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Keep Mars Weird Paperback – January 5, 2016
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“Pollack has written such tongue-in-cheek, self-referential literary hits as Never Mind the Pollacks and The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. Now he’s writing a Kindle serial...set in a future where Earth has become boring and washed-up and Mars has turned into Austin, TX.” —io9
About the Author
Neal Pollack is an American satirist, novelist, short story writer, and journalist. Pollack has written nine previous books: The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, Never Mind the Pollacks, Beneath the Axis of Evil, Alternadad, Stretch, Jewball, Downward-Facing Death, Open Your Heart, and Repeat. He’s also a three-time Jeopardy! champion. Pollack lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and son.
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1. Trying to do too much.
The book starts out as a decent stoner comedy, but then turns into...something else. I couldn't tell whether it was a poorly-conceived coming-of-age story, a bad attempt at showing social decay in our own society, or just a lazy satire of everything and nothing. The author tried to do too much, and failed most of it (even the proofreading suffers at times).
2. Critical Research Failure.
The author did zero research on Mars (I doubt he even watched "The Martian") and seems to think it's a planet of intensely poisonous atmosphere, tornado-strength winds, active lava flows, and temperatures around the level of liquid nitrogen--at least, that's what I got from his breathless descriptions of the place. Olympus Mons, meanwhile, is shown as having a massively steep incline that's virtually impassable without some kind of magneto-gravitic technology (that bit took me all the way back to "Sixth Column") instead of the relatively gentle 5-degree slope it actually has, and which the author would know about had he read Wikipedia before writing his book. "Don't be a stickler!," you cry. "It's satire!," you shout. Fine. Why did it have to be set on a real planet? Why not one the author made up that could believably have these characteristics? Setting a story on a planet people who read sci-fi know intimately was a mistake.
3. World-building on a foundation of sand
Next, there is very little thought given to world-building. If everyone on Earth has "Enough", then where do the wealthy VIPs come from for the Mars by Mars festival? I realize he mentions Venus and (I think) Mercury, but their cultures are never explored--a simple "Venusian" in front of "VIP" would have solved this problem.
4. What's in a name?
Meanwhile, there is no thought given to cultural change over time--why would an automated car in the far future be called an uber-limo? At their best, science fiction names should be timeless--"robot", "android", "cyborg", "lightsaber", "transporter"--and give an indication of what the item under discussion actually does. I still have no idea what in blue blazes the purpose or design of a "hover-pedi" are. It's as if the author got high one night, and instead of actually doing the work needed to construct a decent novel, took "The Jetsons," "Robot Chicken," and "The Daily Show" and mashed up the least worthwhile elements of each.
In short, creative writing students, buy this book, internalize its flaws, and don't do any of this stuff. Everyone else, don't waste your time or money.
- Buzz Killington
Pollack's book Repeat was just as fun, but somewhat deeper and sweeter.
Most recent customer reviews
Aside from that, Neal Pollack's Keep Mars Weird features some enlightened...Keep Mars WeirdRead more