Category Archives: Book Reviews
Attack of the Killer Ants, and Other Adventures in Paradise
competitive exclusion /
(n) 1. a situation in which one species competes another into extinction.
2. the inevitable elimination from a habitat of one of two different species with identical needs for resources.
While I didn’t love the book itself, despite enjoying Chuck Wendig’s writing style and Xe Sands’ narration, there were certain elements of the story I found fascinating. One prominent idea in the novel was the concept of competitive exclusion, and regardless of what was happening in the book with genetically modified killer ants, it was a concept that grabbed my attention for its implications beyond the themes of futurism and doomsday/survivalist prepping. Eliminate the characters, the ants, the hi-tech monster story and the shell game of human monsters pulling strings throughout, and you still have this concept.
We live in a world of finite resources. But we have also been poisoned to believe that finite means limited, and that in order for you to have enough, I must not. We have been indoctrinated by survival of the fittest, despite us all having the potential to be fit enough to thrive.
Read the definition again. Rethink the concept. Competitive exclusion is not what our initial assumption assumes it to be. It is “a situation in which—”
It is a situation. It is a situation in which two organisms are made to compete against one another. And much like in Wendig’s novel, it is a situation created and constantly influenced by those in power, those with wrath, those with unlimited resources all at the expense of those with no knowledge, no shelter, no protection beyond what might be scraped together during the panicked stampede of an isolated island’s population.
So while we may not be trying to escape face-eating genetically modified ants, it might be useful to look around at rush for resources we see everyday in the ‘fight for $15’, in teachers union strikes across the country, in food deserts in every community in the wealthiest nation in the world, in lawmakers threatening to take away school lunch funding to schools that fail to hit standardized test standards, in billion dollar companies run by millionaires eliminating jobs and closing factories to maximize profits, and the elected officials that earned tens of thousands of dollars voting against needs of thousands for the benefit of a few. All of this is an engineered situation that depends on anhysterical and uninformed reaction by those with little power so that the few can hoard resources and stockpile assets beyond what could be conceivably utilized.
Now that I think about it, we might have a better shot against the ants.
Between it being just a pointless book and my general state of exhaustion from living under the tyrannical rule of a toddler, getting through this book has been a battle. The good news is this was the last book in the series and I‘m now free of Chesney Armstruther and his accidental war between heaven and hell. (And dinosaur people.) The bad news is that when I finished it I couldn’t quite believe it was over, and continued flipping pages through the author acknowledgements as if there was some literary equivalent of the Marvel post credits scene that would make it all worth it.
Realizing there wasn’t I had to ask, “That’s it?” And not in a good way. Not in a, “oh no, that’s all? I need twelve more books to give me a satisfying level of closure about all of these complete and well written characters I’ve grown to love as family, and satisfying storylines and character arcs we’ve all been through together.”
Nope. It was more of a, “that’s really how you’re going to wrap up this bullshit? By completely negating the last three books you dragged me through over the span of two pages and then having a picnic?”
The author spent more time explaining dinosaur people than he did writing a proper conclusion to this three book story, not to mention how misguided and insulting his attitude towards individuals with autism comes across. I lost count of how many times he reminded the reader that Chesney had been “cured” and now was “normal”. But that’s ok, since that was all changed in the blink of an eye at the very end of the book, along with every major point in the story until that moment, when Chesney was autistic again when it served a purpose.
So, pretty much the best thing about this series was the cover art.
Howard’s End: Spent a Week There One Night
Yesterday Starz premiered a new miniseries adapting E.M. Forster’s eternal classic, “Howard’s End.” Eternal as a descriptor is not used here in a positive way. Don’t be fooled by the title, this book never actually ends.
To celebrate the premiere, Penguin Classics posted to Instagram, “Don’t mind us while we spend our Saturday re-reading Howards End for the millionth time before the new mini-series premieres on Starz tomorrow night 📖🌿 Raise your hand if you plan to watch! 🙋🏼♀️🙋🏻♀️🙋🏾♀️”
As a refresher, I just tried reading the plot synopsis on Wikipedia that could probably be published as a novella in itself. It alone felt longer than any of James Patterson’s BookShots™.
It’s the first time on Wikipedia that I haven’t gotten pulled down the rabbit’s hole, that was how needlessly boring and unending the plot of this book feels. For a novel that’s only around 340 pages, I can’t imagine it taking less time to read than “War and Peace”, which is four times the page count, give or take. I can’t imagine it taking less time to read than the Napoleonic Wars themselves, for that matter. Of course, I’ve been reading “Hell to Pay” for three months, so what do I know?
Here’s an actual short summary: nothing happens and continues to not happen in a mindnumbingly, Edwardian-dressed, ‘Groundhog Day’ sort of way, punctuated with the revelations that Henry Wilcox has ruined the lives of several women across a few decades, just so it seems like there’s a reason to keep reading.
There isn’t. And yet, if multiple adaptations are any indication, we do.
Once a year or so I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and ask myself if I ever actually finished that book.
I try to remember what it was about, or anything definitive about the plot, what was the last thing I remember, even just a character’s name; anything substantial at all about the story or characters to anchor my fragile midnight reality upon. Then I remind myself that no one ever has finished it.
EM Forester has defied the laws of time and space in writing this novel. ‘Howard’s End’ is a literary wormhole, a black hole of indecent and apathetic people that attempts to repackage itself in a redeeming bow when Henry finally does something not awful, and we’re all still reading it.
Somewhere, no doubt, despite claims it was completed in 1910, Forster is still writing it, his own picture of Dorian Gray on the printed page; stealing the souls of those naïve enough to believe the could ever find resolution in its story, and keeping him alive throughout the turning pages of history. But is a cursed existence worth experiencing? And aren’t we all cursed now, from the moment we laid eyes on that damned title page?
This isn’t the millionth time you’re reading it, poor Penguin, it’s the first. You’ve never finished reading it, and you never will. None of us will. We are all Henry Wilcoxes now, forever repeating the same mistakes, unable to learn, to change our attitude with time, or consider others as we push blindly forward in our righteous, vainglorious manner. We turn the page, believing we are nearing the end. But we never do. We will always be reading it. For us, “Howard’sEnd” never will.