sexta-feira, julho 26, 2019

Tiberian Baldies: "Encounter with Tiber" by Buzz Aldrin, John Barnes

“’First of all, the burst of base eight numbers are coming in groups of 16,769,021, with a longer break between each group. Ad what makes that interesting is that some bright people ran it through a simple factoring program and discovered that it’s equal to 4093 times 4097 – two prime numbers.’”

In “Encounter with Tiber” by Buzz Aldrin, John Barnes

"I've written a novel in SF genre, and we 'all know' that SF is nothing more than a pile of badly-written misogynistic tripe fit only for pimply teens with socialization issues. But I'm so edgy, and post-modern and ironic so it's not really a 'proper' SF novel, which we 'all know' has to top being badly-written, etc., but actually a 'crossover' novel. And here comes nervous giggle."

I heard something like this a long time ago when this novel come out. I can't remember the exact words, but the above “quote” more or less represents what I can still remember after all these years. Really, I know these people (the "literati establishment" before you ask) and their attitudes towards what they call "genre" literature and especially "juvenile" genres like SF. I'd bet you an arm nervous apologetic giggles were present in talks when stupid people tried dissng this novel back in the day (maybe even today). Sad thing is I really thought these attitudes died somewhere in the early nineties, thanks to a large extent to authors that stupid people blithely dismisses as habitual producers of "unreadable garbage."

SF's so diverse and has been going on for so long that any attempt at an answer has to be tailored to the individual reader. Maybe a quarter of what's currently in print will appeal to you, but it'll be a different quarter for each individual reader. Be prepared to read things you might not think you ought to - they may be more fun, and at worst will give you an idea of what you don't want, but they'll help you develop your stamina. That said: try starting with short story anthologies from the 70s and 80s. By then commercial and artistic pressures were roughly in synch and the general public were still being invited to join in without an exam. If you think of SF as a 'genre' and define it by content you may miss out on a lot; try thinking of it as a way of reading and a set of stories that are more fruitful if read that way. To learn this way, and get a feel for what's out there and how to develop your own preferences, a diverse array of short pieces is more useful than a thumping great book, even a very good one (and, as everyone's already said, Gene Wolfe is waiting for you after a short nursery slope). Some of Terry Carr's anthologies are still around online or in libraries. Anything that won a Nebula Award (the writers' own award, as opposed to the fan-voted Hugos which are increasingly as reliable as the Eurovision Song Contest) is worth a shot.

Cyberpunk was odd in that there were a lot of writers who'd read literature trying not to do the old 'well-rounded character' thing because it was the 80s and Michel Foucault was 'in'. The whole point of the narrative was to use technology to disperse the unified 'self' and that rather militates against what you're looking for. So try skipping that whole generation and, when you're ready, go for near-future settings populated by people. Off the top of my head, Ian MacDonald's 'The Dervish House' and Maureen McHugh's 'China Mountain Zhang' might be a good way in. Oh, and one last point: don't expect to become a Master of SF in fifteen minutes a day. This is like deciding to like cricket or become Welsh for an afternoon. You're in it for the long haul.

In the future, everyone will be naked and swim through the breathable liquid on space ships. Bodies will gracefully slide past each others ever strong, youthful and lithe nanoBot repaired forms. They will have pink and electric blue hair which fluffs out around their heads in a perfect gently shimmering sphere, micro circuit patterned irises will frame pupils that sparkle with intra-ocular augmented reality systems informing them about those to whom they are communicating, tracing histories and memories now shared in common. Instrument panels blinking like an Andy Warhol avant-garde movie, illuminating them with waves and polka dot lozenges of primitive and complimentary colours. Then the barest of touch, fingertip to fingertip, eyelids in perfect synch for the briefest of moments as their eyes and gaze meets, heads dip and smile. Outside the large arc of windows, star trek star fields will fly by at many times the speed of light.

I hate Star Trek Wars and Babylon 5 and all that rubbish, except for the early Kirk and Spock ones with the cardboard scenery and the preposterous fight scenes... but I soft spot in my heart for novels like “Encounter with Tiber” even with its problems. I don't want 'plausible', coherent, unscientifically-literate visions of the future written by teams of professional SF script-writers. I want badly-written dystopias populated by a smorgasbord of biological improbabilities that break every known rule of the universe, at the end of which nothing of any moral or educational value is learned - by either any of the characters or me. I want sexism. I want misogyny. I want prejudice, anger, envy and bitterness towards the whole of mankind. I want blood. I want war. I want BALDIES! And I'm now going to monitor this post like a hawk for references to the very worst that SF has ever produced, then I'm going to hunt them down and devour them. SEND ME YOUR JUNK.

