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Larry.

So I read a Stanek book

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From my blog review, with quotage:

After reading and reviewing a shojo and a yaoi book, the final and most arduous book dare I had to meet was to read and review a Robert Stanek novel. Some of you may remember the little bit of controversy about this photo of him and Brian Jacques, where Stanek had done a bit of photoshopping to give the appearance that he was there in some other capacity than as a parent escorting his kids to a book signing. Others, or at least those who frequent Westeros, may remember the memorable "Robert Stanek Shat Directly into My Soul" thread. For those of you new to this self-published author (well, at least in the US, as somehow he has had his fiction translated into Spanish, Bulgarian, Vietnamese, and maybe a handful of others for whatever reason), that link may provide some insight into why I was dared to read and review this work.

Normally, I would turn over the reading and reviewing of such dreck to my specially-trained Serbian reading squirrels, but after a couple of them started to foam at the mouth and attacking anyone who approached them, I had to bite the bullet and read the book myself. It was a sort of "gauche waddle" (p. 67) when I grabbed the book and began to read. Now, with "ironic agony" (p. 138), I begin discussing the book in full. Thankfully, I managed to avoid having my soul shat upon, but it was a near occasion on a few times. A few more of my Serbian squirrels suffered to protect me and I'll have to make it up to them and their mistress, who had to read an earlier edition of this work after I bought it in a used bookstore last year and mailing it to her. Her comments were along the lines that Stanek "makes Goodkind look like a literary genius" and that "the squirrels don't deserve to have their dreys lined with this." But is Keeper Martin's Tale really that bad?

Well, let me begin with a few quotes. One cannot come to appreciate the "genius" of Stanek's prose until they read it in its native, amateurish environment after all. Too often people just call this dreck "shit" without ever really supplying the evidence of why it is perhaps the spiritual successor to Eye of Argon, minus most of that awful work's redeeming qualities. Now for the "greatest hits":

"Seen me?"

"In a dream...Smell the wind."

"Smell, the wind?"

"Child, smell it. It comes, can you not tell?"

"It?" (p. 13)

***

Beyond the Barrens was the untiring Rift Range - ice-capped mountains of jagged black rock that climbed perilously into the heavens. (p. 14)

Since when did an inanimate mountain range ever become "tired" in the first place? And how does such a thing "climbed perilously"?

***

The robed figure lowered his hood to reveal childlike features riddled with lines that spoke of ages past and of hardship. (p. 16)

I guess "childlike" really means "riddled with lines that spoke of ages past and of hardship." My understanding of the word has now been changed due to Stanek's masterful prose.

***

Galan answered not with words, but with feelings, playfulness. (p. 41)

I wish I could answer not with words, but with feelings.

***

So while gasps audible and inaudible - those of the mind - passed around the chamber again, Queen Mother fixed her open gaze upon him again. (pp. 47-48)

Is this a gasp, audible and inaudible alike, before me, the gasping before my hand? Come, let me clutch it. I have thee not yet I see thee still. Or art thou a gasping of the mind? Shakespeare obviously had nothing on Stanek, I see.

***

There is a look about him, as if he has just returned from a very long journey - a look of fatigue in the eyes, an unkempt beard. It is unlike Keeper Martin to have an unkempt beard. (p. 66)

The gracefulness of this passage surpasses my understanding. I think I had a gasp of the mind as I read it.

***

She chuckled a bit at her father's dowdy appearance in his night robe and slippers, and at the gauche waddle due to the slickness of the smooth floor. (p. 67)

There's a gauche and non-gauche waddle? I did not know that.

***

But his search was in vain because he truly was alone. There was no one else with him. (p. 86)

I remember attending a minor league hockey game when I was in college at UT. The PA guy announced at the end of the game: "Public skating will be open to the public at..." Umm, yeah. I guess some reiterations are just pointless, no?

***

Go on, Adrina's eyes said. (p. 97)

Thog could use this for his Masterclass, I believe.

***

Adrina rode quietly, content for a time simply to watch the scenery they passed, scattered trees, farmers and work animals in fields, and the occasional traveler. (p. 115)

Uh...wha?

