My Favorite Negative Review of The God Engines (Today)

It is:

This book is something that only a 17 year old Megadeth fan would be proud of. The characters are dull, the plot is dull, the themes are trite and stupid, and it has the worst third sentence of any book I have ever read.

I was actually drinking a Coke Zero when I read that sentence. It did come out my nose.

And, yes. Fair call on sentence three. I promise the third sentence in Fuzzy Nation is much better.

On another subject entirely, are there still 17-year-old Megadeth fans? At this point I would think the youngest would be, like, 35.

133 Comments on “My Favorite Negative Review of The God Engines (Today)”

  1. Maybe second-generation Megadeth fans, whose parents conceived them when they themselves were 17?

    You know, it’s sobering to recall that, back when MTV showed videos, the opening riff from “Peace Sells…” was in the MTV News intro squib.

  2. Man, I really need to go back and look at some third sentences. I don’t know that I’ve developed an opinion on the best and worst I’ve ever read…

    Closest book to me, Iain M. Banks, Use of Weapons, “Happiness… is to wake up, on a bright spring morning, after an exhausting first night spent with a beautiful… passionate… multi-murderess.'”

  3. Brian:

    I think it’s less s/he’s kept track of all of them, but remembered mine for being particularly inept. The real stumper would be what was the second worst.

  4. I’m at work and nowhere near a copy of said book … please, the agony of not knowing the dreaded third sentence … someone, anyone, please … post it, or surely I shall spin like a top and explode.

  5. My hubs is a heavy metal fan and only 28y/o. Definitely not a 2nd gen as his parents despised that he liked this music.

  6. I have quite an assortment of books at my desk here at work (when I finish one on the bus commute in, I swap it for a different one for the commute out). Only Scalzi book I have here is The Ghost Brigades. Compared to the assortment of pulp westerns, urban fantasy, speculative fiction, and autobiographical nonfiction, I’m sad to say the third sentence of The Ghost Brigades is second only to the third sentence in Kevin Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple in awfulness. Too many commas, Scalzi. Tsk.

    Good news is the second and fourth sentences are better than everything. The award for the worst fourth sentence in a book I have here on my desk at work goes to Max Brand’s Hired Guns, which states:

    His legs were very short; his inches lay chiefly above the waist.

  7. That review makes me want to read the book, because, deep in my heart I’m still a 17-year-old Megadeth fan. BTW, I’m 34.

  8. Here it is: “It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation.”

    No, hang on. That’s Moby Dick. Shit. I keep getting these mixed up.

  9. OK, funny enough I totally disagree with this critic. But, funnier yet is the fact that I know three teenagers, one of which is 17 whom I introduced to Megadeth a year ago and who I also got to read The God Engines.
    So, yes there are 17, 13, 10, 7, and a 5 year old Megadeth fans who do like this book.
    I’ll be a little honest, the 7 and 5 year old haven’t read the book entirely, they just got read several passages from it by their corrupt siblings.

  10. Yeah, it’s more likely be Slipknot than Megadeath. He might as well have said “17 year Old Screamin’ Jay Hawkins Fan,” as relevant as it is. You know a bad review is faking it when the author can’t even take the time to look up a more current mass-culture reference.

  11. I don’t think it’s a bad review, myself (the criticisms are fair enough), but I suspect the reviewer may be over 30. Although, again, who knows? There was a time in the 90s that Tony Bennett was hip with the kids again.

  12. This is kind of fun. From the pile behind my desk I give you the third sentence of Hyperion by Dan Simmons,

    “Bruise-black clouds silhouetted a forest of giant gymnosperms while stratocumulus towered nine kilometers high in a violent sky.” Now that is a dark and stormy night.

  13. Well, if nothing else, it reminded me to buy it on MY NEW KINDLE THAT I GOT TODAY! Sorry, got a little excited there.

  14. This book is something that only a 17 year old Megadeth fan would be proud of

    As a former 17-year-old Megadeth fan, I take offense to that statement. I may have been headbanging to Metallica’s younger, dumber, drunker, less talented cousin, but I still had a good sense of taste when it came to literature. (That sentence implies I prefered Megadeth to Metallica. I did not, but I could appreciate what Megadeth had to offer.)

