The OF Blog: Best of 2014: Most Disappointing/Worst Releases

Friday, December 26, 2014

Best of 2014: Most Disappointing/Worst Releases

What better way to kick off covering the year that was (and for a few days, still is) than by listing those few 2014 releases that left me either disappointed or just were that bad?  I tend to vet the books I choose to read/review, so there's a lot of mediocre to poor works that are eliminated from consideration before I purchase and/or read them.  Yet some I have some hopes for, only to see them crushed by the stories turning out to be either deeply flawed or just were downright tedious to read.  Then there are the "special" books, the ones that I know will be mediocre or even downright putrid, that I read/review just to keep in the practice of reviewing in a certain fashion.

But I'm blabbing (as usual?) a bit too much, so here are six works that either were disappointing or just plain awful (links to original reviews):

6.  David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize)

I expected much more from the writer of Cloud Atlas than a disjointed narrative that was much less than the sum of its parts.  It's not horrid, but it certainly was his weakest, most flawed narrative in quite some time.

5.  Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor

I mostly enjoyed Sarah Monette's Mélusine series, but this new fantasy just did not work for me.  The narrative just felt too bland, lacking in some je ne sais qua quality that would have raised it above being just another average fantasy narrative.

4.  Brandon Sanderson, Words of Radiance

No, I'll resist making the obvious pun.  However, lately Sanderson's prose and narrative constructing skills have declined from slightly above pedestrian to something that is barely able to keep me reading anything he's written.  So yeah, it's mildly disappointed, combined with being decidedly bloated.  Not a good combination.

3.  Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire

While I have never thought all that highly of Hurley's prose (a good stylist she is not nor has ever claimed to be), I did have some hopes that the narrative at least would be coherent or at least attention-absorbing.  It was neither.  The inchoate mess of the first quarter, while alleviated somewhat later on, just made this novel too structurally flawed for it to be anything other than a huge disappointment.

2.  Edan Lepucki, California

If #FirstWorldProblems wrote a post-apocalyptic novel, it likely would resemble California in many of its thematic concerns.  Such a shallow, vapid, vaguely white ethnocentric novel that barely can maintain any semblance of structure or plausibility under the weight of the bullshit presented over the course of the narrative.  If it weren't for the truly "special" prose and narrative of #1, this would have been by far the worst 2014 novel I've read/reviewed this year.

1.  Terry Goodkind, Severed Souls

I had to put one of my Serbian reading squirrels into reading rehab due to this dreck.  I didn't expect Goodkind, crappy as he is, to be able to put out something that would make Robert Stanek's self-published works read like Flaubert, but with Severed Souls, he managed to outdo himself and create one of the worst fictions ever published by a large publishing firm in the 21st century.  Quite an impressive accomplishment, actually.


Trishb said...

I'm surprised that you even bother with Sanderson, since it seems obvious from the outset that he won't be your cup of tea. I read one of his and it became obvious quite quickly that he used too many words to say far too little for me to find enjoyment. Goodkind? Eh, nothing to say there, have avoided like the plague and will continue on that path.

The Addison was a pleasant read, but did not hook me in they way I expected after the stellar reviews.

Bought and will read the Hurley, in hopes that at least it won't be the same old stuff.

Bone Clocks, I am waffling, which was where The Cloud Atlas left me.

Have yet to purchase the Vandermeer (not mentioned in this mess) trilogy, and so yet have hope for the year.

Lsrry said...

Well, I used to read more epic fantasies and despite some serious reservations, I found some inventiveness in his story ideas to justify reading the next one...only for that to promise less of the same potential each time.

As for the VanderMeer, I'll be discussing it early next week when I discuss the books on my Top 50 for the year. I'm a bit biased (I've assisted, usually via translations, for a couple of translations for anthologies he and his wife have edited and I consider him a friend), but I think the Southern Reach trilogy is his best work yet.

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