Forging Zero

Our selection as a ‘Worst’ book does not indicate the book is poorly written. In fact most are written quite well. Just as a ‘Best’ rating does not always mean it is well written either – and many are not. In the case of ‘Forging Zero’ (part of a series) it is very well written and at first we quite enjoyed it. The problem with this book is its content. So is it fair to give it a Worst rating? Would it be fair to give ‘Lolita’ for example, a poor rating because of its content? Yes, we think so. A book must be judged on its entirety to be sure but the actual content is key. If a book is marvelously written but makes no sense or or is boring then it’s not a good book.

This book is definitely not boring. In fact it is one wow of a book. Not only is it 575 pages, but it is unique in almost every way. It’s an alien invasion tale, but most of the action happens away from earth. It has dozens of fascinating characters – including the aliens. The main characters are children, but it is in no way a children’s or a young adult book (in fact we wouldn’t let anyone under 18 read it). It is extremely entertaining as the author invents an complete alien world including the most minor details and language.

At the beginning we couldn’t put it down and we were more than ready to give it a ‘Best’ rating. It is billed as the highest rated science fiction book on Amazon. But as we read on there were times we had to stop and even loathed picking it back up.

In this day of hyper sensitivity, political correctness, and child protection (heck, mothers routinely get arrested for letting their kids go to a park alone), we have no idea how this book got published or acquired a readership. Don’t get us wrong, we’re glad it did, but we are shocked.

The main reason the characters are children is because all the aliens seem to want from earth was all the children between 5 and 12, to draft into their army. Okay, that’s risky but interesting. The problem is the aliens routinely humiliate, abuse, and torture them in the name of discipline and military training. And we don’t mean torture like playing loud rock music everyone was so upset about at Abu Ghraib, we mean breaking bones, ripping off skin, clawing them, and eating them alive. And when they’re not undergoing that, the kids are doing endless push ups, running a hundred laps, or cleaning a vast plaza with a rake through the night. The reason the aliens can do all this is that their technology heals the broken bodies so they can do it all over again.

They also feed the kids growth hormones so the five year olds soon have bodies like 16 year olds. Then of course we get the sex. Since the girls were given forced hysterectomies when they were ‘drafted’ sex is plenty much a free for all as soon as their bodies reach simulated puberty. Trouble is these are still 5 and 8 year old minds having sex with 12 year old boys. And for good measure there is plenty of rape thrown in because of the raging hormone diet. All right, we could still take some of this, after all many books are filled with violence and sex and monstrous serial killers, but it just went on and on and on to the point we felt queasy. How many times do we have to get children ripped apart, raped, beaten, tongues cut out, overloaded with pain from an alien device, and even killed and brought back to life, to get the point?

What is the point anyway? Inhumanity? Break them down to build them up? No army on earth would do these things. The author doesn’t just hit the reader over the head with this torture and abuse, she bludgeons us to death with it for 500 plus paages. The main character Joe Dobbs, a 14 year old, could not possibly have survived or remained sane with what he is put through in this book, no matter how tough you think a 14 year old could be.

So we get back to over a thousand five star reviews: yeah, this book has a lot going for it, but gee how to you overlook 575 pages of the worst child abuse you could ever imagine? If people dislike our rating, so be it – our human soul is still intact.


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The Silla Project

‘The Silla Project’, though written in 2012, couldn’t be more timely. It is the story of an American scientists, who for pretty good reasons of hate toward the U.S. goes to North Korea to help them develop an atomic bomb.

But the bomb itself is actually a side note in this story of the Korean people and what it’s like to live in this virtually unknown country and culture.

As the author himself writes: If you are looking for something to scratch that Crichton itch, this may be it. I wrote The Silla Project based on an idea I had when I was working a SECRET missile task for the government some years ago. The Silla Project began life as a pure thriller focusing on the horror of nuclear weapons in the hands of lunatics. I hadn’t researched for long when I realized the story wasn’t bombs at all, but people. The North Korean people are not fanatical lunatics but are an agonizing study in what happens under the most extreme oppression and brutality imaginable where all forms of self-expression are utterly suppressed and only the mandated worship of one man is tolerated.

