Sandstorm: More like a, um, another kind of storm

September 14, 2008

Shitstorm.  That’s what I wanted to write for this post’s title.  My innate prudishness got in the way however.  James Rollins is one of those authors who infuriates better, typically unpublished writers.  He’s a writer who comes up with a wild plot idea, proceeds to write it quickly and with little finesse, publishes it and watches it become a bestseller. I feel qualified to pass this judgment because 1) I can read and 2) I’ve somehow read more than one of his books.

Sigh.  Blame it one the library booksale.  I wanted a quick, mindless, fun read and plucked this gem off my shelf.  It wasn’t exactly quick at 464 pages, and I didn’t find it particularly fun, but it was fairly mindless.  Sandstorm has a ludicrous plot, and that’s saying something coming from me, an admitted reader of conspiracy theories and alternative histories.  Anyway.  Sandstorm introduces Painter Crowe, a combination of brains and brawn who goes on with his Sigma group to star in Rollins’ next several books.  The plot such as it is: During a horrible storm in London, ball lightning is observed to interact weirdly with an item in the Kensington Gallery.  Minutes later the gallery explodes, and almost everything in it is completely destroyed.  Washington DC detects the residue of antimatter in the debris and dispatches Crowe and his new partner (his former partner betrayed him spectacularly) to London to investigate.  Meanwhile, in Londa, the gallery’s curator, Safia Al-Maaz and her patroness and childhood friend Lady Kensington have discovered something related to the lost city of Ubar in the debris…something related to the antimatter readings as well.  Crowe, Al Maaz, Lady Kensington meet up with the annoying archaeologist Omaha Dunn and his paleontologist brother in Saudi Arabia, and it quickly becomes clear that they aren’t the only ones seeking the lost city of Ubar. Just what lives out there under the desert sands?  And who are the mysterious women who appear to be stalking the group’s every move?

I know what Rollins intended to do.  He intended to tie the legend of the Queen of Sheba and parthenogenisis to Biblical tales. But it didn’t work.  I was hopelessly confused by the antimatter part of the story and exactly how the ancients manipulated it.  Or how it got there.  And once they got to Ubar?  I was completely unable to visualize the lost city.  Every character was one dimensional.  Poor Lady Kensington was a druggie with daddy issues.  Safia’s guilt complex verged on a martyr complex.  Omaha Dunn was clearly supposed to be an Indiana Jones-type figure but instead made me wonder how he managed to survive.  Poor Painter Crowe was left to wander off like David Banner at the end of the book, alone again.  I practically heard the music.

Definitely not worth the time, and I’m glad I paid on 25 cents for the book.


The Librarian: Crap

January 22, 2008

Ugh.  Ugh.  UGH.  This book was TERRIBLE.  I bought it at the 2006 book sale because of the title (naturally!) and because the description presented it as a tongue-in-cheek political thriller.  I sort of hoped it might be like those light, somewhat cheesy TNT movies starring Noah Wyle as a librarian.  Alas, no.

Written by Larry Beinhart, the author of the book that became the dark comedy Wag the Dog, the plot seems promising.  It’s the story of a university librarian who moonlights as an archivist for an extremely wealthy, somewhat questionable, eccentric old man.  In the course of this work, the librarian becomes embroiled in and must stop a, well, vast, right-wing conspiracy whose purpose is to help the current, idiotic, spoiled, wealthy Republican President defeat the woman running as the Democratic candidate and win re-election.  Sound familiar?

Beinhart’s politics really show in the book:  Conservatives believe in their superiority and are prepared to allow terrorist attacks to happen, stoke racial tensions and buy votes to get their way.  Beinhart’s beef with the current administration is obvious and though I am most definitely liberal, I was annoyed at his transparent agenda.  The plot is too over-to-top and unbelievalbe (yes, even for someone who believes SCOTUS robbed Al Gore in 2000 and thoroughly enjoyed Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11).  And the book is unnecessarily crude and violent in parts.  In short, the book is a mess.

It’s kind of a shame because there were parts of the book that actually drew me in and held my interest.  Most of it, though, was just awful. 

Try these books on a similar topic: Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men and Al Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.