***

Yet with a cry of ironic agony, their charge ended. (p. 138)

I feel their ironic agony, I really do.

***

"Are you always so stubborn? Use that which you have. You must always
use the tools
that you have been provided. Do not be afraid to
use your natural talents
." (p. 151)

This guide is certainly no Yoda. The italics use is rather amusing, no?

***

And I cannot forego quoting this epic passage:

The horse beneath her, confused by the mixture of opposing signs given it, reared upward. To regain a tight grip on the reins, Adrina twisted the leathers in her hands. This again sent misleading signals to the confounded and uneasy animal beneath her. It reared again.

A second pull on the reins caused the mare to shift sideways as it landed. The steed stumbled, and then faltered as it lost its balance on the uneven roadside. Adrina's tumultuous, wanton [!] eyes spun around as horse and rider tumbled.

No longer a participant, Adrina became an observer. The torchlight seemed to dance around in circles before her as she felt herself falling to the ground. Her head was still spinning and her thoughts yet dazed as she landed with a splash into the murky waters and mud of the mire.

In a blur of frenzied thought, she felt herself sinking downward. A split second passed and she relived the fall into the water, eyes wide, cheeks puffed gasping at air, hands flailing, the light of the torch spinning wildly before her and then dying the instant it hit the dark waters with a sizzle.

A scramble to free feet from stirrups ended as she felt the movement of her body come to a sudden stop. Had she hit bottom? Was this it?

She held all the time in the world in the palm of her hands and she released a sigh of thankfulness, cut short by the horse landing on top of her with a horrific crunch. Adrina's pain was sudden, excruciating, and vividly real as her world careened to darkness. (pp. 189-190)

All this for a horse rearing and its rider falling off and being knocked unconscious. Epic, in all the pejorative, modern senses of the word. And to think this leaves out discussing the misuse of "wanton" in there, unless this noble lady is also a whore?

I could probably quote dozens more similar passages, full of wretched imagery, awkward sentence constructions, and repetitive descriptions. But it should be noted that these mistakes, common as they are, ironically made this story more readable. Yes, I'm channeling my Inner Stanek by putting that in italics. Deal with it, lest I take a shit directly into your soul, or send one of my trained squirrels to do so.

Stanek's actual story is just a bunch of recycled D&D races and character traits. It is rather amusing to see an Irish priest, bearing a Celtic Cross on a staff, being depicted in a setting where apparently there is a sort of quasi-Manichean religious duality overlaying a pantheon of pagan gods and goddesses. I suppose I should note with some chagrin, being a mostly-observant Catholic, that this faux Catholic priest does look a bit creepy, sad to say.

Sadly, with all of these quotes and quips, I have managed to avoid talking about the plot. The problem is that the "plot" is more "send some people out on a travel quest to find out about their special snowflake powers while being tempted by nefarious powers." Stanek does little more than just describe, or I suppose "tell" in the parlance of these "show and not tell" shows, what his characters experience and do. Combine that with the ridiculously poor prose and the story almost begs to be read as a parody of pedestrian, unoriginal epic fantasy knock-offs than as just merely a crappy story.

Perhaps that is the po-mo brilliance of Stanek. By cynically manipulating the social media (knowing perhaps all along that his ham-fisted attempts at self-promotion would backfire), he has created a reading dissonance that allows the most cynical and distrusting readers to get a sort of schadenfreude joy out of beholding almost pure, unadulterated crap. If this is actually the case and that Stanek is not actually serious about believing that this story is worth reading as a straight-up text, then perhaps Stanek did succeed brilliantly in creating a work that perhaps could serve as an early 21st century spiritual successor to Jim Theis' Eye of Argon. However, it is much more likely that he is just self-delusional about his talents as a writer and that this work is just shit on a level that makes elephant turds shrink to a scale of that of squirrel turds. Perhaps that is the most apt analogy for the author: Stanek is just nuttier than a squirrel's turd and that unless people are willing to invent creative "interpretations" of the text in order to amuse themselves, then there is the real risk that you might feel as though you had a good, thorough soul shitting occur.