The book is simply unique and original. The author took a society that almost no one knows anything about: North Korea, and fleshed out the culture and people so well that we felt sorry for its citizens and especially the well drawn characters. The book was obviously very well researched which we really appreciate. And not just the science of atomic bomb making, but Korea as a whole and its geography and customs. Within a few pages the author about had us convinced North Korea was the most misunderstood country on earth. We appreciated the depth of immersion into the shadowy North Korean society.

There are quite a few religious references and at first we feared this was going to be some kind of Christian fiction genre, but in fact the main character Mitch begins to lose his faith because of all that happened to him and this made the story all the more believable. The pace was mostly gripping and we felt for the characters. The plot fell down a bit in the last quarter and we wish the characters would have been a bit trickier-  like using radiation to scare the officials (we think a great story line was lost there) but overall except for the proofing it was a great read.



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American Elsewhere

 Every once in a while a book comes along that blows your mind. American Elsewhere was one of those for us!

Rarely does a novel comes along so awesomely bizarre!. A mind breaking mixture of early Stephen King and ‘Lost’. Every page is a treasure you can’t believe or stop reading and yet you can’t wait to get to the next one to see what happens next. And all the while you ask yourself: ‘What the heck just happened?’ This story contains not one wasted word or superfluous phrase. Even after devouring 688 pages we wanted more. We never wanted it to end.

The author, Robert Jackson Bennett, out does Stephen King and then some. Where does his mind come from? By far one of the best books we’ve ever read. ‘American Elsewhere restores our faith in books and authors and we think it will for you as well. If you like mystery of the scientific and ‘Lost’ kind, by all means give it a try.


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A Criminal Defense

‘A Criminal Defense’ has two strikes against it right from the get go: 1. It is about lawyers (and Philadelphia lawyers at that) and 2. It is an Amazon Kindle First book.

We don’t know who at Amazon selects these books but they are batting about 1 out of a 100. Kindle First books are pretty consistently bad and this is no exception. (What can you really expect for free?)

The promise of the book was at least good: a criminal defense attorney named Mick narrates a sensational murder case in the first person. Sound good? We thought so. We thought we’d get to know what goes on in the mind of the defense attorney who defends a client he thinks is almost certainly guilty. Alas, the author apparently doesn’t really understand this concept of first person narrative, because every time Mick’s thoughts turn to a key part of his defense he doesn’t share them! In one example, a critical piece of video evidence surfaces. Mick views the video and is shocked at what he sees – BUT he won’t tell us!

Note to author: if you don’t want to reveal these kinds of secrets and can’t figure out how to write creatively – than don’t use the first person! It’s ridiculous.

If this were the only problem we suppose the book would just be mediocre, but it gets a lot worse. These are more coincidences and absurd connections than the most outlandish episode of ‘24’ or ‘Dallas’ or any soap opera for that matter. The victim, a young reporter, is sleeping with literally every male in the vicinity of Philadelphia – most of them at the same time. Since she is a certified slut the reader has little sympathy for her brutal murder no matter how gruesome the author tries to portray it. And to add to that flaw, none of the other characters are sympathetic in any way either. Mick himself is the embodiment of a low life sleazy defense attorney, not to mention the DA prosecutor, Mick’s wife and everyone else involved. About the only innocent in this entire book is Mick’s 6 year old daughter and we’re surprised he didn’t find a way to trash her too.

And in the end that’s the only description we can up with for this book: trash.

Mind you this book has something like 1,800 positive reviews on Amazon. Quite a feat considering it was just released. Amazon has a bad reputation for, shall we say ‘suspect reviews’, and if this certyainly doesn’t alleviate our suspicions.

If you have time to waste, then by all means read it. We at bookexposed are confident you’ll be back here knowing we tell it like it is.

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