The best comment I can make about this novel is: "I'm not shaken, I'm buffeted by this book." Pay close attention to the way Aldrin and Barnes use different narrative voices to add depth to the texture of the novel. Brilliant!

NB: Docked one star because 4097 is not prime (it is divisible by 17) Sorry Aldrin. See the Star Trek paragraph above. It’s still one hell of a cringey blunder. Aldrin deserves a proper lashing…In 1996 I almost stopped reading as I came across this glaring faux-pas! I wonder how no spaceship fell from the skies in the writing of this novel…I’m glad I persevered. It’s still a good yearn after all these years but not as good as my 1996-old-self thought it was. It needs a strong astringent corrective for some anthropocentric assumptions on the part of BOTH authors regarding Tiberean behaviour and motives. “Blindsight”, a book I particularly enjoyed for challenging the assumption that intelligence must mean consciousness, as well as considering aliens that are not simply humans with a different body form. Would have been quite apt in “Encounter with Tiber”, questioning the lazy assumptions that permeate a lot of SETI thinking. But as I wrote elsewhere, you can't have everything. Still a solid 4 stars after all these years.

SF = Speculative Fiction.

quinta-feira, julho 25, 2019

"Conversas em altos voos : encontros e entrevista com o Papa Francisco" by Aura Miguel

“The raw material is the one-hour interview that Pope Francis granted to Aura Miguel, on September 8, 2015, at Casa Santa Marta. Such an interview, so beautiful and exclusive, never happened in the history of Portuguese journalism.”

(quote translation by yours truly)

In “Conversas em Altos Voos – Encontros e Entrevista com o Papa Francisco” by Aura Miguel

And with this visit to Bulgaria and Macedonia has Aura Miguel, our most distinguised Vaticanist journalist, 100 papal travels - on the papal airplane -, in her bag, all as guests of Rádio Renascença. First with John Paul II, then with Benedict XVI and now with Pope Francis. Aura Miguel is almost a record holder of the genre (in front of her, only Valentina Alazraki of Mexican television, and Phil Pullella, of Reuters). 11 tours of the world, 3 Popes, 100 papal tours, thousands of minutes recorded for the Portuguese Catholic Radio Station - Rádio Renascença -, an exclusive interview with Pope Francisco and many stories rich in revelations and memories. The journey to Aura Miguel had its beginning in the distant year of 1987, challenged by her Radio Renascença’s director, in a trip in which she accompanied Pope John Paul II, to a Poland still under the dominion of a Soviet Union in decline. It was fun reading this interview of the Pope conducted in Portuguese and Castellan by Aura Miguel.

I’m a Catholic, a liberal progressive Catholic looking for plenty of change, and I think this Pope is amazing, a great man. However the Catholic Church is a huge great monolith, full of immovable traditionalists and bureaucrats, so the Pope has an immense task to do anything, it’s truly stifling. There’s so much to do, and it’s like swimming through tar. The child abuse cases, women in the Catholic Church, married men in the Catholic Church etc. Lots of issues. It’s swamped in dogma and out of touch with ordinary people. There are issues that the Catholic Church won’t move on right now, notably abortion and contraception, but in time maybe. This Pope deserves our support, and he’s got mine. I’m a true loyal Catholic but there’s much about the Catholic Church that needs improvement.

I really think this guy is trying to make a difference and if nothing else, he's started a long overdue conversation about reforming the Catholic Church and publicly at that. I think it's great that he is publicly challenging the status quo. But don't expect that he can change everything in that monolithic organisation while he is pope. What he is doing is laying the groundwork. It will be up to his successors and everyone to follow it up, talk about it and advocate constantly to honour his legacy. I don't know why I care but I do. I always love watching an idealist that's trying to make things better. Which is really odd, because I am a cynical man.

