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The Bitter Guide to Science Fiction

Not Suitable for Pregnant Women or People with High Blood Pressure

JJ Mohareb
August 31, 2000

Hot Lovin and Slow Cookin! Well, it is summer once again, and the bitter guy finds himself once again bathing in the rays of the sun his ancestors venerated. How lucky they were to have an intact ozone layer.

So now, slathered with SPF 10^20 sunscreen, I come to bring to you, the loyal bitterites, love and cheer.

You may note that the Bitter Guy has taken the first step onto the Dark Side. Yes, I have become a whore to Amazon.com. I do this, gentle reader, for one reason; your convenience. Now, you will no longer have to journey to your local bookstore, SciFi or otherwise, to acquire the fruits of my bitter wisdom. Nope. You are a click away from the very books youve read about here.

I can almost hear the cheers of gratitude from the fans, and stunned weeping from the book-vendors. Hah! Feel my wrath, regional book-vendors! Now will you regret your cries of "this is no lending li-brary!"

Besides, if Skarka can slap on the leather boots and head for the nearest street corner, who am I to be noble? Of course, I figure Ill also slap in links to every half-baked pop culture reference I make, because I just love this thing.

First off, Id like to say that Michael Moore, who is an otherwise amusing and fun person to read & watch, should have included an expiry date on his last book (or one of his last books. The last book of his I read. Feh. Dont care anymore), Downsize This!! Basically, it was probably funnier when A) it was 96, and Bob 'My Penis works! My Penis Works!' Dole was running for president. Its also a bit repetitive, since hes been over this ground already and has started a new show, one that is slightly less enjoyable than TV nation was. But this book finds itself paling next to the much more humorous Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot: And Other Observations by Al Franken.

Of course, Franken has fumbled his own ball. With Why Not Me? : The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken White House, he writes his presidential diary. In it, he posits himself gaining the Presidency of the United States, with the help of his drunken brother and the Insurance industry. Why Not Me is also Not Very Funny. The final days of the Franken Presidency are mildly interesting, with the most powerful man in the world reduced to a shattered shell by his apology for, well, Slavery and everything else (including disco, which is NOTHING to be ashamed of. Burn, baby, burn indeed!). I guess since its a fictional book, and his previous experience with fiction was Stuart Saves His Family (a film that proves that SNL movies without Mike Meyers in them will definitely suck), we might forgive him for this. Go back to slappy satire, Al. We can try to recapture some of the joy that was the Al Franken decade.

The Red Tape War is written by three different SF authors (Chalker, Resnick, and someone else) who, really, should have known better. Ill admit, I read it about three years ago. But what I do remember is that they really shouldnt have. I mean, its one thing to get pissed and write a story in a round while you try to screw the other guy into a corner. Thats fine. Ive done it (although Im willing to bet we didnt get quite THIS pissed). But, for the love of God, dont try to sell it to people. Theyll just hate it. Just like your kids pictures. Theyre not as cute as you think. Except for Ivy. Shes adorable.

Savage Season is the first Hap and Leonard books (which sound suspiciously like a childrens book series, except with Hapkido & power tools). In it, the two guys get in trouble because of Haps ex-wife, who has a crazy plan to get half a million in stolen money, lost on the bottom of a river. The book, like the other two H&L books Ive read, was fun, in a poor southern ninja kind of way. The story is interesting, and the characters are all interesting. Some less pleasant than others, but thats to be expected in a suspense novel. The cover was the weakest point of the book. It featured an image of a womans hand thats been nailed to a table, which left me wondering throughout the entire book I wonder when the sole female character is going to find her hand nailed to a table? How wonderful of the publishers to provide Novocain for what would otherwise be a horrifying and stunning turn of events! Next time, lets have a picture of a hobbit tossing a ring into a volcano. Yeah, thats a nice gripping image, and cant possibly ruin anyones enjoyment of the story.

Clan Novel: Setite was, once again, proof that game fiction doesnt have to suck (although it probably will). Written by Kathy Ryan, its the story of Hesha, an Egyptian vampire of indeterminate age, and Liz, his plucky sidekick. Okay, not quite. But its portrayal of the vampire deathstyle was the most satisfying Ive seen yet in the Clan Novel series. And the lead character is Egyptian, which is just cool. The books structure is a nice round one, starting at a point, flipping a month earlier, and coming up to a point (a circle, like a snake devouring its tail, but thats too trite to say except between parentheses). The sole flaw with it is that the characters and story are so engaging that I almost forgot the position the main character was in at the beginning of the book, until I got to the end of the book, which explained how she got there. And, as flaws go, thats one more writers could use.

Ahhhh, new Tanya Huff book. For me, getting a new Tanya Huff book is like sailing down a lazy river where you dont have stupid kids splashing around you, the currents are just nice, some brain damaged DeVry school of button-pressing reject wasnt allowed to put a cascade into the middle, and the sun is nice and warm. Its just a good experience. So, yeah, I loved Valor's Choice. Its about a team of hard bitten (grr!) Space Marines who get assigned to a cushy assignment as an honour guard for a diplomatic mission. But something goes horribly wrong! (gasp!) The story is good, and exciting. The sole flaw is, once again, there are more than ten characters & I didnt get a dramatis personae. It was difficult at times to track the grunts, and I couldnt keep track of who was who, and what race they were. The main characters were easy to track (theres the tough as nails Staff Sgt, theres the wet behind the pointy ears Second Left-ennant, and theres the can we trust him local guide). The dialogue is crisp, the action is brisk, and people use flamethrowers. What more can we ask that wont get us thrown into prison for the request?

So, there you have it, brought to you by popular demand. The score: Neo-viking Frenchmen: 0, Raging Bitterness:879.

Bitterly yours, JJ Mohareb

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What do you think?

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All Bitter Guides to Science Fiction by Justin Mohareb

Ha ha! I lied! #1-7 are up at his site, and I haven't added a link yet. Here are his most recent, though.

  • Because it's been too long January 15, 2002
  • It's the Bitter Guide! Now MSG free! September 19, 2001
  • And it's all verbal June 25, 2001
  • The official, Millenial, Party-licious Wes Smiderle Bitter Guide (with a sprinkling of Buffy and little chocolate toppings) April 4, 2001
  • The Bitter Guide: Pants Optional November 16, 2000
  • Not Suitable for Pregnant Women or People with High Blood Pressure August 31, 2000
  • Saludos, Amigos, a bitter greeting to you! May 4, 2000
  • I am the Bitter Guy! Watch Iron Chef!, April 7, 2000
  • The Bitter Guide to Books I Couldn't Finish, January 14, 2000, plus special bonus The Bitter Guide to the new Moe-llennium
  • Squirrels Eat Parsley, Yum!, December 6, 1999
  • Second Anniversaries and Weddings, June 29, 1999
  • Begin Witty and Trenchant rantery, April 13, 1999
  • #10 November 24, 1999
  • #9 September 29, 1998
  • #8 July 28, 1998