Thursday, February 26, 2009

Without exaggeration, the worst book I have ever read

Natural Selection by Dave Freedman

Okay, I've spent enough time on Amazon to have seen plenty of ranting, hyperbolic book reviews. That said--and in all seriousness--this is the worst book I have ever read. And it pains me to say that. I've been looking forward to reading Natural Selection for months. I have a background in marine biology (Smithsonian Institution) and was the editor of a scuba magazine for years. Simply put, there's absolutely nothing I love more than a good, trashy, sea monster novel. I'm not a snob about these things. But Natural Selection was just terrible in every way and on every level that it is possible for a book to be terrible.

The characters are all one-dimensional. Each one has a motivation that can be summed up in a single sentence. And just in case you don't get it, the sentence is repeated over and over. One character has trust issues. A married couple wants to save money to start a family (because two gainfully employed professionals can't possibly get pregnant without a bankroll). Another man wants the respect of his peers. That is all you really need to know.

As unbelievable as the characters are, the dialog is even worse. It is simply horrifying. This is the consummation of the obligatory romance building throughout the novel...

"Lisa, my...hard drive hasn't run in a very long time."
"I'm not just looking for...a quick reboot."

Sadly, that's not a parody. It's quoted directly from the novel.

But worse than the tissue paper-thin characters, worse than the laughable dialog, is just the sheer stupidity of this novel. Yes, part of the problem is that I actually know a lot about marine biology. And biology. And anything. God, this book is dumb! Biologist A suggests using thermal imaging equipment to find the flying killer manta and biologist B asks, "What's that?" Um, duh. Not to mention that it's a cold-blooded animal with a body temp that matches its surroundings! Yes, that sounds nit-picky, but page after page of stupidity just adds up. And the writing and editing is extraordinarily sloppy, which doesn't help matters.

I realize that there are dumb books out there. I know there's a market. I've read and thoroughly enjoyed many of them. But this book is just BAD. Anyone with a grasp of junior high school biology could point out how bogus the science in this book is and how shoddy the research. And even if you don't care about science or realism, it's just bad storytelling. Don't waste your money!

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