  15. Just out of curiosity, where’d you read this review? As long as it won’t result in a dogpile of crazed Scalzi fans.

    In theme, _Accelerando_:

    The square smells of water and dirt and hot metal and the fart-laden exhaust fumes of cold catalytic converters; the bells of trams ding in the background, and birds flock overhead.

  16. Damn it! I don’t have TGE handy for comparisons. How does the deadly sentence compare to this one, from the book I am currently reading?

    “And if there is anything further removed than that from the bagnio Venuses of Titian’s middle period, I don’t know what it is.”

    Inquiring minds…

  17. Kevin Williams:

    It was a post in a “what are you reading?” thread in a forum. It wasn’t meant as a formal review so I don’t want to link to it and have the person potentially dealing with people telling him/her they’re wrong. As I often say, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.

  18. If only there was someplace nearby where one could find the first several dozen sentences of said book…

  19. Megadeth has been reduced to opening shows for Slayer. At least after 25 years Dave Mustaine has learned to play guitar live.

    Yes, I went to see them. I’m 45. And brought my 14 and 16 year old kids. Making sure they appreciate classic music. But I’m pretty sure none of the 17 year olds were Megadeth fans. More like, wow, I can’t believe these guys are still alive.

  20. I’m intrigued. I’m currently far too broke (damn you college!) to entertain the idea of purchasing books for personal enjoyment, so unfortunately I don’t have “The God Engines.” What is this deeply offensive third sentence?

  21. Ah, I see. Well, the second clause seems a little clunky, and it took me three reads to figure out exactly what you were saying, but it’s definitely not the worst thing I’ve ever read. Worst third sentence though…who keeps metrics like that?

  22. @Scalzi: The irony is that I had *just* sat back down from a conversation with a co-worker in which I referred to a project that I mistakenly thought I assigned to him this morning, and said something like “I don’t know what I assigned to who anymore.” And yet as soon as I read your post I remembered you posting the first chapter of TGE. I guess I remember the important stuff, eh?

  23. The third sentence is a little confusing if you aren’t familiar with concepts like “the former” and “the latter.” Perhaps those would have made the sentence clearer? It took me three tries before I realized what you did there, and it was so much more awesome without former and latter to point it out.

  24. It’s a new competition! Who can find the worst third sentence today?

    My old man taught me two things: “Mind own business” and “Always cut cards”. – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (although I would like to add that I enjoy this book)

  25. The third sentence in The God Engines always did make my brain hurt. I assumed it was my own intellectual shortcoming. Now I know it’s all your fault, you third sentence mangler.

  26. I pity the reviewer who has missed out on such amazing third sentences as ‘Ice-black clean in its emptiness and solitude, so unlike the motley collage of spinning dust motes men called their worlds, where the human bacteria throve and multiplied and slaughtered one another.’

  27. My library’s bereft of Megadeth, but it does contain plenty of Metallica, along with the odd bit of elsewise.

    I’m 36 years old. Ya wanna know something about that?

    It’s totally bitchin’.

    …But I digress.

  28. I am too close to the source material to comment, but here is a third sentence for comparison:

    “I am currently resting, suspended by lovely wires – ala Mission: Impossible, in the space between the coved ceiling and the thick hangings covering the four poster bed.”

    It comes from my Wife’s first NaNoWriMo novel. I put this up for comparison because she was, at a year previous that would get me killed for disclosing, a Megadeth fan at age 17.

  29. I have to admit, I found that sentence a little hard to parse. But “the worst third sentence of any book I have ever read” implies to me that they haven’t read many books or — more likely — that they were unsuccessfully trying to be clever.

    Plus, you know, [omitted in advance because I really can’t be bothered to disagree with the reviewer at length].

  30. Yeah I totally had a hard time deciding between buying this book or a new Megadeth cassette for my walkman. The third sentence was an important factor in my choice.

  31. Argggg. Now you’ve all got me rummaging through my bookshelf scanning third sentences! I have work to do! For your reading pleasure:

    Even the omniscient viewpoint quails.

