Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mini-Review: Willful Child: Wrath of Betty by Steven Erikson

If anything, in the two years since I wrote that review, my thoughts on Willful Child have only grown stronger. I think it is a superb satire of far more than just Star Trek, but read the review for that. I’ve come to realize that while the humor of that book is certainly coarse and inappropriate, that plenty of people ‘get it’ and therefore see what Erikson is doing in the book. All this adds up to me being very happy to read the sequel.

Unfortunately, I was largely unimpressed. Of course, I enjoyed a lot of what Erikson was doing with the book and how he plays with both time travel and parallel-dimension issues. I particularly found the gender-swap / parallel world parts to be well done and timely given so much of what’s going on. And of course, it’s hard for someone like myself to not be immensely amused by the comic-con sequence. Really, Wrath of Betty is worth reading for those two parts regardless of my overall disappointment.

Where does my disappointment come from? It’s all in the timing. Wrath of Betty continues the satirical directions from Willful Child, with a strong focus on the consumerism and rampant capitalism of the Western world. And this is unfortunately where it misses. Often the most effective satire works because it feels particularly timely to what’s going on in the culture it targets. Generally consumerism and capitalism are perfect elements for satire to target, but at least for me, it misses the elephant in the room for a satirical book published in 2016. I am speaking of the big issues we all see too much of right now – from Brexit to the US election and the idiot who will remain nameless, and war and refugees, etc. etc. A satire focused so much on consumerism simply doesn’t stick with me right now – it feels off topic, especially since reality is so primed for good satire (though admittedly, Brexit and the US election are often plenty satirical without any help at all).  

I do think that the focus on consumerism and capitalism in Wrath of Betty is likely to be more timeless and therefore would have more staying power than the satire I wanted to read. But, it remains that I simply couldn’t enjoy things as much as I wanted to. Yes, I realize that due to just how it works writing a novel, that Wrath of Betty was largely written well before reality jumped the shark, but that intellectual knowledge doesn’t really help my reaction to the book.

So, while I think Wrath of Betty is a worthy follow-up to Willful Child, it didn’t work well for me. However, it may well work for you.

Willful Child: Amazon, My Review
Willful Child: Wrath of Betty: Amazon


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