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Old 02-17-2020, 10:54 AM
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Tell us about the worst books by your favorite authors.


A little housekeeping before we begin. A collection of short stories is just as valid as a novel for this purpose. I myself am mostly interested in fiction, but I realize that not everyone shares my disinterest in creative nonfiction. So be it. Something like Elizabeth Gilbert's "Committed" is just as valid as Piers Anthony's "Firefly. That said, I think it only fair if people would confine themselves to works published during the author's lifetime. The dullness of Robert Heinlein's "For Us, The Living" does not affect my judgment of Heinlein's art the way the aforementioned Anthony pseudo-porn tripe did when I read it 25 years ago.

Speaking of Heinlein, I will mention one of his early fantasies, "Lost Legacy." Practically a how-to guide on crafting a boring, pedantic novel, LL Has as its biggest sin its utter lack of humor. The first Heinlein I ever read was "Number of the Beast," which, while deeply flawed, is nonetheless hilarious in many stretches in ways that compensate for its faults (many of which I suspect are deliberate and part of the joke). NOTB Intrigued me enough so that I sought out more and more of Heinlein's fiction and discovered some true brilliance. If LL had been my introduction to him, I would have deliberately avoided him all these 35 years.

But that's just me. What are your least favorite books by your favorite authors?
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Old 02-17-2020, 10:59 AM
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Heinlein's NOTB was the first book that I ever put down and did not finish. I can still count the number of books I've walked away from on one hand, and NOTB is still on there.
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Old 02-17-2020, 11:18 AM
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Clarke's 3001. Threw away the timeline and all the stuff that made 2001 great. Total failure of nerve.
But he was old.
Asimov's last Foundation book reflected his age and his illness. Trantor, standing in for New York, was a mess. It was a case of an old man yelling "get off my stoop!"
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Old 02-17-2020, 11:23 AM
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I'll nominate one of Marion Zimmer Bradley's. Sharra's Exile was intended to be a rewrite / replacement for a book she'd written long before, The Sword of Aldones.

It kind of assumes that a) everyone knows the characters, their history in the chronology, and the elements of the Darkover world already; and b) everyone cares intensely about the minutiae of every tiny thing that might conceivably have any minor implication for the events that she wrote about in the years after Sword of Aldones.

I had read several Darkover-series books before encountering it. I still found most of it slow-moving navel-gazing. AlltheGood, who had not read any Darkover books before this one, said it dragged on interminably with nothing happening and that it was chock-full of badly explained angst and self-recrimination and self-doubt that's attributed to poorly explained stuff that the author thinks everyone should already know about. Only later did she try any other Darkover books since this one put her to a bad start with them.
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Old 02-17-2020, 11:54 AM
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Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals is total tripe.

To me, Heinlein's worst book that wasn't commissioned by John Campbell or unedited because of illness was Farnham's Freehold. Garbage from concept to execution. Heavy-handed garbage at that.
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Old 02-17-2020, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Skald the Rhymer View Post
Speaking of Heinlein, I will mention one of his early fantasies, "Lost Legacy." Practically a how-to guide on crafting a boring, pedantic novel, LL Has as its biggest sin its utter lack of humor. The first Heinlein I ever read was "Number of the Beast," which, while deeply flawed, is nonetheless hilarious in many stretches in ways that compensate for its faults (many of which I suspect are deliberate and part of the joke). NOTB Intrigued me enough so that I sought out more and more of Heinlein's fiction and discovered some true brilliance. If LL had been my introduction to him, I would have deliberately avoided him all these 35 years.

But that's just me. What are your least favorite books by your favorite authors?
Well, I entered this thread to specifically mention Number of the Beast by R.A. Heinlein but it looks like you liked it. If I had started with that one I probably would have just stopped reading him. Maybe just stopped reading altogether.
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Old 02-17-2020, 12:19 PM
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Larry Niven's Ringworld is probably my favorite SF novel. The sequels, though, are a waste of pulpwood.
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Old 02-17-2020, 12:27 PM
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Douglas Adams', "Dirk Gently...". What utter nonsense; Couldn't put it down fast enough. Hard to believe it was written by the same guy who wrote, "Hitchhiker's Guide".
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Old 02-17-2020, 12:33 PM
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This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I consider the Dark Tower series to be some of Stephen King's worst work.

I read it, but it took me three false starts to get through the first book (finally had to listen to it on audiobook to manage). The middle books weren't bad, but the last two or three were self-indulgent crap (this was deep in King's "I nearly got wiped out by a van and you readers are going to suffer as much as I did by having to listen to me rehash it endlessly for the next five years" period). He literally inserted himself as a character.