    But I’m told that it hasn’t changed much, except for the condums, from the way I remember it.

    Panics were frequent in those times, and few days went by when an event of this kind was not recorded in the archives of one town or another.

    The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.

    Alas, a few years ago, I should have said ‘my universe’: but now my mind has been opened to higher views of things.

    The bloody things make me look like a train-spotter with a gas-mask fetish, and waring them is giving me a headache.

    If Vili wasn’t going to make any observations about the fact that I had been gone for years, was missing a finger, and had a price on my head sufficient to make every assassin in the city drool with greed, well, I certainly wouldn’t either.

  32. CJ @ 33 – The idea that anyone finds that a bad sentence boggles my mind. What is it about that which you find suboptimal?

  33. I was looking for TGE on my Hugo readings, but apparently that memory stick is elsewhere.

    But Elizabeth, the youngest of the Reverend Henry Tallant’s handsome daughters, was suffering from the ear-ache, and besides stuffing a roasted onion into the afflicted orifice, had swathed her head and neck in an old Cashmere shawl.

    Arabella, by Georgette Heyer

  34. “On another subject entirely, are there still 17-year-old Megadeth fans? At this point I would think the youngest would be, like, 35. ”
    I’m only 28, and I think I probably count as a fan.

  35. The third sentence of TGE reads beautifully aloud. Go on. Try it. However, on paper it can be difficult to unpack.

    Also, most any third sentence out of context is going to be funny/awful. Excluding title and quote the third sentence of this very blog post is the highly amusing “It did come out my nose”.

  36. Tumbleweed@42 – Only the use of a created vernacular. I like it in context, but in my opinion it makes the book harder to begin. YMMV, of course.

  37. See John, if you’d just gone through a good MFA program instead of getting all worked up about crass stuff like contracts and agents and such, you would have known how to properly construct that all-important third sentence.

  38. Kevboy’s link to your first chapter got me to actually read it this time, and I liked it, and I think I’ll try to buy it. So this crappy review may have at least gotten you one sale.

  39. Ron @ 41
    But I’m told that it hasn’t changed much, except for the condums, from the way I remember it.

    Unless I’m very much mistaken, this is from Isle Of The Dead by Roger Zelazny, and is talking about Tokyo Bay.

    No idea on the others.

    One less well known than the famous first line:

    “It’s like my body’s developed this massive drug deficiency.”

  40. I was trying to be polite about this, but I’ll come right out and say it: this book also has one of the most superfluous 29th punctuation marks ever introduced in that position. Ever.

  41. 21-year-old Megadeth fan here. I’m marginally ashamed, yes, but at least I’m not 17. I’m SO MUCH OLDER AND MORE MATURE. Yes I am.

    And for the record, I thought the third sentence of the God Engines was actually quite nice; I’m rarely bothered by those little sentence-puzzle-type things when they work well (which I think it did in TGE’s case).

  42. Ron @41:

    The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.

    The Graveyard Book?

  43. I can’t unpack that third sentence well at all. Aloud, quite, in my head, it makes no difference. Dyslexic brain likes it not at all.

  44. Third sentence of my current read: “It’s hard to be the one who stays.” The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Loving it to tiny little pieces, not just because she snuck science fiction onto the “mainstream” literature shelves. Possibly even past herself, but with her focus on genetics, I kind of doubt it.

  45. My nephew is 17/18 or whatever he is (I can’t be bothered to keep track of the ages of every family member, know what I mean?) He’s a Megadeth fan. I carefully warped his brain until he liked metal.

  46. Today I learned that I am a 17 year-old Megadeath fan.


  47. Oh dear, Ron #41, I instantly recognized the second sentence you listed and I haven’t even read that book… on top of that, the last time I opened that book was at least ten years ago when I read the first page.

    …I wonder why that is.

  48. It is too late.

    For a book and author known for their extensive verbosity the third line of Gravity’s Rainbow certainly is an outlier. Foucault’s Pendulum, on the other hand:

    I knew-but anyone could have sensed it in the magic of that serene breathing-that the period was governed by the square root of the length of the wire and by pi, that number which, however irrational to sublunar minds, through a higher rationality binds the circumference and diameter of all possible circles.


