Saturday, June 13, 2020

Book Reviews: 'Vaders

by R. Patrick Gates
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic I was in the mood for reading some disaster stories. I chose this older book that for some reason I had never gotten around to reading. Well. That was a big mistake. There are some long books where you can't wait to figure out what happens next. 

And when you finish you are impressed with the storytelling skill or the author's technical skills or how deep the characterization was or how well the author knew his or her subject matter. You want to read the next book by the author. 
This wasn't that kind of book. Reading this 500 page book didn't evince any emotions in me other than increasing regret at wasting my time reading this tripe and a final snort of contempt when the author abruptly ended his story. 

He didn't even end it on a cliffhanger. It was as if he had reached the word count required by his editor or publisher and stopped writing right there. It's frustrating because I've read quality work by this author. I know he can do better than this. 
Although obviously many sci-fi/horror movies require some suspension of disbelief, this story stretched my tolerance for that to its breaking point.

In many alien invasion/end of world apocalypse stories the author shows readers how multiple people across the world, or at least across the US face the horror. Some of them do better than others. Obviously some don't survive. Often though, they all end up having a small piece of the solution, even if they don't know it. Maybe there's a scientist who has an idea but she can't find a functioning laboratory. 
Maybe that old doddering fellow in the corner just happens to be the deadliest gunman in the world. Maybe the racist will have to ask for help from one of THEM. Maybe the team badly needs a driver and the kid in the Tupac shirt can drive anything anywhere.
Or maybe the author wants to tell a dark story with no happy ending. The various heroes and heroines will come together to make a legendary last stand for the history books that would be written if there were any humans left to write them, which there won't be.

But Gates doesn't go for any of that. He focuses almost exclusively on a small group of survivors in Manhattan. You see, a bunch of marble sized golden orbs from outer space have invaded earth. They appear to have some sort of hive intelligence. 

They enter living creatures. They prefer humans, but anything larger than themselves seems to be fair game. Once these orbs enter a living creature they immediately turn it into an ogrish monster that craves human flesh. Conservation of mass is evidently suspended.

Chaos ensues. Roughly a third of Manhattan's population is turned. Another third is killed and eaten. The remaining third is trying to hide or escape. Among this last group are Joe, a struggling actor, Sara, an attractive artist, Cindy, a drug addict and prostitute, and Corey, a newly orphaned preteen boy. The monsters chase this thrown together "family" around Manhattan for the entire book. 

There is obviously tremendous gratuitous violence. Perhaps feeling that violence isn't gross enough Gates also uses body function disgust. So if you aren't perusing detailed descriptions of monsters biting off heads and slurping on intestines like noodles, you're constantly reading about how tired someone is of someone else's body odor, halitosis, or flatulence.

Some of this could be forgiven if the story were compelling or the characters were deeper than a driveway puddle. But it wasn't and they weren't. Reversing the name of a famous rapper to make a cliched cardboard villain was silly. Having Black characters use slang that either never existed or went out of style before I was born was lazy writing. And using Soylent Green references to attempt further shocks was just desperation.
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