TAD Review in the San Antonio Express-News

It’s a positive review, which makes me happy, and pats me on the back for “cleverly subtle writing” while noting that “the bizarre factor is off the charts.” I’m subtly bizarre! That’s what I’ve been saying for years.

It’s also a take on the book that is pretty much entirely different from any other review I’ve seen, in no small part because it focuses on a character other than Harry Creek, and asserts an aspect of that character’s nature that no one else has. Is the reviewer on to something? I will remain prudently ambiguous on the matter, although I think you can make a cogent argument to support the reviewer’s thesis.

Note, however, that in making the argument the review presents what I think is a pretty big spoiler, so be aware of that before you click through. Here’s the link. I suspect any discussion of the review will also contain spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book, you might want to avoid the comment thread to this entry.

7 Comments on “TAD Review in the San Antonio Express-News”

  1. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang, father of pangolins

    It’s awesome to see so many getting this book and liking it. I think it’s really breaking you out of the SF only purview and into a wider arena.

    What kind of review would make you sooo happy that you would, say, take off your pants, dance in the snowy yard at sunset AND videotape it and put it on the site or youtube?

  2. John,

    Read the review and the parts about you paying homage to other books reminded me of my High School English class, and, in particular, how much I hated it. I remember analyzing stories and having to write all these damn essays about what the author was thinking and what he meant by this particular passage, etc… Most of the time I just wanted to write that maybe the author meant nothing and it was just a story and we should stop reading too much into it and enjoy it for itself. Some of the time that was just pure laziness on my part, but I’m convinced I must have been right at least once. So, if you are still with me, my question is have you seen any reviewers give you too much credit for a particular passage where you didn’t mean anything special by it but they read extra meaning into what you wrote?

  3. Chang:

    The one that prompts a million people to buy the book.

    However, short of Oprah (or possibly Stephen King waxing enthusiastic about it in his EW column), most people who would tout the book would not cause a serious bump to the book’s sales on their own.

    I think probably the most useful review a book of mine has had so far came from Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit; his championing of Old Man’s War helped the book burn through its first printing and kick-started its popularity. Glenn didn’t sell me a million books but he probably helped me sell a couple thousand at exactly the right time.

    Alex:

    “my question is have you seen any reviewers give you too much credit for a particular passage where you didn’t mean anything special by it but they read extra meaning into what you wrote?”

    Sure, and it’s not all that unusual a thing, not just with passages but with entire books. Lots of reviewers of Old Man’s War felt it was indebted to The Forever, for example. It wasn’t because at the time I hadn’t read that book. Now, in this particular case, I do actually make reference to both the Bible and The Merchant of Venice in TAD, so this particular reviewer wasn’t imagining things, or over imagining them as the case may be.

    I don’t particularly object to reviewers putting their own spins on the work, because it reflects the reality that every reader filters what they read through their own experience (literary or otherwise). A writer may not have put an connection a reader sees in the text, but it doesn’t mean that connection isn’t there, at least for that particular reader.

    Now from time to time this can mean a reader makes conclusions about me, based on my books, which are not necessarily correct. But again that’s not a big deal for me. I like seeing how I look, and how my books look, from the point of view of other people.

  4. Man, the review screams “the baggage one brings with oneself”. Here I just thought it was a great romp novel with absurdities…(love the wall ball sequence)

    Oh, well as they say as long as they don’t spell your name wrong…

    Loved the book and have been recommending it to all that I can…

  5. stainlesssteeldroppingsonceuponatime – Founder and Proprietor of Stainless Steel Droppings: www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com
    Carl V.

    Thanks for the link. TAD was so good and I enjoy reading other’s thoughts on it as there were so many things going on. It is interesting to see where a particular reader/reviewer focused their attention. I even like reading the negative reviews if only to get riled up!

  6. And now I’m inspired to submit an entry for the Tour Title Contest:

    “Scalzi BookTour ’07: He’s Subtly Bizarre”

    (and just for completeness, I’ll go post this on the right comment thread, too.)

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