I know a lot of people love these books and consider them some of King's best work, but I'm not among them. I'd much rather read his horror stuff.


As for other authors - Graham Masterton is one of my all-time favorite horror authors, but I nearly chucked Unspeakable across the room when I got to the end.
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Old 02-17-2020, 12:36 PM
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A number of mystery writers have done series with the same character. It seems not at all uncommon that the early books are great while the latter ones are pretty marginal, for example Robert Parker when he wrote the Spenser series or Lee Child's Jack Reacher series.

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Old 02-17-2020, 12:42 PM
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"Elevation" by Stephen King reads like it was written by a Creative Writing student trying to write in the style of Stephen King. I felt like a sucker for buying it.
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Old 02-17-2020, 12:42 PM
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Well, I entered this thread to specifically mention Number of the Beast by R.A. Heinlein but it looks like you liked it. If I had started with that one I probably would have just stopped reading him. Maybe just stopped reading altogether.
Just because I liked it doesn't mean everybody else must. Feel free to mock it. I conceded in the OP that it is a very flawed novel, although I think many of the faults are intentional jokes.
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Old 02-17-2020, 01:09 PM
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A number of mystery writers have done series with the same character. It seems not at all uncommon that the early books are great while the latter ones are pretty marginal, for example Robert Parker when he wrote the Spenser series or Lee Child's Jack Reacher series.
I thought about mentioning Parker in my original post, though his artistic decline with the Spenser novels was not a straight line. Several of the later ones are quite enjoyable. The last one published before his death, which I believe was called The Professional, was outright awful, though. Given that Parker's non-Spenser novels were still quite enjoyable at that point, I could only assume that he was cranking the spenser books out in a month or so merely to meet contractual obligation's while his artistic energies were being concentrated on the Sunny Randall and Jesse Stone books.
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Old 02-17-2020, 01:15 PM
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China Mieville is astonishing. His imagination is a wild garden where half the plants are carnivorous and the other half have names that can't be pronounced by human voices. He's changed fantasy, bringing a robust element of the bizarre to the forefront, using beautifully rococo language. He's weirdpunk.

King Rat is a hot fucking mess of a book, ending with a pun so cringey that I nearly threw the book across the room.

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Old 02-17-2020, 01:19 PM
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A Feast Unknown by Phillip Jose Farmer. I generally like Farmer but this story of the meeting between Doc Savage and Tarzan reads like a fan fiction written by a teenager.
I'm currently reading The Dark Side of the Sun by Terry Pratchett so far it's pretty boring.
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Old 02-17-2020, 01:23 PM
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The Bear and the Dragon started the serious decline of Tom Clancy. Clancy was one of those authors who I always had to have the hardcover book on day one.

So, did my usual and prepared for a long night of reading accompanied by a couple cocktails. And, then, WTF? Why are there endless pages devoted to fettuccine Alfredo??? What a horrible horrible book.

I bought Red Rabbit in hardback although not on day of release. I pretty much didn’t bother with Clancy after that. Maybe I’ll sort though his other stuff when I’ve got a lot of time on my hands, but I think I’ll just reread Hunt for Red October or Cardinal of the Kremlin.
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Old 02-17-2020, 01:27 PM
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This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I consider the Dark Tower series to be some of Stephen King's worst work.

I read it, but it took me three false starts to get through the first book (finally had to listen to it on audiobook to manage). The middle books weren't bad, but the last two or three were self-indulgent crap (this was deep in King's "I nearly got wiped out by a van and you readers are going to suffer as much as I did by having to listen to me rehash it endlessly for the next five years" period). He literally inserted himself as a character.

I know a lot of people love these books and consider them some of King's best work, but I'm not among them. I'd much rather read his horror stuff.


As for other authors - Graham Masterton is one of my all-time favorite horror authors, but I nearly chucked Unspeakable across the room when I got to the end.
I'm glad I'm not the only person who didn't like the latter books in the The Dark Tower series. To me though only the last book was nearly total garbage.
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Old 02-17-2020, 01:53 PM
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It looks like none of these will be very controversial in this crowd, but...

Number of the Beast was the worst Heinlein novel I've read. Farnham's Freehold was bad, but you could at least see what he was trying to do with it, and what he was trying to do was hard enough that it's not particularly surprising that he failed. Number has no such excuse. I've heard that some of his other works are even worse, but having heard that, I've avoided them, so I can't fairly comment on them.

Among his short stories, "Elsewhen" is the worst. It's hard to believe that it's the same author as the gold standards of time travel, "By His Own Bootstraps" and "All You Zombies".