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You're welcome. It was...an experience, a once in a lifetime sort of event. Maybe Pat will review it in the near future ;)

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You're welcome. It was...an experience, a once in a lifetime sort of event. Maybe Pat will review it in the near future ;)

Nice review, although I didn't care too much about the scatological leitmotif, TBH. Thanks anyway for reading it for us so we don't have to. Now that I think about it, that gives you some sort of messianic quality, no?

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I think you used a few quotes too many. My eyes burn now.

Though in a way, it's almost an education to read that. Because I know I'm more conscious of what I write these days and I find myself doing terrible things if I ever write anything like that...

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I remember reading a bit of Stanek (a few sentences here and there from one of his book, I couldn't stomach more) and wondered whether this guy is a native English speaker, because a lot of it sounded like a foreigner without much experience and feel for the language trying to write in English. So many absolutely nonsensical word choices and phrases.

It's a shame his blatant scam continues to be tolerated by Amazon.

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*lets out an inaudible gasp (of the mind)*

Good to hear that St*nek really is as awful as his reputation suggests.

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Stop talking shit about Robert Stanek. He's currently one of the biggest names in fantasy, definitely above Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and maybe slightly superior to George RR Martin.

He has won the Author of the Year award in Bulgaria and right now "Keeper Martin's Tale" was voted the hottest fantasy online (Stanek's more famous novels are also bestsellers in literature powerhouses such as Albania and Burkina Faso). You're just sad, pathetic, and jealous of his great success - he's the most successful indie-published author in the fantasy genre to date. In fact, it's Robert Stanek's successes that have put the "indie book scene" on the map in the first place, but unfortunately Stanek stands alone against a myriad of vile enemies, such as big publishers and vanity press authors who find him a convenient target. He's close friends with other famous authors (and never photoshopped himself in their pictures).

Robert Stanek is becoming my favorite author lately, because he creates magic both inside and outside his books.

EDIT: Really, just go on the official Robert Stanek forums, which show how beloved he is by his growing fanbase. There's none of the grumbling and ADWD-related impatience we see here; just an outpouring of appreciation and love.

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He has won the Author of the Year award in Bulgaria

I know your post is sarcastic, but just wanted to clarify this since I am Bulgarian - this award was given out by a fantasy fan club which has a handful of teens and kids for members, because the chairman of the club likes Stanek for his ability to write the most cliched novels possible (this guy happens also to be probably the only guy on the Stanek message boards who is not a sock puppet of the master writer himself).

For the vast majority of SFF fans in Bulgaria, Stanek is a total joke, and his sales here were abysmal, the publisher deeply regretted letting the afore mentioned Stanek fan trick him into buying the rights for the novel.

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I actually saw this in a bookstore yesterday. :stunned:

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You are a Bulgarian? Pm me pls :)

So, anyway, since David has defended Bulgaria's honor (irreparably damaged by the fact of his publication though it may be), I just wanted to point out a very sad fact: Stanek is so gloriously awful that the only way to realize how awful he is, is to read one of his books...

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A few years ago I almost got suckered in to ordering this book off of Amazon. Boy am I glad I didn't!

I almost got suckered into downloading the audiobook.

I'm deathly curious, actually, to see how the narration by the author affects the quality. Really terrible prose tends to stand out even more when read aloud. Someone with more money to waste than me should review this. :stunned:

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I almost got suckered into downloading the audiobook.

I'm deathly curious, actually, to see how the narration by the author affects the quality. Really terrible prose tends to stand out even more when read aloud. Someone with more money to waste than me should review this. :stunned:

The samples provided on audible.com are hard to stomach. I could only stand a few minutes of this free 9 minute introduction to his Ruinmist novels before I had to jab nails into my ears (and the music is interesting to say the least):

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I should be getting this sometime over the next few weeks, either from the used book store I saw it sitting in or, because it is somehow cheaper, used from Amazon. I will be mailing it to some interested parties after, so that they may also review it.

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I'm embarassed to say my local public library has copies of four of Stanek's books. That means my tax dollars went to support Robert Stanek.

*vomits*

I am so curious how that happened. I would love to have talked to the librarian about it...

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