Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: Hostile Intent by Michael Walsh

Hostile Intent by Michael Walsh

In short, one of the worst books I have ever finished reading.

I've STARTED to read worse books, but put them down at some point, never to return. This one I actually finished; because it has a lot of potential, but is ultimately worse for taking that potential and ruining it by amateurish mistakes, and what I can only call authorial laziness.

This book is a perfect illustration how a book can be reasonably well written, yet be awful.

Between the basic technical errors, the tropes, and the cliches... basically I only finished reading the book to see if it got any worse (it did. Continuously. With every page).

The book almost seems to be the result of a computer program taking every bad technothriller cliche, and combining them with "hard boiled" characters and dialog etc... to spit out the "optimal technothriller novel". Like one of those scriptwriting computer programs.

A sample of some of the more egregious idiocies:

"supercomputers powered by the Large Hadron Collider"

"running the Level Six double-bind ciphers through IMDB-Pro"

... really, they get MUCH worse, and litter the book, on nearly every page. There are even extended passages about cryptography, and high performance computing, that read like they were created by throwing buzzwords into a blender and pouring them out onto the page.

And yet, the actual "mechanics of writing" part, the pacing, the non technical dialog, the scene setting; all were reasonably well done.

Clearly, Walsh is a decent writer, who simply knows absolutely nothing about the subject he chose to write about. From his language choices, phrasing, pacing, and scene setting in fact, I'd peg him as a television screenwriter.

If Walsh would get a couple of good technical advisers who know guns and computers, and a group of beta readers, I'm willing to bet the sequel (and there is certainly a sequel, presuming the book earns out; and given that it's had good press and good blurbs I assume it will... probably already has) will be MUCH better.

A lot of folks on the right, conservative, or just anti-lefty side of things have been giving the book positive reviews, because it takes a big swing at leftist ideologies (and certain thinly disguised individuals); but to my mindthat kind of thinking is harmful.

Just because a book espouses a position or opinion you agree with doesn't mean you have to like it, or support it (or for that matter SHOULD, never mind "have to"). Judge a book by what it should be, not by its ideology, or the ideology of the author.

Books are art, and entertainment, and a means of distributing information. This book fails on all three counts.

It COULD be entertaining, if the fundamental errors were fixed (cliches and tropes are ok for the genre... otherwise they wouldn't have become cliches) but it isnt... unless, like me, you enjoy things that are "so bad they're good", and this book just about qualifies.

I'm dead serious though, if the guy would just get some technical advisers on guns, computers, the military, and private security... Hell, I volunteer, for free.

Michael Walsh, if you are out there, I DO know a hell of a lot about what you've chosen to write about, and I've got a bunch of friends who do too. We'll read your stuff, and tell you where you got it wrong.

Most of us read every other author in the genre too, and we get the political message, and the ideology you're working with, the way a BOS/NY/LA editor won't.

I think most of us would do it just so there's one less book full of gun and computer errors out there...