  49. I’m 18 and have been a Megadeth fan since United Abominations, so I was what, 15? Megadeth still has a great following even with newer generations, trust me.

  50. YuriPup@57: You’re right, Neuromancer.

    Current restaurant book: Even over her fear, the sheer naked terror of being hunted, she felt a shiver of excitement, of something like triumph, when she realized they were talking about her.

    Do third sentences tend to have lots of commas, or am I just imagining things?

  51. Y’all are made of awesome. Where else can I find Megadeth, Georgette Heyer, Eco, Zelazny, et al. together? Less points to Eco who is actually *translated* into English…it might have been The Translator’s Fault.

  52. Well, its not a great sentence and I recall having to reread it several time when I read the book. But the work in its entirety is compelling and one does not need to be a heavy metal fan to appreciate it.

    Although, I admit I did like metal in HS. But since Enya is one of my current favorites, I stand by my position that Heavy Metal fans are not the only ones who can enjoy the work.

  53. A 28-year-old Megadeth fan here; and I was a 17-year-old one once upon time. Ah, let us all form a circle and sing “Youthanasia” together.

    As for commas, yes, there’s something to that.

    In Las Vegas, in rooms where the light never changed, none of the gamblers noticed that it was now morning; but Carmel, returning from the desert, where he had buried Sherri Brandi, drove out of his way to look over Dr. Charles Mocenigo’s home, hoping to see or hear something helpful; he heard only a revolver shot, and quickly sped away.

  54. Current book’s 3rd line:
    Terry had never done anything quietly in his life if there was a way to get a fight out of it.
    (Agent of Change – Lee & Miller)

  55. I have four shelves double stacked with books in my living room. To make things easy I picked the middle-most front book on each shelf:

    “As soon as the light in the bedroom went out there was a stirring and a fluttering all through the farm buildings”

    “The new are completely new, as was Milan to Francesco Sforza, or they are like the limbs joined to the hereditary state of the prince who acquires them, as is the kingdom of Naples to the king of Spain.”

    “How hard to speak of it — that rude/ and rough and stubborn forest!”

    “The lips were rounded, parted, almost sexual.”

    My past as a liberal arts student shines through the first three picks, the fourth is something my profs, who seem the “literary fiction” types, would have abhorred. (I once suggested taking a professor’s own book–the arrogant twit–out of the modern philosophy course in exchange for Dune, to looks of horror.)

  56. Re Silberwhatever #39: I wonder if the remark was really supposed to be “third worst opening sentence” — to which I would strenuously disagree, but is a much more plausible metric for people to have off-hand opinions of. And TGE definitely has a striking and memorable opening sentence.

  57. Crap, the closest book I have to me is “Duck Learns to Swim.”

    “I can’t swim!” admitted Duck.

    I don’t know, that’s high-quality literature right there. (I actually have a Torah right in front of me, but I doubt as many readers of your blog can read it as can read the Duck one. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי אוֹר; וַיְהִי-אוֹר.

  58. I had to read your third sentence about a dozen times before i finally figured out that one and the othe other referred to blood and floor.

    I don’t know, man, as far as sentences in opening scenes go, its a bit tough. Or i am a moron incapable of marking connections with various turns of phrases. Maybe. There are times i feel the cool breeze through my hair only because everything everyone is saying is going over my head.

    I don’t know if it is the ‘worst’. It definitely was tough.

    My favorite first line is still the opening line from the old man and the sea. Person, place, problem, all established in one breath.

  59. My copy of God Engines is actually in the post right now, whizzing towards me across the Pacific, possibly in a plane. An early christmas present to myself.

    I now have incredible third line reading anticipation, I am going to read the hell out of it. I may even skip straight to it.

  60. I dunno – here’s a couple of humdingers.

    “So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.”

    — Alice in Wonderland

    “The sciences, each straining it its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of disassociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age”

    — The Call of Cthulu

  61. I’m not a Megadeth fan (which apparently puts me in the minority on this thread) and I thought it was a fantastic book. This calls into question the rigor of her scientific inquiry.

