Fatally bad

2 07 2007

I finally finished Jeff Rovin’s Fatalis, and while I generally have a great love and respect for books, I had to smite this one upon the ground in frustration. I wish I could say that it was fun, if incoherent, but the action scenes were essentially line-drawings with little detail or tension. Everyone, no matter how trivial their death, got a one and a half page backstory, only to bear no real significance to the plot. And (spoiler alert) the ended was terrible and pissed me off greatly. Rovin decides that his hero and heroine want to take the “Bring ’em back alive” approach with the giant cats that have been devouring people all over the countryside and city (cats that can also sink boats and down helicopters too), releasing a pair of cubs into the wild and hoping that the Smilodon will repopulate. This reminds me of the ill-conceived idea to replace modern equivalents of extinct Pleistocene fauna, Rovin’s hero being a 2D cutout of a “well-meaning” scientist. And don’t even get me started on all the spirit guides/mysticism B.S. sprinkled throughout the book…

Then there’s this little gem involving evolution. It made me wish that Rovin’s own fictional creations had really come to life, only to sink their fangs into his neck before he had a chance to pen this awful piece;

The best weapons are nonlethal, psychological ones,” Grand insisted. He replaced the letter opener on the pile. “According to leather pouches I’ve found in ancient graves, prehistoric hunters carried what we call ‘startlements,’ which may have been used to distract predators. Crushed leaves or feathers to catch their eye, ground bone to make them sneeze. Anything to gain time so they could run or grab a weapon or cry for help. Maybe next time I won’t need the letter opener, just the crumpled paper to remind you that I can get a letter opener. Many evolutionary scientists believe that something simple like that – a crumpled piece of white paper – can change the course of genetics. If you preyed on butterflies, they might notice your reaction to the paper. Through genetic mutation they might slowly turn white to intimidate you.”

“Are you saying that living things can actually will mutation?”

“We don’t understand the mechanism, but it happens,” Grand said. “The perception of threat, the ability to respond, and the desire to survive – they’re all directed from in here,” he tapped his temple.

“I guess if you can make yourself sick or get ulcers, anything’s possible,” Hannah said. “So with any luck I’ll grow myself a sixth finger on each hand to help myself type faster.”

“And then your brain will start to think faster and then you’ll need a seventh finger,” Grand said. “That’s how it happens.”

No, no, Mr. Rovin; that’s not how it happens. While I have heard some teachers slip up and attribute mimicry to animals like butterflies thinking that they are following predators (rather than naturally occurring variation and selection occurring), but I’ve never heard anything as off-the-wall as this. If this kind of junk can get published, it’s no wonder people are screwed-up when it comes to comprehending evolution.



3 responses

3 07 2007
Cliff Burns

Jeff Rovin is an old style hack. He’s written in just about every genre imaginable, including non-fic. A professional writer (in every bad sense of the term). A word factory and nothing but. I suppose one should respect him for having made a career out of it…but as a purist and a lover of well-crafted sentences and peerless prose, I resent his mercantile approach to writing.

3 07 2007
I can has science? « Laelaps

[…] can has science? 3 07 2007 As per usual, the moment after I put down Jeff Rovin’s horrendous Fatalis, I decided that I would pick up Christopher Toumey’s God’s Own […]

3 07 2007

Thanks for the comment Cliff; I definitely won’t be picking up any more of Rovin’s books in the future.

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