Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bad Risk

The old adage goes "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." And in general, that advice is well taken. However, when one is asked to render an opinion about a specific person, place, or thing, it's necessary to suspend that particular guidance. Because if I had to say something nice about Michael Bronte's book Presidential Risk, I would be at a loss for words.

I don't like giving up on books. No matter how dense or dull the material may be, once I crack the cover, I'm determined to finish the book or die trying. In reality, I've probably bailed on more books over the years than I realize, but it's become something of a point of pride that I slog my way through them and if I don't, I almost regard it as a personal failing. Which is silly, since the true fault should lie with the author for not providing more compelling content.

Having said that, I admit to not being able to finish "Presidential Risk." Lord knows I tried. No matter how times I put it down vowing "no mas," I picked it up again, hoping that the next chapter would provide enough of a ray of hope to carry on. But I have now reached my breaking point and I can't standz no more.

It shouldn't have ended like this. Based on the synopsis, this is a book I could have enjoyed:

When dead presidents in a supernatural world play the board game of world conquest, their moves are carried out in the human world.

Leaders are born and dictators rise to power as presidents past, such as Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, and others, plot their moves. One of them makes a move, and invasion takes place on Earth.

In the supernatural world, it's about strategy, wits, and the will to win. But on Earth, it's an action and adventure story featuring a psychopathic dictator threatening the United States, and the boy who will grow up to stop him from taking over the world. It might seem impossible, but history is being determined before it actually happens.

I like the game Risk. I like politics. I like history. I'm even partial to a bit of science fiction on occasion. But there was nothing for me to like about "Presidential Risk." I suppose I could say it has a unique concept. That however does not make for a good story if the execution is poor. And here it was terrible.

As the synopsis notes, "Presidential Risk" unfolds in two world, one human and one supernatural. The chapters set in the real world actually aren't that bad. If the book only contained that storyline, I have no doubt that I would have finished it. It's the supernatural world of dead presidents (and other leaders) that makes "Presidential Risk" annoying and ultimately unreadable.

Bronte's efforts in this world to be clever are stupid. To be interesting, inane. To be funny, painfully awkward. After a while, I began to wonder if this world was actually a parody intended to be a send-up of bad science fiction writing. But eventually I had to conclude that it was all too real and all too awful.

Life's too short to read lousy books. And I've already wasted too much time on this one.