    Yes yes, third sentence etc. Personally, I found it quite reassuring that even our esteemed host can write a hard-to-read sentence from time to time. I tear through Scalzi books at a blazing pace because I find them such a joy to read. One misstep makes him downright mortal.

  62. Yeah, but first sentence is so full of awesome, the third sentence kind of balances things out. Ya know, yin and yang. Otherwise our heads might explode!

  63. To be fair, I do think that the 17-year-old who likes Megadeth probably would like The God Engines. I mean, that’s not wrong, you know? But I suspect the audience for the book is not limited to that demographic.

  64. Third sentence from the first book I picked at random from my bookshelf next to the PC:

    “Right now, he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night.”

    That’s some mighty fine wordsmithing there, Mr. Stephenson.

  65. “It’s like my body’s developed this massive drug deficiency.” — Neuromancer, William Gibson

    “But for a long while they sang only each alone, or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended only that part of me mind of Ilúvatar from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly.” — Ainulindalë, J. R. R. Tolkien

    “Ye are a baggage: the Slys are no rogues; look in
    the chronicles; we came in with Richard Conqueror.
    Therefore paucas pallabris; let the world slide: sessa!” — Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare

    When you looked the other way you saw the brilliant white points of Trey and Patru bright against the purplish eastern sky. — Nightfall, Isaac Asimov

    Wilson had no reason to suspect that anyone else was in his room; he had every reason to expect the contrary. — By His Bootstraps, Heinlein

  66. “the worst third sentence of any book I have ever read” – Nimrod
    “The real stumper would be what was the second worst.” – JS

    The answer lay in the little known Dicken’s First Folio. His novel _A Tale of Two Cities_, originally begins: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Or was it? Bugger me, I can’t recall; let me start again.


  67. I was a 17 year old Megadeth fan (23 years ago) and I liked The God Engines, so I guess it fits. But what the heck is wrong with being a 17 year old Megadeth fan? Elitist bastard!

  68. Even the omniscient viewpoint quails.

    I’m sure that’s Vernor Vinge; I think it’s from “A Fire Upon the Deep”

  69. The bloody things make me look like a train-spotter with a gas-mask fetish, and waring them is giving me a headache.

    That’s Charlie Stross; from one of the short stories in “The Atrocity Archive”

  70. Just came in the mail today:

    None holds more lessons, especially for youth: How to use a difficult childhood.

  71. @87: Something’s been bugging me all day. I was once a 17-year-old Queen (Sheer Heart Attack to Jazz era) fan. Does TGE have anything to offer me? (Minus that sentence, of course. I mean, pee-yoo.)

  72. pardon the typing. burned my other hand tonight.

    i got a negative blog review of the first sentence of a novel. specifically, the PUNCTUATION of the first sentence. lengthy discussion ensued on the site of whether i should have used a semi-colon or a period, but majority-opinion condemned me for using a comma. no other discussion of the rest of the novel ever ensued there. my presumed misuse of a comma in the first sentence was a blight from whichi no novel could recover, i guess.

    hope those folks aren’t around just now to see the way i punctuate when i’ve only got use of one hand…

  73. Third sentence from one of my favorite re-reads, Austin Tappan Wright’s haunting utopian adventure Islandia, next to my favorite chair.

    However much alike we would have seemed to older persons, we believed in our own heterogeneity and, having all of us social ambitions, feared meeting or being seen with the wrong man; but we also accepted the tradition that one of the greatest things in life was college and class spirit, and that knowing a great many men fostered it.

    The book is much better than that, but the sentence itself has the rolling, waves splashing on the shore, quality of much of the description in the book, which spends much of its time in small boats or along the shore.

  74. (Blockquote uses a very small, light font in Firefox; is that something to add to your site fix list?)

  75. if you are going to get a negative review it might as well be a funny one. Atleast it is better than all the one star reviews on Barnes and Noble and Amazon simply because the ebook is not out for a book. Atleast this guy was clever.

    You should send him a free autograph copy of fuzzy nation.

  76. This review cries out fo be read by Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons.”

    Worst. Third. Sentence. Ev-ER.

