Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Conqueror Worms - Book Review  

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Books: Haven’t done a book review in a while, but that's probably because I haven't read any books. However, I was able to sneak in Brian Keene’s The Conqueror Worms between gigs. It took me about three times longer than it normally takes to read a book, but slow and steady wins the race… or something.
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Anyway, Conqueror Worms starts off with the premise that rain starts falling all across the globe and just doesn't stop. Water levels rise so that most landmasses are submerged, and at the same time, giant worms (among other creatures) rise from the depths of the earth to wreak havoc on what surface is left.
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Most of the book is told from the perspective of an old man living at the top of a mountain near a rural community. His best friend from the next house over eventually comes to stay with him, and they are joined by survivors who arrive by helicopter. Events on the mountain happen pretty much like you'd expect, but in the middle of the book Keene takes a little bit of a detour and recounts the story of what the helicopter survivors have left behind.
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Switching narrators and taking up what must be pretty close to the middle third of the book, spending so much time on what is essentially a side-story flashback feels like a bit of an odd choice to make. This middle section also feels like it could have been a short story unto itself, causing Conqueror Worms to seem more like a combination of separate shorts than one cohesive novel. I don't really object to the many-stories-in-one-world format, but a few more vignettes would have been nice to flesh things out. Failing that, streamlining that middle section and sticking with the main narrator would've helped make everything feel tighter overall.
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If there's one thing I admire about Keene’s writing, it's that he takes a very common-sense approach to surviving horrific events and really thinks through what the average person would likely do when faced with a very non-average situation. I love that stuff, and Keene does it better than just about anyone. That same horse sense is present on every page of the book, but as much as I admired it, I do have to say that Conqueror Worms as a whole never felt like it was firing on all cylinders.
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Though mediocre Keene is better than most other authors’ best, I can’t honestly say that this one kept me turning the pages.
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*BTW, that ridiculous cover art is one of the lamest, cheapest and most embarrassing pieces of amateur photoshop hackjobbery I've ever seen, but I don't blame Brian for that... His publishers really should have done better for him. Nightcrawlers? Really? For shame, Dorchester.
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3 comments: to “ The Conqueror Worms - Book Review


  •  

    Yeah, as I was reading this post I was determined to comment about the cover, like "I don't want to be caught reading book with that cover" or something to that effect. Looks like you beat me to it. Seriously, that's such an amateur Photoshoppping (the tentacle stuff is obviously overlayed to the photo) that I'm surprised the publisher just let it go away with that.

    I like the ideas of this book a lot and I'm just surprised about not seeing any of his works reach this part of the world (Philippines), given how highly regarded he is among readers of horror fictions. Even his "mediocre" stuff sounds like a compelling enough read for me.


  •  

    No doubt about the cover. I don't read sci-fi stuff, but I literally laughed out loud when I saw that cover.

    The story sounds interesting, but in the proud tradition of ignoring the cliched wisdom about judging books and covers, I'd be embarrassed to even let my dogs see me with that book in hand. If forced to choose between plunking that thing down on the counter at B&N or going shopping for tampons and Vagisil, I think I'd have to choose the latter.

    Then again, I'm still too embarrassed to be seen playing a DS in public, so I might be the wrong person to ask.


  •  

    Well you can always Amazon it to forgo the plunking down that thing on the counter of B&N.

    As for DS, Nintendogs is reason enough to be embarrassed. ^_^