6 Weirdly Terrible Books By Famous Authors
No author's bibliography is spotless. Stephen King wrote duds like The Tommyknockers, Philip Roth wrote a stupid book about a horny man turning into a giant breast, and even my book was criticized for rendering most other literature pointless in comparison. But there are bad books, and then there are books that make you wonder if literature in general was a mistake. Here's what happens when a writer gets so successful that it's no longer financially viable to tell them no.
George R.R. Martin Wrote A Story Featuring Lots Of Necrophilia
George R.R. Martin had a long and prolific career before he hit it big writing 71% of A Song Of Ice And Fire. And while his extensive back catalog is already being mined for terrible new TV shows, one story that's unlikely to get an adaptation is "Meathouse Man," because it contains sentences like "Trager was drained and satisfied, but he had more time left, and he was determined to get his money's worth. He explored her thoroughly, sticking his fingers everywhere they would go, touching her everywhere, rolling it over, looking at everything. The corpse moved like dead meat."
The sci-fi premise is that corpses can be preserved and controlled for the purposes of industrial labor, leading to bleak mining and factory planets where there are more dead bodies than living people. Naturally, the handlers working on these "corpseworlds" need something to do in their downtime, and in Martin's imagination, that something is to visit brothels where corpses twitch and flop around for their pleasure. What's that like, you're probably not asking? "On her huge breasts, all around the fat dark nipples, the last customer had left tooth-marks where he'd chewed her. Trager touched the marks tentatively, traced them with a finger. Then, sheepish about his hesitations, he grabbed one breast, squeezed it hard, pinched the nipple until he imagined a real girl would squeal with pain. The corpse did not move."
It's ostensibly a commentary on loneliness and the need for human connection, as Trager has trouble talking to real women and becomes increasingly obsessed with visiting "meathouses." Twice he falls in love, and twice it fails, the first time because he's rejected, and the second because he's dumped for his best friend. Trager then decides that love is a lie, abandons any hope of improving his life, and finds himself a nice corpse with "a strange erotic innocence in her smile" to settle down with. But critics have pointed out that once you get beyond the shock value, the message is "If only this man who happily fucks corpses had a steady girlfriend, then he'd be all better!"
So when you read "The sensuous evenings with Laurel and the fumbling sex of his boyhood were things of yesterday; Trager took his meatmates hard and quick, almost brutally, fucked them with a wordless savage power to the inevitable perfect orgasm," it's hard not to interpret it as the manifesto of a futuristic incel. Martin himself calls it "the darkest, bleakest, sickest, most twisted thing I ever wrote," although he did promote the 2013 graphic novel, in case anyone reading this was hoping for visuals. The next time you hear someone ask "How could a mind be twisted enough to come up with the Red Wedding?" you can tell them that's actually Martin toning things way down.
Orson Scott Card Prophesied A New Civil War Where Only Fox News Can Be Trusted
Nerdy teenagers have long been legally required to read Ender's Game, lauded for its clever twists and mature handling of subjects like war and genocide. Orson Scott Card has since had an insanely prolific career, writing everything from 17 more Ender books to Bible story retellings, but somewhere along the line, the quality started to suffer, and Card became better-known for being outspoken about his politics, like his zealous opposition to gay marriage. That brings us to 2006's Empire.
In Empire, President Not George W. Bush For Legal Reasons is somehow a beloved moderate who gets assassinated by the far-left Progressive Restoration, which puts the country on the brink of a new civil war. The Restoration is led by Not George Soros For Legal Reasons, who has somehow managed to train a huge army and revolutionize warfare by developing mechs and hoverbikes from his secret mountain lair. The Restoration then occupies New York City and uses their mechs to gun down anyone in uniform, to which the city's civilians react by ... welcoming them as the new legitimate government, because in Card's world, all of New York's police officers burned through their post-9/11 goodwill in a real hurry.
Card, with apparent sincerity, hammers home that all political extremes are dangerous, and that the overwhelming majority of moderate Americans need to make their voices better heard so that demagoguery can be resisted. But our moderate soldier heroes who help restore order amidst the madness hate the media, make fun of Al Gore and that crazy fake climate change he's always on about, complain that Europe is too tolerant of other cultures, believe that a woman's place is only in the home, and even, and this is not a joke, appear on the single trustworthy media outlet out there to spread their message: The O'Reilly Factor.
Empire is an appeal for sanity from someone who thinks the military should never be questioned and that Dick Cheney is an unappreciated moderate in a world where half of America would cheer cops getting gunned down in the streets by killbots. It reads like a sad rant from someone who's let his anger get in the way of his talent, and that anger became Card's biggest shtick after he followed up Empire with deeply homophobic statements and comparing Obama to Hitler. It only gets worse in the sequel, Hidden Empire, in which white Christian Americans have to save barbarous Africa from evil Muslims. This is perhaps the only franchise in history where the video game has the best story.
