11 January 2012 @ 06:49 pm
Complete Book-Up, or "This Tastes Terrible! Try It!"
I'm pretty sure I've just read the second-worst story David Weber has ever written.

It's called "Out of the Dark," it's a novella-length contribution to George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois's Warriors anthology from a few years ago, and consists entirely of 4.5 tropes I don't like.

There are spoilers behind the cut, but since I'm actively telling you not to read it, I imagine nobody cares...

It's an alien invasion story set on modern-day Earth.

Neither of those is a problem, that's just a setup.

Number one is that the alien fleet arrives in Sol system and runs headlong into Humans Are Special. It turns out that humanity blew the bell curve technologically, developing from roughly the Middle Ages to the modern day several times faster than any other civilization in history. The aliens are shocked, but (now in violation of what amounts to the Prime Directive) decide this makes humans a perfect subject species as long as the Citadel Hegemony Council doesn't find out. So, kinetic strikes ahoy!

...Which is when the aliens learn that humans have a unique psychology, in that (Footfall style) we don't surrender. We just keep fighting. See, all the other species are either herbivores, who think in terms of the herd, or carnivores, who are packs, or the occasional omnivore which is usually one or the other, but we're a herd of packs--read, families. We don't think collectively enough to surrender. The aliens only realize this (so, they only decided to bother to understand us) after several months of guerilla fighting, of course.

Number two? The main human character is a USMC noncom serving in Afghanistan. So when he forms a guerilla force, the parallels are obvious, and yet still spelled out, and frustrating. It's like Battlestar Galactica, only done poorly. (And with an even worse ending, but we'll get there.)

Three is the detailed mid-fight infodumps of how each weapon works. I know, complaining about David Weber infodumping is shooting bluefin tuna in a wooden barrel with standard-issue American M16 assault rifles firing 5.56x45mm NATO standard ammunition at a muzzle velocity of 3,100 feet per second at a rate of 12 rounds per minute sustained (thanks to Schlock Mercenary for that joke), but somehow it's even more annoying when it discusses tank rounds than when it's missiles in space.

The half is the Deus Ex Machina. Humanity makes a good effort, but in the end, they still have to have a new and completely unestablished solution kick the aliens out.

The reason the DEM is a half is that the full point here, to bring it from 3.5 to 4.5, goes to what the DEM is:

Vampires.

Yep. In the last section, it turns out that a character who's been around for most of the book is Vlad Dracula himself, who finally decides to turn a few of the soldiers he's been with, and they use their magical vampire powers to not only wipe out the rest of the ground forces, but hitch a ride on the outside of the landing shuttles and take out the overall commander. Then they threaten to start taking the fight back...and scene.

What. The. Fuck.

Now, of course, after all that, how can I say it's only the second-worst story Weber's written?

Because he expanded it into a full novel! No link for my own sanity, but apparently many people agree, as the Amazon ratings are chock full of "what is this crap?" It's all the same--complete with the vampire reveal showing up pretty much out of the blue (and bonus, it was apparently spoiled in the cover flap) in the final chapter. All it has is even more fighting (guerilla F-22 attacks?), and a new sideplot of some other guy somewhere else doing something.

Now, some of this is perhaps not atypical for Weber, but normally he at least keeps the characters interesting. Not here. At least, not the humans. When I'm more interested in reading scenes from the perspective of the invading aliens than the humans, in a "humanity is invaded but fights back and wins" story, something is quite wrong here.
Tags: ,
 
 
Soundtrack: Through the Dark - KT Tunstall - Eye to the Telescope
Velocity: disgusted
 
 
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cluegirl[personal profile] cluegirl on January 12th, 2012 03:08 am (UTC)
I am laughing almost too hard to manage to say, "Don't hold back, Will; tell us how you really think!"

But not quite. Luckily, one needn't breathe in order to type.
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ext_12920[identity profile] desdenova.livejournal.com on January 12th, 2012 03:20 am (UTC)
I admit that before I got to the vampires bit, I was thinking, "Okay, so this sounds like a pretty typical David Weber."

But vampires?? I can't decide if that is awesome or horrible. Awesomely horrible, I guess.
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scifantasy[personal profile] scifantasy on January 12th, 2012 03:24 am (UTC)
Right. Everything else would have been "ah, sounds like your average Baen story."

And then...vampires.
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lowbeyonder[personal profile] lowbeyonder on January 12th, 2012 03:39 am (UTC)
Honestly, if someone wrote MilSF With Vampires, I can't say it'd necessarily be terrible on principle, though I'd definitely give it the hairy eyeball and all kinds of stuff.

