8 Things About The Crimson Deathbringer

A galactic war rages among the stars and Earth is caught in the middle.

Jim, an ace airforce pilot, is caught in the gears a brutal dictatorial regime when his buddy from the resistance shows up unannounced. Jim is taken to a prison along withhis friend and expects to die when he is whisked away by an Akakie ship and told about the coming invasion by the Xortaags.

Now he must face insurmountable odds, certain death, and a group of aliens that see every moment as the opportunity for a prank. Armed with a team of quirky characters, his piloting skills, and a seemingly endless stream of pop culture references, it's Jim against the Xortaag Empire. If he fails, Earth is doomed.

1. Is Everyone Reading This Same Book?

I really try not to get hung up on reviews, especially star ratings, which are about as useful determining the quality of a book as cats are at picking stocks on the NYSE. (Although apparently, one cat is amazing at it.) But I do find differing opinions interesting especially when the experience for others is drastically different from mine. With this book, I became a little obsessed with the reviews because people seem to genuinely love it. Like the leruvveeee it! Several reviews gush about the masterful language, characters that pop off the page and clever dialogue.

But for me, it wasn't terribly well written. The story barrels forward at a breakneck pace without taking a single moment for character development, mood, or setting. The characters never develop past their basic archetypes, and the 'clever dialogue' is a never-ending stream of pop culture references.

I get the fact that people like what they like, but this perplexed the fuck out of me. But, then again, I might be biased.

2. Jeremy's First Bias: He Fucking Hates Comic Book Movies:

Or rather I should say that I am just goddamned sick of them. Which puts me in an awkward situation in geek culture. I think a good deal of my target audience not only like the barrage of CG-dominated, annoyingly quotable, mass-produced cultural extravaganzas but love them with all the hearty hearts a heart can heart.

I don't. They are mass-produced firework shows with mix-and-match storylines and they can go away now please and thank you.

But it's pretty clear the author is among the Comic Book Movie Faithful as he peppers this book with an endless stream of one-liners and concepts lifted directly from the latest superhero blockbuster clusterfuck. 

And the geek-cred he earns in the process seems to be a selling point for this book.  But for me...

3. Cliches and References Are One In The Same

Having one's main character parrot a line from a popular movie might make many a geeky heart swoon, but, for me, it shows a basic lack of creativity. It's a shortcut. It's a cop-out. It's lazy writing pure and simple. 

Good writing involves finding that perfect turn of phrase or touching upon that idea that knocks something loose in the reader's brain and expressing that in a way that's both clever and thought-provoking.  

Lazy writing is repeating the same shit that you know people will already like, turning it in, and basking in the second-hand applause. Which is a lot easier. And probably more profitable. 

Still, I think it's better to pen the line that all the lazy writers want to quote. Or at least it's harder... and probably less profitable.  


4. Jeremy's Second Bias: He Fucking Hates Dude-Bros Who Get Whatever They Want

But maybe its because I have no way to relate to them.

The main character, Jim, comes off as an incredible douche. He's a chiseled-jaw fighting ace who is convinced that every woman in the Known Universe wants to sleep with him. He literally wrote the book on air combat and gets a little hard-on when people quote it around him. Which actually happens. He constantly walks around, convinced of his own greatness, which he effortlessly proves time and again.

His only trait that makes him slightly more than a douchy Dudley Do-Right is the fact that he's constantly arguing with this strange voice of self-doubt in his head. Of course, he calls it Venom, which adds yet another annoying recurring pop culture reference. And it never really has any impact on his outward personality.

But I could be wrong. Maybe that is a sincere depiction. Maybe being a confident dude means you just walk around, ignoring the screaming Voice of Insecurity in your head.  You go about your Confident Dude life in doing Confident Dude things and just stomp down that nagging feeling of helplessness and anxiety that us lesser dudes let rule our lives.

Actually, I like the idea that every confident dude is just a thin veneer of cool painted over a soul that is literally going to crumble in the slightest breeze.   

5. An Alien Invasion Movie as Told By A Caffeinated Teenage Boy

This book read like a blockbuster movie as described by a kid that really needs to lay off the espresso. It was like reading:  "Then then he was all like, PEWPEWPEW I'll be back! And then he was like, Not IN My House! PEWPEWPEW Kablooie! Luke, I Am Your Father! Then he comes out and says I'm Batman! PEWPEWPEW! BOOM! IT WAS SO COOL!"

Jesus, kid. Cool your tits. Hakuna your ta-tas.

6. The Book Equivalent of and Identity Crisis:

Also, this book never seemed like it knew what it wanted to be. It veers drunkenly between an alien invasion thriller, an authoritarian dystopia, and a bad high school comedy. And while it could be possible to stitch these together in a way that makes for a compelling read, it just doesn't happen here.

There's a good example of this early in the book where Jim finds out that the Akakianas are also kind of douchy horn-dogs, so he takes them out to a strip club to pick up porn stars.

This is a thing that happens. 

Which is fine. It's not like there's an alien invasion they have to plan for.

7. Jeremy's Third Bias: A Deep Distrust of Hype:

To the credit of the author and/or the people promoting his book, they were quite effective. This basically exploded all over my social media for about a month. And they all breathlessly describe this #1 Amazon bestseller and tout endless five-star reviews.

I'm a contrarian by nature. So I can't say with 100% certainty that I didn't go into this book looking for things to annoy me.

8. The Verdict ⭐⭐⭐

But man, did I find a lot to annoy me. For me, this was a two-star. I was a little on the fence about finishing at all.

But I've gotta take a couple of things into consideration. First, if I were to give my list of complaints to the author, I'm pretty sure he would just grin and say, "I know! Isn't it great!?" 

I get this impression that Sean Robbins genuinely wanted to write a kooky, semi-serious alien invasion adventure that rolls around in geek culture like a pig in shit. And if that truly was his goal,  Mission Accomplished.

And second, this kind of thing has an audience. Far from being a negative, I think people can and do enjoy a book written by someone who not only loves geek pop culture but lets it hang out for all to see. They like the references to their favorite movies, they love the fact that it doesn't take itself seriously and they would tell a cranky, snobby, asshole like me to shut up and just enjoy it. 

Which, yeah... fair enough.

I will say this. In the Afterword, the author mentions that in the original version he went 'full Deadpool' and spent a great deal of time breaking the fourth wall before his editor took it out for being too distracting.

To that editor, I say, from the bottom of my black, cranky little heart, thank you. It was probably the only thing that kept me from throwing this book across the room. And since I read it on my Kindle, you saved me from being very sad. 


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