  77. Greg @ 79 I had to read your third sentence about a dozen times before i finally figured out that one and the other other referred to blood and floor.

    Wow do I feel like an idiot for not putting that together. Maybe I should read more difficult books.

    Fewer commas than I thought in this one.

    He drives without the use of his hands and feet, his mind living in the cool neural interface that exists somewhere between the swift images that pass before his windscreen and the electrical awareness that is the alloy body and liquid crystal heart of the Maserati.

  78. Well the sentence is a little tricky, and kinda halt the lecture which might not be ideal 3 sentences in, so I can understand the critique. At the same, time, it is rather clever, and once it clicked you are left eager to discover other little crafty phrases in the rest of the book…

    That being said, this guy totally just created an important new literary critique criterion: no book review henceforth shall be without mention of the third sentence’s quality.
    And I’ll have to compare all of your books (and others of course) once I get home to see if I can’t find worse.

  79. Hate posting a comment only to spot a typing error the very next instant. “halts”. That being said, I’m French, so there’s that excuse…

  80. If we can wander afield to /first/ sentences, I think _Android’s Dream_ has a pretty good one.

    I mean, the previous record for a book making me laugh was by the end of the first page, held by Terry Pratchett’s _Jingo_. Never had one make me laugh with just the first sentence before.

  81. Third sentences:

    “Rot a peck of pa’s malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory
    end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.”

  82. Yes, the first sentence of Android’s Dream is classic. I have quoted it many times as an inducement to get people to read the whole book. I have probably never seen a better attention-grabber.

  83. Having slept on it, i must confess that individual sentences usually don’t stand out for me in books. I quote one liners from movies all the time, but i really can’t think of hardly any lines from books. It seems a little weird, now that i thought about it.

    I can think of some lines only because they are so commonly quoted in certain circles. Call me Ishmael. Moby dick, sure, but i know it because its oft quoted in the world. When i read moby dick, it didn’t strike me as that interesting of a sentence when i was actually reading it.

    Sentences from books that actually struck me and stuck with me are fairly rare. The last sentence of 20of (he would think of something.) The first sentence of old man and the sea (he was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the gulf stream and he had gone eighty four days now without taking a fish). There’s a couple of random sentences from hitchhikers guide to the galaxy that still stand out. (Yellow. …. Bulldozer.) Hhgttg is one of my favorites, but i don’t quote it so much as paraphrase it. Or talk about scenes in the book. (Someone elses problem field)

    As for just raw text, (regardless of plot, characters, genre, whatever else, cause you quote prose, everything else is paraphrased) seem to have a thing for hemmingway. I like his prose. Yet I can’t think of any other sentences from hemmingway other than the one line above.

    I have bits of poetry stuck in my head because the words struck me.
    No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent a part of the maine. If a food be washed away by the sea, europe is the less. As well as is a promintory were. As well as if a manor of thy friends or thine own were. Every mans death diminishes me, because i am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

    Once upon a midnight dreary, as i ponered weak and weary, over many a forgotten tome of ancient lore. While i pondred nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, a tapping at my chamber door. It is some visitor, i said to myself, only this and nothing more. Ah clearly i.remember it was the bleak december. And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. Vainly i had sought to borrow from my books, surcease of sorrow for my rare and radiant angel, Lenore. Nameless here for evermore.

    I used to have most of it memorized. That’s the best i can do off the top of my head.

    I wonder if the medium of novels is inherently less quotable than, say, movies, or if books just don’t stick with me the way movies do. I can think of hundreds, maybe thousands of lines from movies. Process Bride alone probably has fifty quotables in it alone. I probably could come up with fifty quotes from all the novels i ever read.

  84. @Greg @107, 108—dear god, did you type all that on a phone?

    (I bought The God Engines on Kindle last night because of this thread. Enjoyed it.)

  85. Probably a dumb question for most of you, but how do I buy and read The God Engines online? I don’t have any fancy e-reader devices, just one of those monitor thingies that sits on my desk (with some kind of flexible tether connecting it to a nearby warm humming box), and I would like to put the book on THAT and not have to physically transport myself to a book vendor of some sort. Not that I have anything against those who ply the book-selling trade, but I am lazy and don’t want to get out of my chair.

