has got to be an American original (don’t tell me if I’m wrong). The seeming promise of success literature to its readers is “Read the book, and your life will change”, where in fact, the writer’s message is, “read this and do as the book says and then your life can change”.

All too often, the only thing that actually changes is the money, from the reader to the bookstore. I’ve read my fair share of “success” book, and the ones that tend to be the most beneficial are the ones that tell you to know what you want, figure out how to get what you want, build a plan, and then CARRY IT OUT! It’s the last part that tends to trip us all up.

Oprah Winfrey thinks this book is worth buying, but I ask you, can you really trust a guy named “Eckhart” to offer good advice? These Scathing Book Reviews of A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle make it their purpose to convince you to not buy the book:

While I applaud Oprah for this novel approach to bettering the human race, I take issue with both this author and his book.

…and:

I think I’ve found my true calling in life. Create a joke of a new age cult and get a self absorbed talk show host to peddle it and then the sheep will line up to purchase it. I couldnt get through chapter one. Please, a moment of silence for everyone throwing their money away, feel the oneness with your fellow sheep.

…and:
“Refuse to grow-up”would be a better title for his book.

…and:

I find no clearer indictment of the American mind than the success of this book.

…and:

I don’t know who’s more dangerous, Oprah or the half-wits she endorses on her show or the half wits in the audience of her show.

…and:

This kind of stuff is appropriate for sappy greeting cards or manipulative advertising but, in my opinion, little else.

…and from the “unfortunately right” department:

This has to be some of the most boring mumbo jumbo I’ve ever read. The writer clearly likes to hear himself talk, or read, or whatever. I can’t believe he actually got this book published. There must be alot of lost people out there.

…and this, from someone who was probably thinking of “The Secret”:

Let me save you some time and money. Here’s what the book says… Blah,Blah,Blah, “think postive” Blah,Blah,Blah “I can create success and money and health with positive thoughts” Blah,Blah,Blah. That about sums it up!

…and for Die-Hard Democrats, the ultimate insult:

About as insightful as a George Bush speech.

Scathing Book Reviews of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Julietby William Shakespeareis certainly a story you can’t avoid. They say the story of star-crossed lovers was old even when Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, but even if its true, its never been done so indelibly.

Take Romeo and Juliet away and you also lose West Side Storyand a good hunk of Shakespeare in Love. On the other hand, without the play there wouldn’t have been that insufferable Romeo + Juliet Moviewith Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, so maybe its a fair trade. Either way, these book reviews of Romeo and Juliet agree that “For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo”:

We liked the end when all the main characters died. It left me a great message.

…and:

Shakespeare’s book, Romeo and Juliet, is placed in the 18th century. A time in which women were not considered as thinking people or capable of having any feelings.

…and:

They arent star crossed! They are inane idiots too immersed in “love” to recognize the imprudence of their actions. Their deaths were not the least bit pitiful, but risible. Cognitive, yes. Irritating, yes. Interesting? No.

…and:

*R&J* is simply sensationalist trash. It contains a good portion of Shakespeares worst verse and insipid characterizations. It’s unchallenging, crude, and simply melodrama for the most part. It’s the Shakespearean equivalent of “Party of Five” and the Spice Girls.

…and:

As I didn’t liked the story at all I cant say lots of things about it but if I had to rewrite the book, I would do it in modern English. Old Englih is one of the reasons I didn’t liked the book. Another reason is that is a very predictable story and it has only 2 themes: Romeo and Juliet’s love and the war between their families.

…and:

For me Romeo is the worst character because he only thinks about Juliet and kissing her.

…and:

It was supposed to be tragic; I thought it was hilarious. First, everybody says that Romeo and Juliet were lovers torn apart by fate. Fate had nothing to do with it! They died through sheer stupidity and melodrama on their part.

…and:

Sometimes you wish someone would just say something straight out, instead of dressing it up with so many frills and flowers you don’t know what they’re trying to say. But I have nothing against Shakespearean English.

…and, most incredibly, the review below. I have no idea what the English teacher was thinking, but learning to read an Elizabethan play is NOT going to help you learn to speak modern English, methinks:

We are from Argentina and learning English. Our teacher recommended the book Romeo + Juliet, we thought this book was going to increase our vocabulary and help us understand better the English language, but it didn’t, instead it made it more difficult.

As Gilbert Gottfried would say, “WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED”…

Scathing Book Reviews of Twilight (Book 1, the Twilight Saga) by Stephanie Meyer

The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer is one of those success stories that every publisher dreams of, and that every writer dreams of as well. One indicator of success? Over 1,800 book reviews of Twilight as of July 2008, for crying out loud! That’s 9 times as many as “The Sound and the Fury”.  If nothing else, that speaks to how deep the fangs are on this sucker, and probably something about the decline of civilization.

The Twilight Saga tells the story of starcrossed love between a woman and a bloodsucker, and no, it’s not the story of Anne Hathaway and her Con-Man boyfriend.

Nope, its that same old story, Boy Meets Girl, Girl Loves Boy, Boy’s Vampiric Blood Lust causes relationship troubles. You have to give kudos to Meyer for finding ways to mix the romantic and horror genres in a way that is profitable and fulfilling to many readers, but according to these Book Reviews, Twilight, and by extension the Twilight Saga, sucks:

Oh God. I don’t know where to start on the 2389471829 things wrong with this book.

…and:

I felt that the story itself was very boring. A girl falls in love with a good looking face to the point where she’s willing to give up all her friends, her family, her life, even her soul. Sounds like an alcoholic or a drug addict. Apparently the boy feels the same way too but he’s more in love with her smell.

…and from the same review:

It’s all pretty shallow. If Edward was fugly would she even care? Edward would be like “OMG Bella I love your smell! Plzbe my g/f!!” And Bella would be all ‘”GTFO Creep!” I glared and grimaced!’ You know I’m right!

…and:

I managed to read the first couple hundred pages, but after that it was so dull, trite and clichéd that I just skimmed along, picking up the important plot points along the way. All one of them.

…and:

It is an insult to Harry Potter to even be mentioned in the same sentence with this book.

…and:

200 pages: Nothing has happened.

300 pages: Nothing has happened.

400 pages: NOTHING HAS HAPPENED.

Are you Kidding me?

…and:

I found it difficult to put the book down — except for those moments when I had to stop and shriek at my friends, “SPARKLY VAMPIRES!” or “VAMPIRE BASEBALL!” or “WHY IS BELLA SO STUPID?” These moments came increasingly often as I reached the climactic chapters, until I simply reached the point where I had to stop and flail around laughing.

…and:

This sappy vampire love story manages to validate my distaste for fantasy novels in a way I never thought possible… I would recommend this book for lovesick teenagers, but no one else should ever bother picking it up.

…and:

If you want your teenage daughters to grow up to have no self-esteem and a lifetime of abusive co-dependent relationships, then go ahead, buy this book.

…and this, short, and definitely not sparkly:

WTF? I wasn’t even able to finish this! How do people read this @$!% for entertainment?