The Catholic Church has existed for 2000 years and cannot change radically in 5 years. At the same time, those older, conservative, male cardinals elected a Jesuit as their pope. That is still extraordinary and shows that even the oldest organization in the world can (try and) change. Francis has since said and addressed many things: the primacy of good deeds over good faith in Catholic lives (a longstanding debate between progressives and conservatives), no judgement on gay people, tolerance about communion to divorced, forgiveness to women who had abortion and doctors helping them. He has dismissed some of the reactionary (e.g. order of Malta), has conveyed clear messages on the environment to world leaders, etc. Francis is also relentlessly working on inter-religious dialogue, one of the priorities of the Jesuit agenda. Not everything is going smoothly, we cannot know the outcome, but, as a progressive Catholic guy, I perceive this as a miracle. There are so many structural/doctrinal inhibitions to be patiently worked through: the nature of hierarchy, with laity at the bottom; the ways in which ordination embodies a ranking and creating a mystical belief in the sanctity of sacerdotal authority, one of the results of which is that a priest, blessed by the laying on of hands at his ordination, is to be more regarded than a mere layperson trying to get redress for abuse. An erring priest is moved on because his ordination lifts him above his flock. The higher up the hierarchy a priest moves, the stronger becomes the inertia of conservatism. Except for Francis: but he's being deliberately thwarted because he's not being a Curia team player. This is where hope for change lies.

Most of Christendom is on his team.

quarta-feira, julho 24, 2019

Post-Post-Rhodian MilSF: "Aftershocks" by Marko Kloos

Despite having spent relatively little time in Germany in the course of my travels, I have spent a great deal of time, always profitably + enjoyably, reading German philosophers, listening to German classical composers, watching Germany’s footballers (Breitner, Rummenige, Rubesch, Litbarski, Matthäus, etc.), reading German SF (Perry Rhodan’s never-ending SF Series - Kloos’ novel even has a planet called Rhodia!, Eschbach’s “Die Haarteppichknüpfer”), 'getting to know' German women, and drinking with Germans. On top of that, any nation which can produce such excellent consumers of beer has to be a good one. Happy to know that Germany and German writers writing from abroad (Marko Kloos himself) are prospering and that the German locomotive is still pulling the euro + bringing other member states into line (although slower), albeit at the price of some pretty extreme subjection to discipline. But they are on the whole well-intentioned. I can speak from personal experience. It took decades until I was culturally assimilated by Germans (yes, there's "culture" in Germany; it is called "Wirtshaus-Kultur"; big beer mugs and women that present their boobs and decolletés nicely. What's there not to like?)

“Afterschocks” is much better than Rhodan’S MilSF. The majority of military SF fails as science fiction. Future societies are portrayed as being substantially similar to current or past ones (in this case the plot heavily draws from Occupied Germany in WWI and WWII). The fictional tech is usually, again, similar to current tech except for producing bigger explosions (this doesn't apply to the Culture novels - they are not military SF to begin with). The majority of military SF also expresses a conservative desire to return to simpler times. The post-Cold War world, where enemies, allies & bystanders are difficult to tell apart & change places, is not the source for their plots. The vile relationship between commercial SF and the military-industrial complex is well covered in Thomas M. Disch's excellent survey "The Stuff Our Dreams Are Made Of" - where he covers the SF work of (amongst others) Newt Gingrich - a truly depressing experience, enlightened by the anecdote about the American general who demanded, on watching “The Empire Strikes Back”, that his weapon designers build him an army of AT-ATs - only to be told to finish watching the sequence as Luke Skywalker drew attention to their weak spot - string around the legs.

Fortunately, good MilSF is “not” as you might seem to think, mindless, brainless, "shoot 'em all and let God sort 'em out" as this Kloos’ novel amply proves. While there may be some works of that sort out there, the one I chose to look down upon in my (sometimes) mindless criticism of MilSF is not among them. This is my second Kloos’ novel, and it won’t be my last. Kloos deals with war (and with its aftermath) in a way that we get: it’s not just a parlour game; it is great exercise of the imagination to try to place oneself at a specific moment in history and consider what the people involved might have thought with the data they had, and what would have motivated them to make the choices they made, on which future generations would judge them. The novel’s conflict developed from the way Kloos built his system, in which the history of Palladium is an integral part of the world's technology, mainly for the manufacture of artificial gravity generators. With the resources of the system firmly under control, tensions with their neighbours are at a breaking point, leading to a war that kills tens of millions of people. “Aftershocks” is established after the enormous conflict of the whole system over commodities, namely the palladium. One of the protagonists of the story, Aden Robertson, was on the side of the losers and was released from a prisoner of war camp struggling with the atrocities experienced during the war. It’s quite smart on Kloos part to use a character who had to deal with the collapse of a system he had supported for two decades and had to find his identity later. Only a German could have written a book like this...Also on the plus side, in this novel we don’t have some of the Astronomy and Astrophysics “errors” Kloos made in the Frontline Series. Nothing takes me out of a story faster than factual errors in Physics...5 stars even allowing for the fact the novel ends “in the middle of nowhere”. What the hell!!