Stephenie Meyer Wrote A "Thriller" With An Even Worse Love Story Than Twilight
Back around 2008, the entire cultural landscape was based on either being a fan of Twilight or making fun of Twilight. Stephenie Meyer sold over 100 million books, but was criticized for romanticizing a quasi-abusive relationship that featured a heroine with about as much agency as a Tetris block. But I'm not trying to reopen that debate, because the romantic relationship in her 2016 thriller The Chemist is much, much worse.
The Chemist stars Alex, a genius interrogator for an extra double secret government spy agency. Her specialty is concocting chemical injections so painful that otherwise-unbreakable prisoners spill their secrets, and she's presented as an unflappable terror who also happens to listen to relatable indie rock and obsess over her appearance. Oh yeah, and she's also an awkward virgin who needs to hit up spy thrillers at the library for "going on the run" tips. Her old handlers are trying to kill her, but then they offer her amnesty if she completes, wait for it, one last job. It's paced like a sumo wrestler running a marathon and has less tension than a broken guitar string. It would be forgettably bland if not for the romance, which sees our heroine fall deeply in love with her hot new torture victim.
Daniel Beach is a teacher believed to be planning a terror attack, and Alex's assignment is to torture the information out of him. But plot twist, it's actually his identical twin CIA agent brother Kevin who's the mastermind! But, additional plot shimmy, Kevin is being framed for reasons too stupid to get into here! But, ridiculous plot convolution, Alex doesn't learn any of this until she's kidnapped Daniel, stripped him naked, and inflicted what is supposed to be among the greatest agonies known to humanity upon him.
Once that awkward misunderstanding is cleared up, Daniel immediately forgives Alex and expresses regret that she wasted her time torturing him. He even offers to fetch her an Aspirin for her minor injury after he regains consciousness from, once again for emphasis, being brutally tortured. Daniel is soon fawning over Alex with lines like "You make every other person I've known seem insubstantial, somehow incomplete," which melts her lil' secret government torturer's heart. I'm not saying that Meyer is bad at writing believable men, but Daniel's reaction to twice being warned that he needs to lay low because the government wants him dead is to go grocery shopping.
In between "action" that reads like a confused Meyer trying to recap her child's Call Of Duty matches, Alex and Daniel spend long stretches of the book making out like teenagers, cooking, talking about movies, and playing with dogs, all while ostensibly on the run from super spies. The Chemist ends with them opening a restaurant together and even appearing on a cooking show, despite having left a pile of bodies and an angry government in their wake. It's as if Nora Roberts had to write a Jason Borne book after suffering a severe concussion.
Thomas Harris Tried To Create A Villain As Iconic As Hannibal Lecter; Didn't
Thomas Harris is famous for Hannibal Lecter and not much else. His sporadic output is attributed to his view of writing as a grim slog, so when he announced his first novel in 13 years, and his first non-Hannibal novel in 44, the hype was massive. Then Cari Mora came out, and readers noticed that the font size was massive, as if the publisher was trying to make a short work look long. It didn't get any better once people started reading those words.
Cari Mora is a former Colombian child soldier working as the caretaker of Pablo Escobar's old Miami house, which sounds like the premise of a gritty HGTV show. It has $25 million in cartel gold hidden in the basement, and "sex furniture" aboveground. Various evildoers are seeking that treasure (it's unclear why the government doesn't just seize it), and chief among them is, ugh, Hans-Peter Schneider.
Schneider reads like Harris was filling out a villainous Bingo card in a desperate attempt to one-up the iconic Lecter. He has the bizarre physical abnormality of being totally hairless! He's so evil that he locked his parents in a freezer so he could shatter their frozen bodies with an axe! His day job is maiming women to satisfy the sexual fetishes of his clients! Oh, and he traffics organs! And he carries around a "liquid cremation machine" to dispose of bodies and flush their remains down toilets! And he sings a little theme song when he uses it!
Now, any book can be described in a way that makes it sound dumb, but even the most generous review of Cari Mora suggested that maybe it was bad ironically. Any threat created by Schneider goes out the window when he's described as having a "whiff of brimstone," looking like "a dick wearing glasses," planning to "Creep [the house] with the girl Cari Mora asleep in her hotness upstairs," and working with an associate dubbed "Bobby Joe of the yellow eyes."
Cari Mora was ripped apart for having all the signs of a sad cash-in that received less revision than most drunk texts. At one point, Harris abandons the plot entirely to hype up the bird sanctuary he volunteers at, because that's apparently more interesting to him than writing now. Jesus, if he needed money this badly, he could have just put up a GoFundMe.