    Thanks in advance!

  86. Most of the great lines in The Princess Bride are also in the book, FWIW. I don’t think that books are any less quotable than movies, but that (a) most movies are seen by orders of magnitude more people than any but the very best-selling books, so there’s a greater chance that someone you’re talking to will get the quote (a great quote is only great if the person you’re quoting it to recognizes it’s a quote); and (b) movie quotes also benefit from the impact of the delivery by a skilled actor. “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die” is in both the book and the movie – but Mandy Patankin’s delivery nails it.

  87. Ah, you clever people. Here’s the original third sentence John has promised to outdo. Think he can?
    “For a moment he sat, puffing on the short pipe that had yellowed the corners of his white mustache, and looked down at the red rag tied to a bush against the rock face of the gorge five hundred yards away.”
    Good luck, John, that one’s a classic.

  88. As for Android’s Dream, it has the funniest first sentence, first paragraph, first page and first chapter I’ve ever read. I learned what ROTFLMAO REALLY means. Of course, Scalzi planned it that way.

    I have a good friend with whom I share SF “finds.” I was reluctant to recommend Android’s Dream because of her strong religious beliefs and her massive dislike of vulgarity and profanity, but finally gave in. (She kept it in the car and read it when no one was around.)

  89. I can say with a perfectly straight face that “…it wasn’t awful”. However when they are contrasting you with Jules Verne or Authur Clarke in the freshmen lit class a hundred years from now this may very well be your “Robur the Conquerer” or “Rama Revealed”.

  90. “I’m a 17 year old Megadeth fan!”
    “I’m a 17 year old Megadeth fan. Seriously.”
    “23 year old fan here”
    “I love Megadeth and im 28”
    “A 28-year-old Megadeth fan here”
    “My nephew is almost 17 and loves Megadeth.”
    “I was a 17 year old Megadeth fan”

    I am Spartacus!

  91. @Mathew in Austin

    Its off of Baen Boooks–no encryption and I am reading the HTML version of the story right now. is a great, great book website, allowing multiple downloads and a long history of a strong anti-DRM position. I have well over 150 books from them.

    I don’t know if Subterranean’s deal is the same as Baen’s for E-books, but Baen paid (and I hope still pays) authors the same for a digital download as for a hardcover–which traditionally is double a soft cover’s commission.

  92. Greg: “Having slept on it, i must confess that individual sentences usually don’t stand out for me in books. I quote one liners from movies all the time, but i really can’t think of hardly any lines from books.”

    And this is where the chorus of Whatever readers chant, in unison, “My surname is Li and my personal name is Kao, and there is a slight flaw in my character.”

  93. @YuriPup at 117.

    Thanks, that link worked. I worried that store only provided for those with Kindlings and eye-pads, but it turns out they also sell the htmls.

  94. Wow.

    Just wow.

    That was one heck of a lunch break story there Mr. Scalzi!

    I am sorry it took me so long to read it in the first place.

  95. Dance: yes

    Oh look. It auto capitalizes too. Grrrr.

    DGL: mandy patankin is one of my favorite actors. Something about the tone of his voice. He has a thing he does where he tightens his mouth into a slight grin, lowers his head slightly, and blinks his eyes. He did it in princess bride. He did it in a commercial recently. And he did it at least once in Criminal Minds tv series. Always makes me smile.

    Mandy patankin, christopher walken, peter seller. Love the sounds of their voices. I could listen to peter seller drone on about kayak architecture and find it fascinating. Discovery channel proved that for me.

    I don’t know, maybe the thing is i don’t imagine the same character that the author is picturing, so when the character deleivers the awesome line, i have it spoken by Roxanne Bare in my head when the author was thinking more like Mr Walken.

    Bruce: didn’t know that one. Google explained it to me. I am somewhat curious about the book it came from now.

  96. Here are several interesting third sentences I found on my bookshelf:

    “There was a fine mist drifting in from the whirlpool, falling on the city like sheets of muslin and fogging the kitchen windows.”

