Books Are Pretty

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Citizen Alpha.

Yeah. Okay. Hm.

I've got to be honest, here. I couldn't get past chapter six of this book, because quite frankly, it made me grumpy.

The synopsis of Citizen Alpha on the back of the book says it's about a study group of graduate students versus a gang of warlords and terrorists, and the graduate students have to somehow rescue America from the threat of a nuclear holocaust.

A good idea, I suppose, but the story reads like Cliff's Notes, or a 9th grade book report, and ultimately I just couldn't hack it.

Each of the first few chapters are devoted to a different character, and their entire biographies are given in a terse, just-the-facts-ma'am style that didn't draw me in at all. Every single one of them read like this:

The warlords used their wealth to buy children from the less fortunate. Parents were often forced to sell their children in order to eat for the next year or two. Musad's parents, having nothing with which to raise their child, felt that they had no choice but to sell him to one of the local warlords. By doing so, they would also be though of much more higly at the mosque they attended as is was controlled by the warlord. Like all children taken by the warlords, Musad was trained to be a talibay child. Talibay children are considered property of the purchasing warlord, and they esist to enrich the warlord by begging for money. His parents were sad but thought he would have a better life as a talibay child.

A sad life, to be sure, but this is not character development. This is a series of facts about the character that does nothing to show the reader the soul inside.

And seriously, "his parents were sad?" They were sad? Sad? That's it?

These chapters seem almost dismissive, like the writer can't be bothered to give the reader any extra humanizing details, so we're left with nothing but plain, blunt sentences that gloss over an entire life of pain. There's a lack of care in the book that seems very disrespectful to both the characters as well as the reader.

Imagine if Charlotte Brontë had written like this.

Think of the opening scene in Jane Eyre where little Jane is banished from the sitting room.

Eliza, John, and Georgiana were now clustered round their mama in the drawing-room: she lay reclined on a sofa by the fireside, and with her darlings about her (for the time neither quarreling nor crying) looked perfectly happy. Me, she had dispensed from joining the group; saying, "She regretted to be under the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation, that I was endeavoring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner- something lighter, franker, more natural, as it were - she really must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy, little children."

"What does Bessie say I have done?" I asked.

"Jane, I don't like cavillers or questioners; besides, there is something truly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that manner. Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent."

A breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room, I slipped in there. It contained a bookcase: I soon possessed myself of a volume, taking care that it should be one stored with pictures. I mounted into the window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk; and , having drawn the red moreen curtain nearly close, I was shrined in double retirement.

Now imagine Jane Eyre as Citizen Alpha:

Jane's aunt was cruel to her. Jane was sad and left the room to read a book.

Fan fucking tastic.

However, it must be said that I read excerpts of Citizen Alpha to Steve, who saw nothing wrong with it. He does not like to read, because he thinks most books take too long to get to the point. If you feel as he does, this may be the book for you.


Citizen Alpha
by Patrick E. Peterson
August, 2008 by Synergy Books
Paperback, 305pp
ISBN: 1934454206

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