James Patterson And Bill Clinton Collaborated On Bill Clinton Fanfiction
In 2018, airport scourge James Patterson teamed up with former president Bill Clinton to write a political thriller, or at least to hash out the basics over coffee before their respective underlings wrote it for them. The President Is Missing opens with President Jonathan Lincoln Duncan facing a House committee questioning his apparent willingness to negotiate with terror group the Sons of Jihad. If Duncan flubs this questioning, he could face impeachment.
That would, of course, be the greatest outrage in American history, because President Duncan is a motherfucking American. This is a man who declares "At a ball game, there is no finer beverage than an ice-cold Bud," and small-minded Republicans want to engage in partisan hackery by questioning his decisions? What could be more patriotic than blindly trusting the president at all times, especially when he insists that he totally didn't commit sexual miscondu- uh, negotiate with a terrorist?
There's a rambling story about stopping a magical virus from annihilating all of America's computers, but this is primarily Clinton fanfic. Duncan's basic biographical details are identical to Clinton's, but the manly wish-fulfilling president is also a former ballplayer and accomplished Army Ranger who survived torture in the Gulf War. Oh, and Duncan's wife is dead, but she didn't depart this Earth before telling her friend, "one of the twenty most beautiful women on the planet," to keep Duncan from getting lonely. Read into that what you will.
The President Is Missing is full of the usual Patterson inanity that keeps your mom entertained during bathtub wine night, like the classical-music-loving female assassin named Bach who sleeps with her lover "no more than three times a week to maximize his potency." The book also takes great pains to establish plot points -- like Duncan having a rare blood condition -- that are then dropped faster than Clinton killed Glass-Steagall. But what's more interesting are the glimpses we get into Clinton's beliefs.
President Duncan is always proven right, and those who question him are always proven wrong. At one point, he makes the difficult decision to risk civilian lives in an attack on those irreligious Sons of Jihad troublemakers, which is blamed on the bad guys and never reflected on again. The book ends with Duncan giving a speech that kills talk of impeachment and sends his approval ratings soaring because of how awesome he is. In it, he explains that Americans need to put aside their differences, trust that their president will always do right, and unite against the twin evils of media fearmongering and Russian meddling. (Saudi Arabia, however, is emphasized as a great ally that's definitely going to get around to providing basic human rights any day now.) If this sounds far too stupid to read, then don't worry, because you can just watch the upcoming Showtime adaptation!
Michael Crichton Wrote About The Threat Of Climate Change ... Being Faked By Mass-Murdering Environmentalists
Michael Crichton was a master of merging compelling fiction with clear explanations of complicated science. And just like Jurassic Park warned against us against abusing science to play god, State Of Fear tackled the seriousness of climate change by calmly explaining that, uh, it's total bullshit cooked up by radical environmentalists.
The book revolves around a mainstream environmental nonprofit that's secretly helping eco-terrorists induce a series of "natural" disasters. It's never really explained why they're OK with killing thousands of people, because they're never given characterization beyond "evil," but their ultimate plan is to trigger a tsunami that annihilates the California coastline, thereby forcing the world to take climate change seriously. They also murder anyone who gets in their way with rare octopus venom and other Captain-Planet-approved methods.
To give you a sense of the book's subtle approach, an airhead celebrity activist is eaten by cannibals moments after praising their pre-Industrial ways, but not before Crichton zings him with the ol' "You think modern society is causing global warming, yet you continue to exist in it! Hypocrite much?" argument. But the plot is mostly an excuse for the heroic Crichton-esque lead to spend a lot of time teaching his naive sidekick that the government and media have conspired to trick all but a few heroic rebels into numb complacency with fake climate science. This looks particularly insane today.
At one point, Crichton uses a tortured analogy to explain that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has only increased by the equivalent of less than half an inch on a football field, which is the rhetorical equal of saying "I only put a bit of cyanide in her wine, so how was I to know it would kill her?" Crichton also compares climate science to the pseudoscience used to justify the Holocaust, in case you weren't yet clear on his stance.
The book received a mixed reception, being praised in a Senate committee by a senator who called global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," and winning an award from a petroleum association ... but getting absolutely slammed by basically every expert even remotely qualified to speak on the subject. One scientist said that Crichton misunderstood his paper when citing it. This was Crichton's second-to-last book, and it has all the signs of a grumpy old man buying into his own hype so hard that he thinks he knows better than the broad consensus of people who have dedicated their lives to studying the subject. At least his final book was a return to form that fictionalized one of State Of Fear's critics as a man on trial for raping a two-year-old.
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