The problem with this book isn't the vampires, it's the awfulness, also the terribleness and the unreadability.
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thnidu: fanac[personal profile] thnidu on January 12th, 2012 03:36 am (UTC)
Nu, what's not to dislike?
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thnidu: headbang[personal profile] thnidu on January 12th, 2012 04:24 am (UTC)
Oh, God, it's been nearly an hour and I just got your subject line!
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scifantasy[personal profile] scifantasy on January 12th, 2012 05:08 pm (UTC)
When you say "just got," what do you mean? What should be in the first part instead of the word "book," or the image of passing around the disgusting stuff to everybody else, or...?
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thnidu[personal profile] thnidu on January 12th, 2012 07:42 pm (UTC)
I've never heard "book-up". But "fuck-up" and euphemisms would seem to fit this one pretty well!
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scifantasy[personal profile] scifantasy on January 12th, 2012 07:43 pm (UTC)
Oh, OK. It occurred to me that you might have attributed to me a joke I didn't actually think of, but yes, "book-up" is a reference to either "fuckup" or "cockup," depending how you look at things.
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thnidu[personal profile] thnidu on January 12th, 2012 07:46 pm (UTC)
I figured "book-up" was just a twist, maybe a pre-existing one, on an idiom I wasn't familiar with. Because, y'know, inter alia I'm an old fart who's not up with the latest talk.
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scifantasy[personal profile] scifantasy on January 12th, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC)
I see.
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[identity profile] damienk.livejournal.com on January 12th, 2012 04:07 am (UTC)
Plan 9 from David Weber's Ass
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publius[personal profile] publius on January 12th, 2012 05:18 am (UTC)
Yep. In the last section, it turns out that a character who's been around for most of the book is Vlad Dracula himself, who finally decides to turn a few of the soldiers he's been with, and they use their magical vampire powers to not only wipe out the rest of the ground forces, but hitch a ride on the outside of the landing shuttles and take out the overall commander. Then they threaten to start taking the fight back...and scene.

Wait, what
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leighdb[personal profile] leighdb on January 12th, 2012 05:37 am (UTC)
I think vampires are officially the new jumping the shark.
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[personal profile] lotus_bright on January 12th, 2012 07:17 am (UTC)
What I love about this (fsvo "love") is that it's not just vampires, it's fucking Vlad. Because, you know, vampires alone WEREN'T ENOUGH.
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thnidu[personal profile] thnidu on January 12th, 2012 07:44 pm (UTC)
I.... don't want to think about "fucking Vlad".

Unless it's Vlad Taltos. He's at least human and a good guy, mostly.
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pathology_doc: some desperate glory (colin)[personal profile] pathology_doc on January 12th, 2012 12:59 pm (UTC)
Oh God.

It sounds like the sort of thing I might have written when I was twelve. Actually, when I was twelve I did write an alien-invasion novella* and when I look back on what I remember of it, it was godawful (all 52 single-spaced A4 pages of it); but at least I didn't pull vampires out of my literary arse.


* = I destroyed it unfinished. Which was a shame because there are times I'd like to have those fifty-two pages back, just to laugh at.
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theweaselking[personal profile] theweaselking on January 12th, 2012 03:00 pm (UTC)
Yup. The *entire book* is a setup to the Dracula Saves the Universe punchline, except that Dracula isn't in the book until the last ten pages which means the punchline kind of falls flat.

(And yes, the excerpt blurb thingy exposes the ending. It doesn't SPOIL it, per se, but it's a bit of text from way late showing the aliens panicking over the new human superweapon thingy that they don't understand.)
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ladymondegreen[personal profile] ladymondegreen on January 12th, 2012 05:35 pm (UTC)
This story gets referenced in our household a lot as 'vampires save the earth'.
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gorgeousgary[personal profile] gorgeousgary on January 15th, 2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
I've learned with Weber that if I stick to the Honorverse (including the Worlds Of and the Torch novels) I'm generally OK. At least in a bad Honorverse story there's often a treecat doing something amusing to provide a saving grace.

The Dahak series was OK but the books were too long with too much filler. And IIRC they wandered into DEM territory at the end.

I barely finished the first Safehold book. And really, I think I basically skimmed the last 200 pages.
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mbarr[personal profile] mbarr on April 24th, 2014 06:43 pm (UTC)
I actually enjoyed the Bazhell books, too.

However, I also didn't mind the safehold books. I do think cutting 50% of the battles would... be better.

Navy was bad enough, but some of the land ones!
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armiphlage[personal profile] armiphlage on July 4th, 2013 02:16 am (UTC)
My sister pointed out a problem. The vampires ride on the outside of the shuttlecraft as it travels to the mothership. The mothership is in cis-Lunar space, not at the Sun-Earth L2 point. Unless the shuttle carefully adjusts its attitude, or unless the vampires crawl really fast as it moves, they'll quickly learn that it's never nighttime in space.
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mbarr[personal profile] mbarr on April 24th, 2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
I was wondering just *what* the worst was, when i read the preview of the post...
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