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A couple of good stories, but mostly boring.
on May 12, 2006
James White (sorry, I refuse to call anyone "Wrath") comes to the reader sold as an extreme writer. One who takes great pleasure in spinning tales so ghastly they leave you fighting back your repulsion. The author's bio also tells us he was a street brawler, a champion kickboxer, and a bodybuilder, though those activities rarely show themselves in the stories, except that big, muscular guys have an easy time picking up women, and they're apparently all extraordinarily well-endowed.
White doesn't really live up to his introduction, though I'll give him credit for writing about subjects you don't normally find in this genre. He tackles religion quite a bit, which is refreshing, but since each story comes to the same conclusion -- life is a pointless journey of pain, nothing awaits us at the end, God is a tormentor, etc. -- it becomes redundant. White has a remarkably limited vocabulary, and things are described the same way over and over again throughout the stories. The themes of the stories are likewise limited, as many of them share the same theme of a man, cruel and violent toward women, getting his comeuppance "Tales From the Crypt" style.
The longest story in the book, clocking in at forty pages, is the titular "Book of a Thousand Sins." For anyone out there who likes debauched sexual violence and S&M, you'll definitely want to check this out. The story concerns two doms who love each other, but are unwilling to submit to the other, so they end up torturing a group of people vilely, in the hopes of entering Hell and being able to control and dominate the other for eternity. The story brims with sadistic violence and gore. It does, though, get pretty silly toward the end.
The writing here isn't, to say the least, the best (my favorite line: "Her skin was a natural tan like fresh pastry"). And you get the sense that White is trying too hard to be hip, like some sort of Edward Lee-Chuck Palahniuk hybrid, but he has none of the ironic humor or skill of Chuck, and often his religious ramblings sound like a college kid who just read Nietzsche.
But there are some stories to like. "He Who Increases Knowledge" had an intriguing plot, "Don't Scream" works well (it's the best of his violent-men-get-theirs stories), "Couch Potato" is darkly hilarious, "Resurrection Day" mordantly covers overpopulation and immigration, and "The Sooner They Learn" is the best story here -- the weird tale of a psychotic vigilante who has an interesting way to keep children in line.