Book Reivew: Orcs

This is one of those books that kept me interested while at the same time I wondered why I kept reading it.  The titular orcs are a war band, that are virtually indistinguishable from humans, who travel across their world in search of powerful relics they wish to keep out of the evil orc queen’s hands.

If you envisioned a story written from the perspective of Tolkien-type orcs, then you will be gravely disappointed.  The orcs act no different than humans. Perhaps the intent was to give their race depth, but the author falls flat at doing that too because all the characters are flat and never grow beyond caricatures and stereotypes.  Orcs are fundamentally tribal polytheistic humans who are fighting against their crazy queen and a bunch of Christians.  Sure, they aren’t called Christians, but the Uni’s in the story adhere to basic Christian theology and even call upon the Holy Spirit.  It is a thinly veiled jab at Christianity that utilizes every stereotype about the faith.

I mentioned already the orcs are caricatures, but frankly that is an observation I had across the board with both the protagonists and antagonists.  It was as if the author didn’t spend more than five minutes on Google researching Christian and polytheistic beliefs before forming a clear opinion about them and placing 1.5 dimensional orcs in the middle of it.

I will say that despite my disappointment, the plot was interesting enough to keep me hoping things would get better.  I may not have cared about the characters, but I wanted to which meant the book had potential, or so I thought until the anticlimactic ending.  That isn’t to mention the awkward and abrupt graphic rape/sacrificial magic scenes thrown in there without warning.  They were so explicit and jarring the sex scenes felt like they were ripped out of an erotica novel and pasted into this one just to put off the reader.  Nothing was implied or shown, everything was told in all its gory details.

If you enjoy gritty fantasy I would say this might be for you except for the shallow characters, both on the protagonist and antagonist ends of the spectrum.  Other than a moderately decent story, this book is unpolished and fails to offer anything new or exciting to the Fantasy genre.  It especially fails to do the lore of Orcs any justice.  Overall, I would give this book a 1.5/5 and would not recommend it.

Social Justice Bullies

Social pandering has gone over and beyond ridiculous.  We must be careful what we say and to whom, and even the most benign thing shared can cause outrage.  Why is that?  Words are hurtful, there is no doubt about that, but why must we walk on the proverbial eggshells anymore?

Bullies exist, they always have and always will.  It is a toxic part of humanity and a reality most people face sometime in their lives.  However, that doesn’t seem to be why people are so hurt by words lately.  It appears that large masses of people have thin skin and have an axe to grind against anyone who shares a different viewpoint or vocabulary.

Below is a screenshot of a reaction someone had to a tweet.  Keep in mind my wife runs my Twitter account and was the one that posted this, not me, which is massively ironic.  The not-too-subtle accusation of sexism.  The point isn’t to vent because I’m offended.  It is to point out just how thin-skinned, so many people of our culture are.  Why is something so innocent as my wife and I celebrating our teamwork in need of criticism?

Our culture is growing ever more sensitive to the point where it finds problems where there are none.  No matter how benign a statement, social media post, or thought is, someone is bound to get offended, but not just offended, that person may feel the need to “educate” you and put you in your place.  Offended people now are the social bullies.  Attempting to silence any voice that is different from their own in the name of “good.”  How do we fight this?  Call it out for what it is, bullying.  Us writers need to keep writing our thoughts and what’s on our mind.  Not cater or pander to anyone, no matter how loud and obnoxious their voice may be.  The irony is that it is typically those who speak of tolerance and acceptance that are guilty of the very things they claim to hate.  Perhaps this is a window into everyone’s psyche, we are often guilty of the things we hate the most.  Therefore, before getting sanctimonious over silly things on social media, let us examine ourselves and see if we live up to our own standards.  We all need this.  Certainly, there is a time and place to speak up, and that is where wisdom and discernment comes in, both qualities though seem to be sorely lacking in our society.

Open-Minded

We hear about open-mindedness a lot in our culture.  It is often viewed as a good thing, a virtue even.  Those who adhere to traditional values on the other hand are viewed as the antonym of open-minded, and the enemy of diversity.  While that certainly can be true, open-mindedness, like everything else must be tempered.

