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Inspirational Reads

Book Review: Orcs

February 17, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, Fancy Schmancy noted that they could use a weirdo like me over at the Book Nook Club. I checked it out and felt terribly honored to be at least thought of as belonging to this crowd. However, Ms. Schmancy...do you see how often I use the word "fuck" in a post? To quote Mr. Krabs, There ain't nothing fancy about that word.

That being said, let's move on to the review of the first book I read this year (well, completed...I started it in 2008).

You guys know I love me some Tolkien, right? Ever since the Lord of the Rings began making it onto the scene in the 50s and 60s, there's been a whole shit ton of authors trying to recapture the beauty and magnificence of Middle Earth. Without these people, I wouldn't have the inspiration to write my own shit brilliant masterpieces, however, there's a lot of bad fantasy literature out there. There's a lot of good, but there's also a lot of bad.

And then there's the fantasy story that comes along which defies hyperbole and becomes the literary equivalent of the aftermath of a night of drinking Schlitz Malt Liquor and pounding cheese-and-rice burritos from Taco Bell. Orcs is one of these stories.

Oh, the concept is great: tell a story from the vantage point of a band of Orcs, the typical bad guys in the center of all Tolkien-esque fantasy stories. For some reason, no one ever fights bad elves, it's always Orcs. They're big, they're brutish, they like to fight, they typically die with the faintest brush of a sword blade or arrowhead. Let's turn that shit on its ear and see what makes these big, brutish beasts click. Sounds great, right?

However, much like that night of quaffing Schlitz Malt Liquor and eating burritos, what seems like a good idea ends up failing miserably in the execution--and you spend a lot of time with stomach pains and cold sweats.

This is another boringly typical story about a band of heroes that have to find a mystical, magical item that's been broken into pieces and the heroes must collect and assemble them. It's essentially what I think of as Final Fantasy literature, where everyone gets a different weapon, the characters have different abilities, and the warband can upgrade at each new stop along the way of what turns out to be a predetermined quest route that criss-crosses the map and leads the reader through various side quests along the way. Ho fucking hum. The non-Orc characters are basically created by flipping through a D&D manual and stopping randomly along the way, picking out whatever fey creature has shown up.

And, of course, there's a big, bad, nasty, evil queen, whose also a sorceress. She abuses her underlings, kills her sister magically, and terrifies everyone...oh, and her magic is fading. So, of course, no one just says "Fuck this shit" and kills her during one of her brutal, megalomaniacal sprees. No, they all cower before her.

In order to regain her magic, she must eat the still beating heart of some victim. Here's the catch: it can't be just a regular heart, it has to be one harvested during an orgasm! Isn't that quaint? So, of course, there's awkward sexual scenes scattered throughout followed by brutal slayings and overly descriptive illustrations of the eating of the hearts. Yummy. It also allowed the author, Stan Nicholls, to work in the line "unicorn horn she used as a dildo."

Yes. You read that right. Feel free to reread that, scratch your head and shake your head in disgust. I did. And I read the shit in the first place. Joy.

Couple this with what is very obviously an author's rage against religion, and you've got yourself a neat-and-tidy little piece of tripe. I had a constant sense of deja lu whenever the "Unis"--religious fanatics that worship one God--were on screen. I fully expected to turn the page and find that the leader of the Unis not only wanted to kill all the non-human characters, but that he also wanted to limit research on stem cells, expand faith-based charitable organizations and write a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Ugh. I hate it when political views get worked into fiction literature.

On top of that, subplots aren't just discouraged, they're outright forbidden. Got something that might be interesting? Kill the character. Could maybe someone been giving them a false lead? Never! Soldiers are defecting from the queen's army en masse. Do they stand and fight against her? Perish the thought!!!

The story itself is easy to follow, only because it reads like it was written by a third grader who just learned what the word "copious" means. The plot straightlines to a trite and predictable and utterly unfulfilling ending, which, of course, means that the evil queen will be back just in time for a sequel. Color me thrilled. The simplicity of the writing, coupled with the fact that I hate leaving a story unfinished, and you have the only reasons why I was able to choke my way through to the end of this abortion of literacy. If you enjoy stories that are shallow, poorly-crafted, archetypical and feature little to no character development, this is the book for you--in other words, the next best thing to Twilight! If you're someone who actually enjoys reading, give it a wide berth and pretend that you don't even see it sitting there.