For Niven, I'd nominate Protector as the worst. For as bad as the Ringworld sequels were, the blame for all of that badness can be laid squarely at Protector's feet. It was so bad that it forced him to ruin one of his masterpieces.

And yeah, Asimov should really have discarded the idea of tying all of his books together. It doesn't work.
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Old 02-17-2020, 02:07 PM
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As a teen I'd liked everything I'd read by Asimov. Then I hit Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain. He had done the novelization of the Raquel-Welch-in-a-wetsuit-and-some-other-stuff-happened movie in the 60s and was unhappy with the bad science. So he decided to write a novel with the same premise but with good science. Good science maybe, but bad plotting, characterization*, and incredibly boring. A 100 page physics lecture followed by a 150 page microbiology lecture capped off with a surprisingly good 20 page cold war thriller escape scene.

Douglas Adams. First 3 Hitchikers Guides books are hilarious. So Long and Thanks For All The Fish was terrible. I know I read Mostly Harmless, but don't remember a single thing about it.

While I didn't hate the later Dark Tower books, there is a huge drop in quality in the three post-accident books. Although I did enjoy the later "midquel" Wind Through the Keyhole as a sort of return to form.

* I was a teen. It wasn't until I was rereading the "Future History" series in my 40s that I noticed how paper-thin his characters usually are - mostly just talking heads providing exposition.
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Old 02-17-2020, 02:14 PM
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Iíll go with a non-household name. Michael F. Flynn became one of my favorite authors that contributed to Analog. Several of the story he began there were expanded into novels. I havenít read everything by him but enjoyed everything I did read. And then I read Wreck of the River of Stars. A horribly slow and boring slog.
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Old 02-17-2020, 03:09 PM
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Just because I liked it doesn't mean everybody else must. Feel free to mock it. I conceded in the OP that it is a very flawed novel, although I think many of the faults are intentional jokes.
It is just an odd place to start with R.A. Heinlein's works because some of the later characters are from his previous works, like you should know the past before you read the future. It has been many years since I read it, it is still on the shelf. I will keep it for the novelty.

I have read a substantial amount of his works and you can see the progress in both style and his developing history. He tries to bring it all together in Number of the Beast and wrap it up as some kind of 'fantasy creates reality', but it doesn't work.

I was and still am a big fan of his. I blame this book on his advancing age or possibly medical marijuana.

Oh yeah, I forgot Farnham's Freehold, a much bigger piece of dreck.
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Old 02-17-2020, 03:12 PM
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This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I consider the Dark Tower series to be some of Stephen King's worst work.

I read it, but it took me three false starts to get through the first book (finally had to listen to it on audiobook to manage). The middle books weren't bad, but the last two or three were self-indulgent crap...
I agree for the most part. The beginning of the first book was one of his first attempts at a novel. He finished it later but didn't do a full rewrite and it shows. I still like the concept of the first book and remember being shocked at the twist in the middle. I enjoyed the middle books. The last few seemed rushed as I think he realized he might die before finishing what he wanted to be his magnum opus. Inserting himself into the story was terrible. I really wish he would have skipped that.

I know some people liked it but I couldn't stand Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. I've still not finished it.

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Old 02-17-2020, 03:47 PM
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I don't like to pile on when there's not much point, but I have to agree with all the people listing Heinlein's The Number of the Beast. Part of the reason is that just about everything else Heinlein wrote -- even his "bad" stuff -- was pretty good. NOTB was the very first Heinlein I read when it was Brand New, and I was really looking forward to it. To be given this meandering piece of fluff with its pages upon pages of arguing about Rules of Order and the like, followed by downright wish-fulfillment was just too much. I was grateful that his later books were much better than this.

By the way, I was just at Boskone 2020, and found that Arc Manor books is releasing an alternative text version of NOTB entitled The Pursuit of the Pankera this year. They gave out copies of "A Side by Side Comparison of two Chapters between The Pursuit of the Pantera and The NUmber of the Beast, the two sister parallel novels". Having read this, I have now been bored by two different versions of the text. Completists will want the book, but I'm not sure if anyone else will really like it.


For something besides NOTB, let me not recommend Frederick Forsyth's The Phantom of Manhattan, his sequel to Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera. I've been a fan of Forsyth since The Day of the Jackal, and have read all his books (except the nonfiction The Biafra Story), many of them multiple times. But he should have stayed away from this book. It's not his subject matter, or his time period, or his milieu, and it's simply awful.
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Old 02-17-2020, 03:49 PM
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Neill Stephenson’s Fall; or, Dodge in Hell. His books can get a little slow at times, and he can’t write an ending for shit. But all his other books I enjoyed reading and loved to have read. This one I put down not quite halfway in, and won’t pick it up again.
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Old 02-17-2020, 03:55 PM
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Terry Pratchett's Dark Side of the Sun is just dull as hell. He's not at his best when he writes without humour.