    “The captain viewed this string of failures as absurdly bad luck; the bishop, as divine intervention.” – SHIP OF FOOLS

    “The starscape wheeled behind the ship, the system’s sun eclipsed and revealed with each loop of the helix.” – REVELATION SPACE

    “During the thirty years of my childhood, I only saw a fraction of that vast, rambling, ever-changing mansion.” – HOUSE OF SUNS

    “He winced at the sudden increased throbbing behind his eyes, then turned his watery gaze on the other travelers hurrying across the mosaic floor, their obedient hover-luggage at heel behind them, and with thoughts like grey slugs he tried to remember exactly what had happened last night.” – GRIDLINKED

    “Months later, he still would not be able to tolerate being in rooms with closed doors.” – CREEPERS

  97. Just finished TGE. Great read! Not the most peppy ending. Think I’ll go listen to some megadeath now to cheer me up.

  98. OK, last comment.

    After reading TGE and sleeping on it, I came to the conclusion that it would have made a great animated short in the Heavy Metal films of the 80’s. Remember that first one? A bunch of different animated short stories, done by different authors and artists, held loosely together by an evil glowing ball that would move from story to story, taking different forms in each story. For TGE, it could become the Talent on Shalle’s neck.

  99. I grabbed a small bunch of books from my shelves. The previously-mentioned third sentence of the Moon is a Harsh Mistress rated a 5, which put it in fourth place, just behind the tied pair of Inferno (Niven/Pournelle), and the previously mentioned Snow Crash.

    Top place was won by The Mote in God’s Eye – a mere 7, I’m sure it could be beaten – while the bottom was Schild’s Ladder (2.5). Great book, but it doesn’t hide the fact that it’s about quantum geometry.

    Having added TGE to the list, I’m going to have to say that yes, that scores on the bottom, and is likely to remain there. Most of these third sentences score a 3 or 4 – blandly functional, perhaps lacking in some way – while this is the only one that tripped my reading flow while shoving it hard in the back.

    Oh, and Greg – compiling the war handwavium score for The Bridge of Birds would be interesting.

  100. Speaking of less-than-glowing reviews: PW published this one last month for Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon:

    “Jaimy Gordon, McPherson & Company, $25.00 (296p) ISBN 9780929701837
    National Book Award-finalist Gordon’s new novel begins and ends at a backwoods race track in early-1970s West Virginia, where horse trainer Tommy Hansel dreams up a scam. He’ll run four horses in claiming races at long odds and get out before anyone realizes how good his horses are. But at a track as small as Indian Mound Downs, where everyone knows everybody’s business, Hansel’s hopes are quickly dashed. Soon his luminous, tragic girlfriend, Maggie, appears, drawing the eye of everyone, including sadistic gangster Joe Dale Bigg. Though Maggie finds herself with an unexpected protector in family gangster Two-Tie, even he can’t protect her from her own fascination with the track and its misfit members. While Gordon’s latest reaches for Great American Novel status, and her use of the colloquial voice perfectly evokes the time and place, constant shifts in perspective make the novel feel over-styled and under-plotted. And Maggie’s supposed charisma clashes with her behavior, leaving the feeling that something’s missing whereas Hansel is more witnessed than examined, his character developing almost entirely through the eyes of others, creating uncertainty that often borders on indifference. (Nov.)”

    You know, the book that just WON THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD!

    PW’s reviews are just unnecessarily snarky and harsh. They really don’t know snot from Shinola.


  101. My Youngest son is 17 and a Megadeath fan. Don’t know what happened there. Maybe I ought to give him a copy of TGE and see what he says. Apparently he’ll enjoy it!

  102. Trying to figure out if there are any 17-yo Megadeth fans out there:

    143,583,400 facebook users in US (13 and up)
    431,060 lists Megadeth as an interest
    139,400 are 17 year-old (25,820 are female)

    These are much higher than expected.

    Also, there are 114,400 fans btw the ages on 40 and 45 inclusive (I am not alone :)

  103. I’m a huge Megadeth fan and I’m pretty sure I’m 16. A little younger than 35, wouldn’t you agree?