terça-feira, julho 23, 2019

Kafkaesque Nightmare: "Priest of Lies" by Peter McLean

One cannot review a book like this other than through the prism of one of the greatest low fantasy sub-genre novel of the 20th century; with Abercrombie and its subsequent revolutionary following we have witnessed the full demise of epic fantasy fiction. However, as regards 21st century imprints for the fantasy novel, the sheer lust and blood lust of Zola's most potent episodes of IIIe Republic Sturm and Drang Thérèse Raquin the obvious primer, “La bête Humaine” in full proto-modernist maturity while “La Curée” (translated as The Kill) is the lesser known but quite magnificent study of the murderous decadence of a provincial petit bourgeoisie on its way up during the decadent 2nd Empire. The 2nd empire here is Abingon. No killer whacking their victims over the head with a frozen leg of lamb and then roasting the lamb in the oven...It's all so much grimdarkish.

It's not always easy to comprehend the pervasive extent of Mafia corruption in a Low Fantasy novel. Tomas Piety was brave in digging below the surface. Here and there, that stranglehold stares you in the face the tangle of unfinished roadworks, a Kafkaesque nightmare, in the centre of the island; or Ellinsburg, a horrific mess of a city blighted by mad 'development' and Mafia corruption a Low Fantasy setting.

Only the hope of reading a good Low Fantasy adventure novel, say, will re-acquaint folk under 45 today with amusement and pleasure as a feature of leisure. I go back to that word 'nonchalant'. Who reads but not to look nonchalant?; nobody does. We need to curl up in front of the fire with a good book again.  Nobody curls up in front of so-serious TV shows of the modern age. Nobody curls up whilst playing video games. Nor curls up with a cuppa in front of the social media. The novel will show the way. Some novels will. If only. Entertain anyone with more humour in books might distract from the serious countenances that are portrayed on modern TV series.

Horses for courses. We may call it a restricted view but in many ways you can never read all the interesting books you see in bookshops and that actually makes me feel as if I need that knowledge but I won't have it a) because I won't ever have that much money to buy all those books, and b) because even if I could buy all those books, I will never have all that time available to me and new books are always being written. With each new visit to a bookshop, the sense of despair actually increased. Yes, many bookshops have a nice decor and atmosphere, but that's like bakeries using special fans to ensure the smell of their treats gets to people and they come in. I have come across many different kinds of literature by reading book reviews, and get recommendations from people. Too bad I just came across McLean on my own.

segunda-feira, julho 22, 2019

Low Fantasy Done Right: "Priest of Bones" by Peter McLean

It's sad that so many people hear the phrase "fantasy" and automatically associate it with lack of quality. In reality, "fantasy" describes a setting as much as anything else - once you accept that your setting is fantastical, then it is a fantasy novel. Everything else is "sub-genre".

Ishiguro and Atwood are being - sadly - realistic when they try to avoid the label, as many people won't bother if the book has that label attached to it. It would be nice, however, to once hear a "literary fiction" author who has written a sci-fi/fantasy book say "yes, it's fantasy/sci-fi, and it's great - it's deep and thought-provoking and filled with themes of love and loss and an exploration of memory and truth, as are all of the best books, including many books in this genre. I believe mine is better, of course, but that's because I'm a great writer, not because of the genre I write in."  With so many 'literary' writers using genre themes and settings, from Paul Auster to Jonathan Carroll and indeed Atwood (who seems to have come to peace with genre) to Ishiguro (who may yet see the light one day) sometimes it’s hard to understand where SF (Speculative Fiction) lies.

Still, indeed, who cares, really? That battle has been fought and 'story' has won. Not all the old generals may have noticed that the fight is over and some will claim the Tower is still standing strong but soon enough the Ivory knights will look like those people who do those Civil War reenactments (be that the American Civil war or the War of the Roses - some of those knights are really crusty...) On genre's side we should really stop to be so bloody defensive - and yes, precious. It would be rather ironic if we now would try to build some genre High Church, with dedicated priests who would guard the Eucharist with rituals and dogmas and anathemas: "Thou will call it SF: SciFi is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord!" et cetera.

