Sebastian and Rain read Year One by Nora Roberts and were horrified to discover she managed to make the end of the world boring.
Sebastian: You forced us to read Year One by Nora Roberts. What do you have to say for yourself?
Rain: I’m so sorry! I honestly thought it was going to be good. She’s so famous, the description was enticing, and it has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon with 770 reviews.
Sebastian: I want to explain why it was so bad but I don’t know where to start.
Rain: You could start with the writing.
Sebastian: You thought the writing was bad? Then it must have been dreadful.
Rain: I don’t know the grammatical terms, but there were way too many sentences like this:
Alecia slammed the book shut, hurled it against the wall. It dented the plaster, dropped to the carpet. “You’re one of the worst books I ever read,” she said, glared.
Sebastian: I don’t object to creative interpretations of grammar in fiction, but when you have two or more such sentences each page it makes my brain hurt. “Lana opened the car door, got out.” I want to shout, “Write a grammatically complete sentence!”
Rain: I can’t believe we agree on so much about this book.
Sebastian: Don’t worry, I’m sure it won’t happen again. Even when the sentences were complete, the prose was mundane and often jarring. Not every sentence has to be poetry, but a writer shouldn’t have an entirely wooden ear.
Rain: How badly do you want to rant about the characters?
Sebastian: Start a timer. If I’m still going after three hours you can interrupt.
Rain looks for a stopwatch and doesn’t find one. She does find a glow-in-the-dark yoyo.
Sebastian: There were two types of characters: good ones and bad ones. The bad ones were entirely and irredeemably bad. They pillaged, raped, and killed for fun, wore leather, decorated themselves with tattoos, and rode motorbikes. Luckily for the good guys you could always tell who they were because they wore ugly sneers when they first met you and then they tried to shoot you.
Rain: That did make things more straightforward.
Sebastian: It’s a story. Things aren’t supposed to be easy. And speaking of the good guys, they were all honest, hard-working, straightforward, helpful, and utterly glad for each others’ company. In other words, one-dimensional and dull as stones. They all got along with each other all the time.
Rain: Except for the one guy who pilfered chips.
Sebastian: And then was immediately remorseful. Basically there was no conflict between the good guys, and none of them had internal conflict either.
Rain: And we all know books need conflict.
Sebastian: You have been listening!
Rain: Speaking of conflict, didn’t you think the whole thing was a bit… easy?
Sebastian: Way too easy. The end of civilisaton should be challenging. Oh no, we have to get out of the city. There are plenty of cars, plenty of fuel, plenty of supplies to be collected, and they have magic that can start any vehicle they find. The biggest problem they faced was having to use an SUV to push cars out of the way. Then they get to a remote cabin, fully stocked with food, of course, and equipped with a generator well-supplied with petrol. And did I mention that they’re travelling through snowy North America in winter with no electricity a lot of the way and no one ever seems to get cold?
Rain: It did seem a bit unrealistic.
Sebastian: Luckily for them the end of the world didn’t disrupt the water supply, because these people could not survive without indoor toilets. The whole thing felt like a survival book written by someone who has never suffered any kind of deprivation. After weeks of travelling alone and pregnant through a hostile wilderness, Lana is so relieved to find moisturiser so she can feel feminine again.
Rain: You’re not a woman. You’re not expected to understand the importance of moisturiser.
Sebastian: I know it’s not more important than food, water, shelter from the elements, or some kind of human interaction. The sign that society is starting to rebuild itself should not be that a woman has finally managed to redo the highlights in her hair.
Rain: Of course not. Getting a haircut and shaving come way before highlights. Unless they’re really badly grown out.
Sebastian: I could go on, but I’ll talk about a few of the logical inconsistencies instead. Communications with the outside world break down, yet somehow everyone knows to call the new magical people Uncannys and the bad guys Raiders. Then the techy guy’s first priority is to get the internet back up so people in their isolated settlement can email their families back home. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t entirely understand how the internet works, but I’m pretty sure it needs electricity to run, and not just at the location of the person sending the email.
Rain: But they had magic.
Sebastian: That explains everything, then. And did I mention there’s a Chosen One who is destined to save the world? She’s only a baby so far, so I guess there’ll be lots of sequels while she’s still growing up. I know for certain I won’t be reading them.
Rain: You’re not in the least bit curious what happens next?
Sebastian: Not even slightly. This book made the end of the world boring. Sure, the end of the world is probably going to be tedious beyond measure, but I hope for more from my fiction. I don’t need to know about the sign-up sheet for their yoga group, the rules for switching furniture between abandoned houses, or the cooking lessons their chef gave.
Rain: I liked that they did yoga.
Sebastian: You’re trying to start an argument, aren’t you?
Rain flicks her yoyo and hits Sebastian in the arm. He snatches it off her and puts it in his pocket.
Sebastian: The “surviving the apocalypse” aspect of the book read like every other generic end-of-the-word book, though without zombies. It contained no unique challenges or insights. The fantasy aspects of the book were just as bad–they read like “I’m going to write about magical creatures” by someone who has never read a fantasy book in her life.
Rain: She’s probably watched Harry Potter, though. Nearly everyone has.
Sebastian: It didn’t help.
Have you read Year One? Are Sebastian and Rain being unfair?
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