Being open to ideas, experiences, and other people’s beliefs is a generally a good thing.  In a society that is so divided, a little more of that would do wonders to bring about healing.  Not all ideas are equal.  Some view all religions, political beliefs, and philosophies to be the same.  If only people would understand that, then there would be peace, right?  Not exactly.  Many belief systems are destructive, and because we are human, even the good and true ones often get warped.

A balance should be struck between the hardened skeptic and the hippy that believes anything goes.  Listening to people is always important, but that doesn’t mean their ideas are valid, in fact they might be very toxic to society.  How much toxicity have we allowed into our culture for the sake of being “open-minded?”  That is a question the reader will have to answer for him or herself.  I certainly do not have the answer, but with all the dystopian media I have consumed along with the insane ideas now peddled as truth, I cannot help but wonder if fiction is closer to reality than I had thought.

Hurt Pt. 2

In my last entry, I discussed victimhood and the culture growing around that.  Pain is a shared experience, it is one of the things that all humans everywhere face.  Most wish to avoid it, however more and more American culture appears to be embracing it, placing people into categories based on historical and emotional pain groups.  A writer’s job is to pay attention to the world.

As stated in the previous blog.  I completely understand that there is hurt that I don’t understand and can never understand, and at the same time I’ve faced things that others will not understand.  That is the truth of being human.  Pain is pain.  Yes, some of it is more traumatic than others, such as seeing combat or being assaulted, but claiming that as an identifying feature accomplishes nothing.

There is a recent study that says teens are creating fake social media accounts to “bully” themselves.  Is this how much we prize victimhood?  Have we ended up creating an environment that favors those who define themselves solely by their pain that this has become a reality?  Life is short, and as we argue about who hurts more and what pain is more legitimate, feeling sorry for ourselves, our life is passing by.

As I watch this unfold, I cannot help but feel like this is something that would be considered unbelievable if it was in a fictional book.  Especially the part where teens bully themselves to get attention.  If that was in a book I was reading, it would feel campy and forced.  Yet this is the reality of the world we live in.

Hurt

I’ve said before that a big part of writing is observing the behavior of people.  This observation enables authors to be guided toward more realistic characters.  One observation that has become very apparent in recent years is hurt.  So many people appear to be defined by the past and the pain that was inflicted upon them.

We are emotional, sensitive beings, even people who care very little for others are still sensitive, particularly when it comes to their own feelings.  I do not pretend to know about every type of pain and how to overcome it.  I do not know what it is like to be a veteran with PTSD or to give birth to a child.  I have not felt the pain of going days without food, or the hurt of being divorced.  One thing I am certain of, if you are human you have been hurt.

Pain is as much of the human experience as pleasure.  We have all felt it, and not only have we all felt it, we have our own personalized version of it.  I know from my own experiences that there are things nearly impossible to get past.  My wife too has endured pain and suffering few know about, and she has shown such a level of grace that it seems inhuman to me.

We each know pain, but not all of us are familiar with the same type of pain that may plague another person.  That being said, no pain is too great to overcome.  Yes, there are hurts that are beyond what humans were ever meant to endure.  I do acknowledge that, but at what point do we become stuck and defined by our pain?  There seems to be so many people that this scenario applies to.  This is seen heavily in identity politics, groups of all shapes and sizes coming out of the woodwork screaming “What about me?!  I have been wronged!”  Yes, yes you have been.  You know what?  So have the people you think are against you.

If we identify ourselves only by pain and gather with those who shared similar hurt, then how can we grow?  If we continually shout, “what about me?” when someone voices a concern.  If we utilize a person’s race, religion, philosophy, or nationality to say they do not understand pain, what are we accomplishing?  Nothing, nothing but more hurt and more division.  There is no glory in victimhood, and ultimately it will lead to shallowness and loneliness.  If we think our pain to be so great that we can in turn shout down someone else then that reflects more on us than anyone else, even if our pain is legitimate.