In short, it's all story, and it's all good, as long as the writer is any good at his/her craft.

I've just finished “Priest of Bones”. It's a lot cleverer than the description fantasy would suggest even when we take into account that it’s Low Fantasy (a sub-genre a very much prefer over High Fantasy). And I love it when we get a “in media res” in SF! It allows the way McLean slowly unfolds the story and introduces some of the characters slowly in a way to give me a feeling of collective history and memory that's been lost to the mists of the Dark Ages and turned to legend.

But how can you separate a genre from its stylistic features? The features are what make the genre; it has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or whether it can be considered "literature". If the features don't constitute the genre, it must therefore be possible to have a fantasy story without using any of those features whatsoever. But then how would we know it was fantasy? I feel the problem is that fantasy, or specifically heroic/high fantasy, is full of very lazy works that don't do justice to the genre as a whole. The reason is that it's just easier and simpler to create your own - shallow - world than to try to adapt your own work into an existing world with preset rules. That's why fantasy like Tolkien or George R. R. Martin (or even “His Dark Materials” by Pullman, even though he's no fantasy writer) have done so well: they have put time and effort into creating a real, deep world, complete with languages, cultures and history.

Writing good fantasy, be it Low or High, much like writing good historical fiction, takes time, effort and research. Writing quickly just results in bland heroic fantasy that gives the genre a bad name. Low fantasy, on the other hand, has to somehow fit into our current understanding of science and history (vide Joe Abercrombie and now Peter McLean). This usually leads to magic being secret or hidden, leading to a grittier story. Why? You got to explain that the dragon in Lisbon was invisible and it didn't hurt anyone because it was bound by a magical oath…It’s a pain I know, but it’s the only way I’ll read Fantasy. The Low Variety, not the High one, so to speak.

domingo, julho 21, 2019

Subverted MilSF: "Lines of Departure" by Marko Kloos

Truth to be told, I was expecting the usual fodder when I started reading Kloos’ MilSF novel. But I got something unexpected instead. What made “Lines of Departure” interesting by the standards of most MilSF is its very systematic subversion of the tropes of military SF. What starts out as a war story becomes political dissection of liberalism. Admittedly, it was even better than "The Forever War", but almost all of SF is so no biggie there. MilSF has a certain concern, and that isn't to show war in its grand scale and all its effects, but to show it from the perspective, normally, of the troops. Dan Abnett's “Gaunt's Ghosts” is a great example of a series that does this - a Warhammer 40k spinoff series, I might add - without glorifying war as a whole, beyond the fact that certain characters believe in the glory of war; to deny that soldiers may think war is glorious is to simplify it in the exact opposite way that some SF reader accuse milSF of doing, but is just as problematic and perilous. That's all just scratching the surface, without looking at the glorification of war in fantasy such as Terry Brooks' “Sword of Shannara” and Markus Heitz' “The Dwarves”, either. War and MilSF are not the same. War has been a topic for story since forever but the MilSF tends to have more weapon, tactics, etc., stuff, I guess. But the way that conflict is treated in a lot of it varies a lot and is more complex than it's been given credit for.

I'm actually struggling to think of MilSF that does not portray war as the dirty and dehumanising activity that is. Actually it’s probably normal show that characters that think / declare that war is glorious are either a) nuts b) ignorant or c) being exceptionally sarcastic. None of that in Kloos’ novel. And also there’s NOT a hot intelligent chick with big tits and tight clothing in there somewhere protesting about how bad it all is…

I’ll keep on reading the series just for the sheer fun of it although that final plot line left a lot to be desired... fill a spaceship with water and use its abacadabra-require-no-fuel-engine to attain 1% of c, and use it to hammer the Lanky spaceship to smithereens...FFS!

