These are the three books that annoyed me the most this year. There were others that I started reading, found I didn’t enjoy, and stopped, but these are the ones that I had high hopes for and so I kept ploughing on, then wished I hadn't.
3. Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
If I'd had a blog last year, the author's first trilogy would have been on my list of best books of 2008. His First Law series burst on to the scene from nowhere and proved there was still life left in Sword and Sorcery. The tale was a slight one and did nothing new, but the characters were excellent. Angst ridden barbarians and sympathetic torturers filled an action-packed story that was told with wit and a nice turn of phrase: 'Say one thing for Logen Ninefingers, say he's a c***' has already gone to the top of my list of the greatest lines in literature.
Surely it could only get better, I thought, and yet it didn’t. Having created memorable characters who are on the face of it unpleasant but who have hidden depths, this story attempts to repeat the trick, but instead it forgets the hidden depths element. Everyone is repellent, the story is dreary, nothing matters much, and the wit is missing. I struggled with this one and only goodwill from the earlier books kept me going to an ending that had me rustling through the blank pages at the end wondering if that was it.
2. Iron Angel by Alan Campbell
This was the sequel to Scar Night, which despite this book I'd still rate as a classic novel. Scar Night was set in a city dangling over the bottomless pit of Hell. The story was fast-paced, contained numerous throwaway events that were highly original, had many fascinating characters and was written with a glorious gothic feel.
The sequel did one thing right: it continued the invention by taking the story in an unexpected direction. The bad thing was I had no interest in that direction to the extent that every element I'd enjoyed in the first book was ignored and every element I hadn't enjoyed was developed. Most of the book is set in Hell, and I felt I was in it trying to read through hundreds of pages describing odd things happening to characters' immortal souls, none of which I understood and in which anyone can transform into anything for no reason I could see. The whole story leads up to the ultimate battle to end all ultimate battles in which the soulless minions of Hell gather together somewhere or other to fight a really big robot with manic staring eyes for the eternal control of civilization as we know it, time, space, heaven, hell, every alternate reality, infinity and all the bits that lay beyond. It takes about two pages and I had no idea who won.
1. The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell
This book set the bar too high on the annoying scale for me not to mention it, even if it was my own fault for reading something that was on the bestseller list. I loved the early Scarpetta books in the 90s, but gave up on them when the author became too famous to waste time on writing and listening to an editor. But the books kept on coming out and so I was tempted back. Big mistake. My other two choices for annoying books above were written by excellent writers and it's just that these two books weren't to my taste. I can happily accept that other readers will enjoy the stories and I'll certainly try any future books they write. I can't say that for this one. It's just bad. Period.
Oh and the movie version of Scarpetta provisionally entitled Scarpetta, the smuggest bint in the world is getting closer with Angelina Jolie on board so even more people will be tempted to read what has become a terribly written series filled with the most unpleasant set of main characters imaginable, who solve confusing and dull crimes in the most uninvolving way possible in their spare time when they are not living their depressing celebrity-obsessed perfect lives in what, as far as I can gather, is a bizarre psycho-analytical exercise by the author to create a wish fulfillment alter-ego, despite the fact that the perfect creature she's created in Scarpetta has you rooting for the bad guy to blast her away.