I loved Douglas Adams' two Dirk Gently books, though, and am surprised that anyone who liked the Hitchhiker's Guide could think they were really bad.
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Old 02-17-2020, 03:58 PM
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Larry McMurtry's Texasville was awful. This was the sequel to The Las Picture Show.
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Old 02-17-2020, 04:09 PM
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Arthur C. Clarke's sequels to Rendezvous with Rama progress from poor to execrable as they go on. It's worth noting that Gentry Lee is mostly responsible for them, and Clarke's name was mostly just on them for sales.
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Old 02-17-2020, 04:55 PM
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I've read a fair numberl of John Grisham books, and I generally finish what I start, but I couldn't get even halfway through Gray Mountain. Preachy twaddle. YES WE GET IT STRIP-MINING IS BAD. Bleh.
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Old 02-17-2020, 05:06 PM
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Alistair MacLean started off well (HMS Ulysses, The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, Ice Station Zebra, etc.), but his later works are dreck. By the time he got to Athabasca or Seawitch, he was apparently deep in the throes of alcoholism and just didn't care anymore.
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Old 02-17-2020, 05:20 PM
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I wasn't able to finish Stranger in a Strange Land, either, but enough people love it that I'm willing to entertain the notion that it's not bad, just not for my tastes.
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Old 02-17-2020, 05:53 PM
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The Road to Little Dribbling made me wonder if Bill Bryson had lost his magic. It's just a reboot of his much better Notes from a Small Island., and not a very good one. I know we Bryson fans like his withering scorn, but here the bitching just got tiresome. Okay, we get it, modern celebrities and litterbugs suck. Fine, you don't like transportation systems. You can afford a goddamn car by now, can't you?

I'm so relieved his new book The Body has him back on point.
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Old 02-17-2020, 06:00 PM
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Nobody's mentioned Michael Crichton's "Sphere"?

SPOILER:
WHAT WAS WITH THAT ENDING?


If "Cujo" wasn't the last Stephen King book I read, it was close enough.
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Old 02-17-2020, 06:46 PM
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Farnham's Freehold was bad, but you could at least see what he was trying to do with it, and what he was trying to do was hard enough that it's not particularly surprising that he failed.
I have never finished FF, but I wasn't sure whether that was because of the format. I never had a copy until after I lost my site, and the narrator of the audiobook was so irritating I couldn't stand to listen. The same thing was true of "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress," but I knew that one before I was blind and thus could distinguish between narrator & authorial incompetence.
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Old 02-17-2020, 07:07 PM
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While I wouldn’t call Ira Levin a favorite author of mine, nobody could deny that A Kiss Before Dying And Rosemary’s Baby are classic thrillers. The Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil are only a few steps lower.

Then he came out with Son of Rosemary. Not only abysmal, but it reached back in time and ruined Rosemary’ Baby for me.

Shun it.
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Old 02-17-2020, 07:22 PM
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Brandon Sanderson may be my favorite author, but his followups to Steelheart were not great. Steelheart is a really good superhero book, but both sequels disappointed. Firefight and Calamity were overlong and very slow moving.

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Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals is total tripe.
I ranked Faust(Eric) as his worst book. Equal Rites was bad, too.
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Old 02-17-2020, 07:23 PM
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Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals is total tripe.
You see, I like Unseen Academicals - Posh and Becks as Romeo and Juliette, what's not to like.

I don't like Monstrous Regiment much, and have only read it once.
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Old 02-17-2020, 07:27 PM
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[QUOTE=nearwildheaven;22144427]Nobody's mentioned Michael Crichton's "Sphere"?

SPOILER:
WHAT WAS WITH THAT ENDING?


I don't feel a need to spoiler box a book that old. I liked Sphere and I liked that in the end, they gave up their powers....except for the woman who clearly held on to her powers and is now kind of all powerful over everyone. Kind of an evil ending, but I didn't mind.

The movie was terrible, though. Yikes.
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Old 02-17-2020, 07:36 PM
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I wasn't able to finish Stranger in a Strange Land, either, but enough people love it that I'm willing to entertain the notion that it's not bad, just not for my tastes.
Iím glad I read it, although that was quite a read for a 6th grader (age 12 or so) quite a change from the juveniles I read as a child. I like that I know the pop culture references from Stranger but I also learned that I dont enjoy adult Heinlein and never had much of an urge to return.