sábado, julho 20, 2019

The All-Seeing-I: “Lost for Words” by Edward St. Aubyn

As I read St. Aubyn’s noveI, I couldn’t stop thinking: “Man Booker”. I think as readers we've definitely lost out. Prizes are as much if not more about marketing as excellence and when there is so much out there, for the Booker to narrow the range of books highlighted (short list?), which is what happened in St. Aubyn’s novel, is a shame. The book judges perhaps didn't see this happening and they aren't responsible for the overall picture after all. UK doesn't have a national book award like the States and there is no Commonwealth Award anymore. Getting and keeping funding for prizes is tough and some are very controversial. There are better ways of readers finding out about books these days. If you have a prize it does need to have a clear category and continuity which the Booker doesn't anymore. It's lost its way and readers will go elsewhere. To this foreign reader, the novel stands as an international literary phenomenon, on the grounds of style and humor alone. It's not a topical satire. It's a farce, and it should be read as such, and it succeeds as such. "The sly, chatty third-person narration and the constant onslaught of wordplay, bathos, farcical mishap and circular logic" are the reasons “Lost for Words” exists for in the first place. It is funny, sidesplittingly so, and all instances of flowery verbiage and "bad writing" are intentional. It could have been a bitter act of revenge, but it's a delightful silly little comedy. As long as you're aware it's lighthearted, slightly whimsical entertainment, and not anything important, it is not to be missed. Humour or comedy literature is about as popular as a cock flavoured lolly with the critics/establishment. Ask about comedy and you get the same old chestnuts, “A Confederacy of Dunces”, etc.  I just wish I were a comedy author, all dark and full of gross humour. I, for one, never cared about literary prizes. Well, imagine having spent at least two years sitting in a room by yourself while writing a book at the same time as one of the characters in St. Aubyn’s tries to do. For a chunk of years she should have decided not to read their musings anymore but to walk out of her front door and do stuff herself instead. BTW, just to reassure anyone who gave up on Proust I am pressing on; currently at about 37% read and nothing has happened yet as it should with all top-notch Literature. Artistic prizes don't mean shit, and are often political anyway. The true test of any piece of art, book, film, portrait, is its longevity. That is all. People who don't want their work judged entirely on this criteria should not even be artists. Or is it about length? This raises a genuinely interesting point. The philistines, compulsive naysayers, and unreflecting consumers of literary bilge are not notable for their avoidance of lengthy tomes (400 - 800 pages on average), as proof of which all one need do is visit WH Smith. When someone scoffs at the length of the George Eliot I'm reading - or, more generally, at the voluminousness of any number of 19th/20th Century 'great novelists' - I cast an eye over their dog-eared, spine-cracked huddles of Robert Ludlum, Len Deighton, and publisher-egged-on exponentialismic J.K. Rowling and reflect on so much fuzzily misapplied rationale. Of the winners listed in 2018, the one who stood out as a deserving case was Julian Barnes - 'The sense of an ending' was excellent, and many (not all) of his others are well above average. DBC Pierre wrote one good book but I'm not aware that he's been able to repeat the feat. Marlon James's effort is also interesting but a hard read, as the narrative is confusing at times. I have been unable to 'get into' Margaret Atwood, and "Benjamin Black" (AKA John Banville ) is dreadful...It's quite hard to know what the prize-givers are looking for, given the disparate quality of the prize winners... if there's no story, I'm really not interested. Writing for people who teach English Lit courses should not be a criterion, IMO. Pretentious, shallow, shallow and pretentious. Also superficial and slight-fantastic. That's when not torpid or turgid or turbid. Nay, more, much more from the near millennial critics' armoury, so very much more, they are also sometimes "affected", sometimes "ostentatious, chi-chi" - they can be at times "showy, flashy, tinselly", conspicuous in their "evasiveness" - "flaunty-mute", or "inert and tasteless", then there's the "kitschy or overambitious", the "pompous artifice of the critic's mirror" - it's "hellish professor's trickster", even "flatulent when high pressed inflated", "overblown" or "ripe" - that fustian "hyperventilation in their mannered, high-flown, high-sounding floristy", yes, "flowery, grandiose, big wordy-grand" - "overelaborate" and "unconscious mock-heroic", "grandiloquent", nay, "magniloquent bombastadry" - you know the one, "turgid, orotund" or even "rotund in rhetoric" - "mute-oratorial", "narco-sophomoric", "highfalutin la-di-da fancy-pants narratry" - the "quiescence of pseud-pseud-pseudo flares" or "spare yet tumbling cross-wire eyed puissance". We've read it all before in reviews. If we see not the real thing we see the pretentious sir, pretentious.
There, squall-spat over.

The All-Seeing-I should not in matters of taste and mere contingency fake final say when time could make a mockery of said judgement. On the other hand, I was always a book snob. Meaning: You and I are pretentious. Booker winners and many a nominee and even non shortlist are very much the real deal (*).

(*)I'm sorry; someone has apparently been fumigating my villa against mosquitoes, and the smell was a little pungent. I think I was high as a kite typing that mess above. Apologies all round.