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.

The Horror of Dialect

In a creative writing class I had several years ago, the teacher cautioned against writing in dialect.  The irony was that at the same time I was taking an Advanced Placement English class that assigned several books written in that particular style. Throughout high school and subsequently college I have periodically read books written in dialect, and I can see why it isn’t common place anymore.

“There Eyes Were Watching God” is often hailed as a classic, and assigned in classrooms all across the country.  I struggled to get through it, I could barely make out what the characters were saying.  I love reading, obviously since I’m a writer, but reading books written entirely or mostly in dialect is an insurmountable challenge for me.  I can figure it out, but my brain wants to fix the words which means it makes reading slow.

Authors are called to “show nor tell” in their stories, and writing in dialect is one way to accomplish that.  To me, though this shows the pitfalls of relying too heavily on showing and not implementing it wisely.  Sometimes, writing short bursts of dialogue, such as a few lines, might be a creative way to show a character’s accent.  Writing an entire book that way is clunky.  That isn’t me saying I claim to be a better writer than these classical authors, but I share this perspective to let others know that if they feel the same, they aren’t alone.  If you are like me, then dialect can be not only clunky, but distracting from the overall plot.  Thank goodness it is a product of the past.

Quick thought on cliches

I have written about avoiding clichés, and even pointing out clichés that aren’t discussed often.  Something else came to my attention recently.  Most stories have clichés, in fact I cannot think of a single book, movie, or TV show that completely avoids clichés.  Perhaps there is something out there that doesn’t utilize an overused trope in its story, but I do not believe I encountered one.

The issue is how often do clichés appear and how they are utilized.  There are common threads that bind genres together, obviously, that is what makes them genres.  Yet, when something like a magical weapon that must be found, or destroyed in order to destroy the big bad is used, we automatically think of Tolkien.  In fact, that cliché is so overused in the fantasy genre that a story guilty of using this type of plot will be accused of being a Lord of the Rings rip-off.  However, lesser-used clichés, like a character finding what he needs in the middle of the book will be less obnoxious and more forgivable.

Stories that have noticeably less clichés and strive to be their own tale, instead of a repackage of their inspiration are what authors strive for.  In the search for originality, it is easy to loop back around into the territory of cliché once again.  Us writers should always intend to avoid things that are over used, but sometimes it is inevitable.  Just like in the real world, things repeat.  It is simply important to know when and where to use them and to be careful.