Saturday, November 7, 2015

David Gerrold's Jacob

As someone who was involved in a small way in the recent Hugo controversy, I have been looking for an opportunity to read something by the other side. I wanted to get a look at what they considered to be award worthy. Imagine my sense of surprise when I found out from an anonymous source that David ”You Should Never Campaign for Awards" Gerrold had sent out a letter promoting his book Jacob. “Awesome” I thought to myself, “I can finally get a look at what the other side considers to be award winning. Maybe I can learn a little more about how things are supposed to look.” Yeah, I was sadly disappointed.

Honestly, if this is what good Science Fiction is, I'll just read drek. I've never been so bored in my life. Nothing happens in this story. It is a conversation that takes place over years between two men. There is no action. There is no hint that action is coming. The vampire in the series spends his time describing things that happened in his life before he was turned. I love a good story in flashback but that's not what this is. It is a conversation in written form. Some would call this artsy I'm sure, but I just call it boring.

The best part about this book was the beginning of the prologue. It had me intrigued. It's told in first person from the part of the vampire and specifically mentions Twilight and The Vampire Chronicles. That's hardly surprising. Combine Bella's whining with Anne Rice's homoerotic touch with her vamps and you get Jacob. You just have to do it badly. And that is probably the most annoying part of the entire work.

I'm not a Twilight fan. I read about the first hundred-forty pages of the first book and gave it to my niece. She and her mother both enjoyed it. I saw the first three movies because my then-wife loved the series. Fortunately I divorced her before I got dragged off to the last two. My attitude toward The Vampire Chronicles is completely and utterly different. I was introduced to them via the Interview With the Vampire. I didn't find out until I bought the VHS that was even a book that went with the movie because Anne Rice's work isn't shelved with the SF/F stuff and I don't usually venture into any other part of the bookstore but I loved it. I loved all of the books. And so, when somebody does this poor of an imitation of one of my favorite stories it pisses me off. Anne Rice's vampires did things. They went places. They partied in New Orleans and robbed ancient tombs of their inhabitants. They fought. They cried. The fought some more. They made up. The Talamasca showed up. One of them got turned. Etc.

Gerrold's vampires kind of do all of that but it happens offscreen and the details are left out. It's all talked about later in a “well, there was a war but I don't want to go through it all.” type attitude. There's a bunch of emotional whining, a lot of “Oh, I want to be a vampire and they're all being mean to me by not turning me” and a lot of “Oh noes, the vampire just left. I may never see him again,” but again, no action. Not all action has to be violence. There were a few sexual encounters described but for the most part only in vague terms. Honestly, if Gerrold was going to go into the sex he should have done it. Barring that, he could have left it at the bedroom door. Instead, he decided to half-ass things and it sucked.

Honestly though, the title that comes to mind while reading Jacob is not Interview With the Vampire and it's not Twilight, it's Axolotl Roadkill. For those that don't remember that was a story, written by Helene Hegemann which led to a controversy about plagiarism. She admits to having mixed two other stories together using a technique called “blending.” Others said she committed plagiarism. Apparently, Hegemann won the argument because her book is still available on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites. Gerrold seems to have taken lessons from her because he used the same techniques. Granted, all Science Fiction and Fantasy stories are derivative in one form or another

Jacob is a book with no internal consistency. I'm sorry, but a character can have a background as a male prostitute who got paid to have sex with other men or he can have sex afterward with a boy he is supposedly in love with and not know how things work, but he can't do both. Likewise, his lover can either be a clueless newbie who doesn't know how things work or he can be experienced with a string of former lovers. It doesn't work both ways. I'm not offended by sex whether straight, gay or some other kind. It doesn't bother me. Being treated like an idiot does. If an author expects me to suspend disbelief, plausibility is key. I simply cannot bring myself to believe that someone who got paid to have sex doesn't know how to have sex. A little bit of continuity editing may have gone a long way here.

Once upon a time, Leonard Nimoy refused to do Star Trek Generations because he added nothing to the plot and was there simply as some type of exclamation point. Nimoy talks about it in his memoir I am Spock. I wish he could have had a conversation with Gerrold before Gerrold wrote the majority of his prologue. After the aforementioned good part, he goes into his writers' group. He lovingly details a bunch of characters (including one transgender person who was doubtlessly thrown in simply for box checking or, if you prefer, “the purposes of inclusion.”) who never appear again and have nothing to do with anything. It's a simple exercise in boredom and possibly revenge on people who were in a writing group with Dear Author at one point. It adds nothing to the story and should never have been included.


Then we're treated our lecture for the day: All writing must be not merely to entertain but to enlighten. That's a fascinating theory but one that falls apart in practice, especially since there is nothing enlightening about Jacob at all. That's alright though, because there's nothing entertaining about it either. Jacob is, put simply, a complete and utter waste of time. There is no reason to read it and my advice would be to save your time and money and spend it on something less painful. A root canal comes to mind.

Bottom Line: 0.25 out of 5 toothpicks (to hold your eyes open while you're reading this.

Jacob
David Gerrold
ComicMix LLC, 2015

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