May 5, 2015

The Hugo Project: "The Plural of Helen of Troy"

(Note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of me reading as many nominees on the 2015 Hugo ballot as I can, and explaining why I will or will not vote for them.)

I think I'm discovering the secret of John C. Wright. His competence as a writer, such as it is, is limited to very short fiction. To put it bluntly, the longer he rambles on, the worse he gets. As this story aptly proves.

Honestly, I tried to read all of this pretentious, long-winded, convoluted mess. I really did. The first two-thirds of the story held the fascination of a train wreck, with its nonsensical plot and horrid dialogue, and I cackled out loud at several points just from the sheer ridiculousness of the tale. After that, however, what minimal interest I had quickly dissipated, and I kept flicking the pages of my e-reader, just trying to find the end of the damned thing. Reading all those extra words would have rotted my brain, I think.

If this is a "good" time travel story, than the Flying Spaghetti Monster please protect me from all time travel stories from this day forward. As well as I can understand the plot (which isn't well at all, considering the plot is bloody stupid), the hero is a cliched Roaring Twenties detective who calls women "dame" and lives in Metachronopolis, the City Beyond Time, where the Towers of Time hold all the alternate universes and fictional characters never die. He is hired by Jack Kennedy (!) to protect Helen of Troy, who is really Marilyn Monroe (!!!), from a future version of himself. (The so-called "plot" is a lot more complicated than that, unfortunately, and none of it makes any sense.)


Need I elaborate how mind-numbingly unintelligent this is? I shouldn't have to, should I? Instead, let me cut and paste a few samples of the stellar quality of the writing.

I'd had a pretty good life, I guess. I had no complaints.

Strike that. My life stank like an incontinent skunk pie sandwich with no mustard, if one of the slices was the crusty heel no one likes to eat, and I had loads of complaints. 

*GROAN* Pass me the brain bleach, please.

My gun leaped into my hand from the holster, projected an aiming beam, then launched a missile made of white-hot plasma instead of old-fashioned metal. The gun emitted a magnetic force field shaped like a tube to guide the missile to the target, then designed and built an invisible set of braces and baffles out of nucleonic energy-tension to suppress the explosion within a five-foot radius. Then the gun focused a time distortion hole on the spot to sweep the wreckage of the door panels and part of the wall sideways out of the continuum, into the non-being between timestreams, as the missile plasma ruptured and made a miniature version of a sun. 

*BOGGLES* What the hell does that even mean? That's some Grade-A technobabble right there, mixed in with properly crusty weapons porn.

I hope you can follow this Celtic knot of cause and effect here. If I hadn't grabbed the machine that can dodge any grab, the machine would not have stood still and let itself get harpooned with the harpoon, because then my grab would  have missed. And it permitted me to grab it, it could not do otherwise, because with my arms around it, it could hit me, and if it had dodged, it could not.

And if wishes were horses, I'd be riding the Kentucky Derby winner, and Mr. Wright wouldn't be writing such crappy stories.

"Down, boy," I muttered. And my gun magnetically walked down my chest into my holster, folded itself up, and slid inside for a nap.

That gun is by far the best and most sensible character here.

I'll never get this hour of my life back, but at least I can warn others. This shite does not deserve to be on the Hugo ballot.

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