21 October, 2010

Review - Concrete Operational by Richard Galbraith

When I was first approached (by email) to review Concrete Operational [US] [UK], I was quite intrigued. This was the first time I'd accepted something of the sort; i.e. a book that had it's own accompanying album and art book.

What a novel idea? And yet my intrigue didn't stop there. I began reading the book and immediately I was sucked into the ideas and promises that were being made. I thought, if Concrete Operational lives up to this, it will be amazing.

I waited and I waited, hoping the next chapter would bring this book to the level it deserved, to the level I had hoped it would reach, to stun me.

But, and very sadly, that moment never came. It was lost amidst poor execution and confusion, being overly explicit, and most disappointing of all - editing errors.

From the back of the book:
Germany Germany, a man who was free, a man who loved, now an instrument in their machine. They have turned him into the very thing he hates, what he and everyone he loved fought against, the world's greatest celebrity, a tool in the subjugation of man.

But the memories of freedom and lvoe remain, and he will fight and change the course of human history for the better, but at what end?

As humanity progresses and turns to face the eternal black of the universe, the questions of free will and fate, of love and peace, of the riddles of time itself will arise, and Germany will be called upon. But is his will strong enough, is his mind ready to breach toe void and provide us with salvation?
Concrete Operational begins as an amalgamation of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Heroes Die by Matthew Stover. The people are oppressed, not through a drug per se, but through Celebrity and The Benefit. The masses are addicted to watching the latest celebrity so much so that it runs their lives and dreams. It is everything for them.

Germany Germany, though, along with his family, friends, and people have secluded themselves from The Benefit, being taught diatribes on the evils that it represents. They live on the Island - away and apart from Celebrity, but not for long.

This is not too far off our own world and you can probably see why this started to click for me. I couldn't count let alone list the amount of magazines devoted to pop culture, it blows my mind how addicted to television and celebrity for that matter we as a society have become.

Sadly, the execution of these ideas involved every other character droning on and on about society and and the character of man. They began to blend together into one character.

While I appreciated the ideas, the effect started to diminish as pages and pages were filled with soliloquy, even at one point when there was supposedly a conversation going on, it became a monologue.

Then, towards the end of the book, to add to my already lowering opinion, Concrete Operational suddenly became extremely explicit. I've read Abercrombie, Lynch, George RR Martin, and Steven Erikson. I can take gritty to a point, but this just took it too far and when that happens, I have to comment.

Now, I don't usually comment on editing errors. I've read enough ARC's to be able to ignore quite a bit. But, the problem in Concrete Operational is that this is not an ARC and the errors were not only numerous, but extremely irritating. Every page has at least a few extra/too few words and grammar mistakes. Argh.

For example, instead of a building being "razed to the ground" it was "raised to the ground". It's kind of funny that the antonym is so close. Instead of something going "through" something else, it went "threw" it. These are just a few examples of what is way too common throughout Concrete Operational.

When Should You Read Concrete Operational?

So much was promised in Concrete Operational, but the delivery ended up being a taxing experience. I stopped enjoying it at least midway through and I'm sad to say that I can't recommend this book. It had the potential for greatness, but with the poor editing and constant rambling, it failed overall.

1.5 out of 5 Stars

The Album

Definitely outshining it's contemporaries, the Album is actually quite good. It has 5 songs, covering death metal to techno to a band that sounded a lot like Radiohead. Very enjoyable.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

The Artbook

Actually much more explicit than the book itself (my wife even ripped out some of the pages), I can't say that I enjoyed it. Not that the entire artbook is explicit, there are some things that are well done. So, take this as you want from someone who has as little art experience as I have.

1 out of 5 Stars

Visit the author's website

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher


Waaargh Pug said...

When you say "explicit," are you meaning sexually explicit, or something altogether different, like violence?

Bryce L. said...

More sexually. Sorry, you're right that wasn't clear.

Jamie Gibbs said...

I wondered about this when i saw the 1 star review on Goodreads. It seemed like a pretty good idea, but if there are that many flaws then not even its gimmick can redeem it.

ediFanoB said...

I like honest reviews. I must admit the the text from the back of the book did not intrigue me.
So, there is one more reason beside your review to avoid this novel.

Bryce L. said...

@Jamie - It's a great premise, but I don't think I would have finished had I not promised to review it.

@edi - Yeah, don't do it. It's not worth it.