Whew boy, this book was an ordeal. People who follow me on my Twitter (@ThomasJBlack1) watched me struggle with this one in realtime, but for those who don’t give a fuck about Twitter and prefer blog posts featuring paragraphs of text all in one place… Yeah, this book was a chore.
I’ve mentioned before that nonsequential story telling is a pet pieve of mine. Admittedly, this one does it better than most… Sometimes. As far as Mitchel’s high school romance storyline goes, at least I had warning that we were going to be spending several chapters jumping to the past. More than I can say for the unfolding epic of Epetstore.com’s demise, anyway.
This is one of those stories where they just dump a bunch of random shit in your lap in the early going, and expect you to figure out how to put it together as the story unfolds. I seriously thought the epic saga of Brock Hogan was happening in reality alongside Mitchel’s company getting eaten by Phluttr Inc. Only to figure out later (several chapters before the book just outright tells you, mind you) that Brock Hogan is actually just the CEO’s terrible scifi creative writing. The Amazon.com reviews included in the book, while amusing enough, take a while before you figure out what purpose they serve to the plot. Before then, they just feel intrusive, and maybe even counterintuitive to the story.
Another pet pieve of mine that I might or might not have gotten in to in this blog as a whole is present tense narration. Plenty of GOOD stories suffer from this pet pieve of mine, and a lot of them are very noir esque. This seems to be a trope of the young adult genre, and it just reaks of laziness.
In the case of After On, the present tense narration is compounded by the fact the narrator is FUCKING ANNOYING!. Eventually, you figure out the artificial intelligence that eventually becomes known as Phluttr is the one narrating. That doesn’t improve anything, but… Well… No, that doesn’t improve anything. Seriously, the narrator for The Powerpuff Girls wasn’t this fourth wall breaking and excessively biased.
I’m aware that unreliable narration is a concept, but much like nonsequential storytelling, it’s one of those things that needs to be done right in order to work. William fucking Faulkner couldn’t even make it work, and I love Faulkner. After On is no Faulkner, though, and I’m made aware of it with every paragraph.
This book was featured in my scifi-fantasy book club. Other criticisms, such as the author’s unhealthy obsession with “info dumping” were brought up. I personally could look past the fictional disease of the protagonist (Folkenberg’s Syndrome, I think it was called), if only because of all the things that annoy me about this book, that one annoyed me the least. It’s not a real condition, but whatever. Don’t care
One person in the group even went on an EXTREMELY long tangent about how Phluttr could communicate with every country in the world, and understand every culture’s language querks and cultural taboos was flat out absurd. Seriously, the last time I heard someone go on a tangent this long and ridiculously over thought out, one of my best friends was trying to explain how Ron and Hermione should’ve never ended up together on the grounds “opposites attract” is pure and absolute bunk. In his defense, though, he has aspergers syndrome, and really wanted Harrymione to be a ship (I guess). And in defense of the person arguing the Phluttr case, foreign language is apparently the thing she nerds out over the hardest. She herself even admitted it on at least three occasions since I’ve met her.
Still, that may be something to keep in mind.
The audiobook is read by a ridiculous amount of people. I’m going to guess January LaVoy is the one who reads about eighty-five percent of the book. It also features Felicia Day: famous for… Uh… Some reason. And I’m sure this was the case BEFORE she appeared on the reboot of MST3K, or her appearances in Ninja Sex Party videos. I guess she hosted a podcast or something? In any case, Day reads all the Netgrrrl posts, and she reads them all through a voice filter.
My favorite of all the narrators of this book, though, has got to be Jesse Cox as the guy who reads all the Whistleblower posts. This guy right here steals the show. You can just hear the capslock key being glued permenantly to the ON position once he starts up. Whistleblower ITSELF is like listening to Alex Jones, if the roided up gorilla knew the first thing about computers. Considering he doesn’t know the first thing about FROGS, I imagine he doesn’t stand a chance, but I’ve been proven wrong before, so…
So yeah, they really went all out with this audiobook. It’s just too bad this thing ended up being such a fucking headache to get through. I’m genuinely impressed with myself that I made it through this book. If it weren’t on my cell phone, I’d have probably chucked this fucking thing against the wall at least twice in the process of reading it, it was so tedious.
I can’t recommend this book. At all. Don’t get suckered into the dare.
Oh yeah, this book actually dares you to read it at the beginning. Did I forget to mention that? You know you’re going to be in for a bad time when the author of the book has to DARE you to read his own book. You DARE people to read Battlefield Earth. You DARE people to read The Naked Lunch (spoiler: it’s not as sexy as you think it’s going to be). You DARE people to read Confessions of an Economic Hitman. You DARE people to read The Satanic Bible. You DARE people to read Atlas Shrugged. If you have to DARE people to read YOUR BOOK, that doesn’t reflect all that good on you as an author.
So yeah, don’t accept the dare. Just walk away, and find something else to read. It’s not worth it!