Thursday, May 15, 2014

Giving Up On: Island 731

Bit of a long story here that ends with me just declaring "I quit". I always have tried to stick through with books that weren't going very well. Whether they started off poorly, dragged on incessantly, whatever. However, that was then and this is now. I am surely not getting any younger, I am not reading any faster, and my "to read" pile is still hovering at around 1,000+ books. And that's why my review scores may seem a little high; most of the stuff I've been reading has gripped me from the beginning and held my interest the whole way through (with a few exceptions. Yes, Poppet, I'm referring to you).

I wanted to like Island 731. No, scratch that. I wanted to love Island 731. Even though he has been releasing around 6 novels/novellas a year, I had never heard of Jeremy Robinson. But recently, I had the honor of supporting the Kaiju Rising book effort on Kickstarter (hopefully a review will be coming in the next few months), in which Robinson pens the forward. Searching kaiju novels on Amazon, his name also pops up with his Project Nemesis and Project Maigo novels. And I thought, hey, here's a guy my age, a fellow kaiju-lover, I better check his stuff out. My local library system does not carry any of the Project books, but they did have Island 731. And so my heart did another little leap. Not only do I love kaiju things, but I also love WWII histories, especially those circling the secretive Japanese Unit 731.

Not to be confused with this Unit 731, although these guys kinda rock too.

Anyway, digging into the book, the problems started almost immediately. The main thing being, I instantly hated our two leads, Mark and Avril I believe. Mark is painfully perfectly resourceful, and Avril is equal parts everything outstandingly annoying in a female character if the traits have to be called to your attention: beautiful, smart, impulsive, and tough as nails. Before you say "Hold the phone Hach, you lovely misogynist bastard! What's wrong with women having/displaying those characteristics?", the answer is: nothing's wrong with it. Most women have those traits in spades. It's when your writing has to declare it that the character instantly annoys me. But that's just me.

Another big turn-off: every chapter seems to end in a cliffhanger, a la Dan Brown (an author that deserves burning at the stake). I only read a few chapters, and seeing this trend, flipped forward and checked the ends of other chapters. Cliffhangers. Cliffhangers everywhere. 

One more pet peeve of mine is when there is entirely too much detail given at one time to small items, at points when the mention does not add to the overall situation. For example, in the midst of trying to free a sea turtle tragically caught up in ocean debris, protagonist Hawkins "free[s] his seven-and-a-half-inch San Mai Recon Scout hunting knife". Really? I don't even know what our hero looks like at this point, but God-damn if I don't have everything but the catalog number for his gear. 

"Thanks for the shout-out Mr. Robinson. Your knife is in the mail." -San Mai Marketing Dept.

My list of grievances concludes with one which is not Mr. Ronbinson's fault. This would be a spelling error. Let me be clear; I am no grammar Nazi, and I am not beyond making spelling/grammar mistakes (big difference being I'm not getting paid either). But on Page 11, I found this gem:

"Desperate for air, and confused by Joliet's actions, he hitched him thumb toward the surface..."

Hitched him thumb? I know, not the end of the world. Like I said, it's my pet peeve, but when I get into a reading flow, things like this just rip me out of my trance of complete immersion, forcing me to scream like a lunatic and kick some puppies. 

Just another day in HachiWorld.

I've got two and a half weeks left on this rental. I don't think it is getting a revisit. I'll be on the lookout for Project Nemesis, but this was pretty disappointing. There are certain things that Robinson handles well, like nautical descriptions. Nice cover too.

Final Score:

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