My dad was a heavy sci reader and I think he gave me good advice to not use it as a book report.
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Old 02-17-2020, 08:43 PM
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I personally think that Pratchett's worst is Moving Pictures. It should have been fertile ground for his type of story, but never took off.
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Old 02-17-2020, 08:51 PM
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Nobody should ever judge Heinlein based on Stranger. Like I said, I didn't like it either, but I do like most of Heinlein's adult works.

Oh, and I'll agree with Unseen Academicals as Pratchett's worst work. Monstrous Regiment was only bad if you were expecting it to be comedy just because it's Discworld-- It's mostly not, but I thought he did serious pretty well, too. It's not his best work, but it's OK.
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Old 02-17-2020, 08:59 PM
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You see, I like Unseen Academicals - Posh and Becks as Romeo and Juliette, what's not to like.

I don't like Monstrous Regiment much, and have only read it once.
I remember when reading Unseen Academicals that it felt like three novellas he merged into one novel. I forget the three separate storylines, but each probably could have had its own book. I ranked it in the bottom half, but not at the bottom of Discworld. I have, however, only read 28 of the books(leaving a solid chunk to go still).

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I personally think that Pratchett's worst is Moving Pictures. It should have been fertile ground for his type of story, but never took off.
I liked Moving Pictures, but it was kind of unnecessary. It was cute.
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Old 02-17-2020, 09:06 PM
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Dan Simmonses Hyperion Cantos are some of my favorite books ever. But Flashback? Holy crap, Flashback.
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Old 02-17-2020, 09:17 PM
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I too will not disagree with the general assessment of NOTB. If I try, I can remember a few details ("GAYBOUNCEGAYBOUNCEGAYBOUNCE" and the interminable arguing). The only reason, I think, that I remember the story at all was because I gave an old girlfriend the nickname 'Sharpie,' because of the biting thing, not the personality. Just a single line in the book that I look at favorably. I tried to read it again a few years ago; didn't get too far before dropping it.
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Old 02-17-2020, 09:30 PM
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William Goldman wrote a sequel to Marathon Man called Brothers. Absolutely awful. I was terribly disappointed.
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Old 02-17-2020, 11:38 PM
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I found some Heinlein stuff to approach (and bleed into) self-indulgent wish-fulfillment, notably Number of the Beast, Time Enough For Love, and Friday. What turned me off from buying any more of his work was I Will Fear No Evil.
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Old 02-17-2020, 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Prof. Pepperwinkle View Post
Larry Niven's Ringworld is probably my favorite SF novel. The sequels, though, are a waste of pulpwood.
I have a soft spot for "The Ringworld Engineers".

Along the same lines, I really like the Niven & Pournelle book "Inferno". The sequel "Escape from Hell" hit the trifecta of crappiness -- a combination of tedious, unnecessary, and mean-spirited.
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Old 02-18-2020, 01:04 AM
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Originally Posted by KneadToKnow View Post
Arthur C. Clarke's sequels to Rendezvous with Rama progress from poor to execrable as they go on. It's worth noting that Gentry Lee is mostly responsible for them, and Clarke's name was mostly just on them for sales.
I read all the sequels, and Gentry Lee's standalone novel, and if that guy ever wrote one good paragraph I must have missed it.
I hope Clarke got a lot of money from those travesties.
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Old 02-18-2020, 01:07 AM
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Originally Posted by kaylasdad99 View Post
I found some Heinlein stuff to approach (and bleed into) self-indulgent wish-fulfillment, notably Number of the Beast, Time Enough For Love, and Friday. What turned me off from buying any more of his work was I Will Fear No Evil.
I Will Fear No Evil is the worst Heinlein for me also, but I can see that if someone started with NOTB they might be real confused. I kind of liked it, better than Friday also.
  #49  
Old 02-18-2020, 01:09 AM
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I grew quite fond of the novels of Carl Hiassen but made the mistake of reading his first, Tourist Season, in which the author tries to get the reader to view a psychopathic serial killer as nobly heroic. Fuck that.
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  #50  
Old 02-18-2020, 01:16 AM
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Larry McMurtry's Texasville was awful. This was the sequel to The Las Picture Show.
Yes! Last Picture Show was an excellent book. Texasville wasn't. More glaring for me was the difference in quality between Lonesome Dove, a superb book, and the terrible sequel (forgot the name) which seemed to have been written by a different person. IMO most of McMurty's books don't compare well to Picture Show and Dove.
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