12 comments:

Chemgeek said...

You had me at "unicorn horn"

Giggle Pixie said...

Quaffing Schlitz Malt Liquor would have me yakking all night long, with or without the Dorritos.

But the book sounds cool. :-)

SouthernBelle said...

I find it really hard to abandon books even when they're dreadful, because I want to know the ending.

The only book I can distinctly remember giving up on was Beloved (I think Toni Morrison wrote it?) - Oprah made it into a movie.

I hope the movie had less horrifyingly casual bestiality.

red said...

I am such a nerd that I spent Valentine's Day alone, reading Watchmen and watching Hellboy II, but even I tuned out at the mention of Orcs.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Chemgeek: Apparently, I had some poor townswoman, as well.

@ Giggle Pixie: Speaking from experience, the picture I was painting was more a...southernly...exposure, if you will.

@ SouthernBelle: The one book I actually dropped straight into the rubbish bin (I did that just for you) featured a story about a woman looking for a dark wizard, and the "land" was shaped like a person, so there were long tracks of "she searched in the hand, but couldn't find him, she searched in the elbow, but she couldn't find him..." When you have a country named "the crotch", you should expect your story to get thrown in the trash.

...And "less horrifyingly casual beastiality" is going on my business cards.

red: One of the authors pimping Orcs was Tad Williams, one of my all time favorite authors. You have no idea how much respect I lost for him. Honestly.

And...Watchmen and Hellboy II sounds like a perfect Valentine's Day to me.

TishTash said...

It sounds like you read it all the way through because you wanted to slam it with justice.

This is the only reason I read 1984 all the way through.

coolred38 said...

I have to take exception to your underhanded bashing of Twilight. Ive never read the book and only have the faintest idea what its about (baseball playing vampires or something) but that simple book has caused a miracle to happen.

My 14 year old daughter has never read a book in her life that didnt have homework attatched to it in some way. She just didnt care for reading...myself being a voracious reader found this a constantly hard and bitter pill to swallow. I bought book after book on various subjects hoping to light that fire of interest...nothing. So imagine my surprise and utter shock to come home one day and find her stretched out on her bed READING....I was literally standing there with my mouth hanging open. She laughed and said...ok Im reading...whats the big deal. It IS a big deal...if she only knew.

Anyhow...long story short...the book that opened up her world to the joys of reading was Twilight...she has since moved on to the other books in that series...and couldnt be happier.

So I dont care if that book is a piece of literay crap that should best be used as kindling...it performed a miracle at my house...and for that I have to take a stand for it.

All it takes is one book...Twilight did it for her...for whatever reason...so cut it just a bit of slack. Im sure her taste will improve...Im hoping.

Pfangirl said...

Absolutely classic review:)

For the record, I also have a compulsion to finish every book I start reading. My one epic fail though: Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.

Frank said...

I guess this appeals to the small but vibrant community with a fetish for unicorn porn.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ TishTash: Yeah, that's partially right, too. I wanted to warn off others of this travesty of fiction. Plus, I needed an excuse to defile unicorns once and for good.

@ Coolred38: Sorry, dear one, but Twilight has been a target of mine for quite some time now. While I'm very happy that your daughter has embarked upon the greatness that is literature, I can't in good faith defend Twilight, even in this one very happy instance.

@ Pfangirl: Thank you. When you wrote up about how some authors simply write out their D&D adventures in book form, I couldn't help but think of Orcs.

It seems that our tastes in fantasy literature run somewhat similar.

@ Frank: Rule 38, in action.

Fancy Schmancy said...

You had me at copious, or was it unicorn horn used as a dildo, or maybe it was just seeing my name mentioned on your blog. I take back everything I said about you this morning!

Kid Courageous said...

Came across your blog when I had to search to find the exact unicorn dildo quote. Submitted a shockingly similar review on Amazon...and also am taking delight in submitting the line to the Bulwer-Lytton competition.

http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/