This is for bookelfe/skygiants. Of course. (Yes, I'm out of order.)

I’m sticking with books here. A lot of manga and anime operates on different narrative rules, so the bizarreness makes wacky internal sense. I do have to mention, though, the complete works of Kaori Yuki if you have any interest in things like random flying Heavenly whales, apocalypse by army of flying zombie angel embryos, and people getting turned into masses of writhing tentacles and kept in the bathtub.

Even so, it was very, very difficult to narrow this down to five. There are bizarre premises (“I will break every bone in my body because then they’ll grow back stronger and I WILL BE INVINCIBLE”), the sheer weight of ridiculousness in a single book (the bone-breaking book also featured the near-death of the hero’s milk-allergic brother when the hero’s cheating girlfriend ate pizza, then kissed the brother), the sudden intrusion of absurdity into a previously non-bizarre book (two-thirds sensitive exploration of sketchy power dynamics, one third EVIL BALL OF MASKED S&M SMALL PRESS POETS), and unwanted intrusions by the author’s peculiar id (of course the most desirable whores have hooves.) Not to mention Terry Goodkind's infamous evil chicken. How to choose?

I have so many contenders that I was forced to name winners in categories.

Most Stupid Protagonist

Runner-Up: Oscar, the hero of Myke Cole’s Control Point. When faced with the difficult decision of who he should get help from— a) his best friend, b) a friendly acquaintance, or c) the sociopathic supervillain who is currently locked up after going on a mass slaughter rampage but who promises to help him out if he’ll only release her from the magical wards laid on her to stop her from slaughtering everyone in sight— guess who he picks?

Winner: Summer in Mary Brown’s Master of Many Treasures, for failing to get rid of a traveling companion whom she easily could get rid of, after he repeatedly and deliberately endangers her and all the rest of her companions, including trying to kill a friend of hers in a random fit of temper. Also for ignoring all advice by people who clearly have her best interest in mind, and taking all advice by people holding up HI I AM EVIL signs, and for failing to learn from very consistent consequences, like falling into quicksand full of rotting corpses because she couldn’t bear to take her best friend’s advice that the left-hand path led to the Swamp of Rotting Corpses. Also for believing that a good excuse for stalking her dragon ex-boyfriend is explaining that she actually fell in love with him when she thought he was a flying pig.

This doesn’t have anything to do with her intelligence, but I just want to mention that during the course of the book, she lays an egg.


Once Is Tragedy, One Million Times Is Hilarity

Crazy-Beautiful, by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Gee, if I'd known spilling my orange juice was this effective, I'd have spilled it in Dad's direction every day when I was younger. Then maybe he'd have made time to do things with me like, I don't know, play catch in the yard. Not that I'm complaining or playing the neglected child card. I'll never do that. I know what I've done. I know who's responsible for everything in my life, past, present, and future. Still, a little catch would have been fun, when I still had hands.



And what of me and my hands? Or, I should say, lack of hands.



I finish loading the dryer, hookload by hookload, use my hook to set the dial at seventy minutes, use my hook to depress the button.

Most Ridiculous Plot Twists

Runners-Up:

All books by Sheri Tepper. Future ones too. Every Sheri Tepper book in which infanticide is presented as the solution to the problems of the world. Also the one where the heroine turns out to be a de-aged squid-person. She might lay an egg too, I forget.

The indie gangster movie, name forgotten, in which the screenwriter’s poorly thought-through desire to add on one more surprise reveal meant that the entire action of the movie consisted of a drug lord hiring people to steal his own drugs.

The Isobelle Carmody books with the love quadrangle between two humans and two transformed dogs.

Dan Simmons’ The Rise of Endymion. The climactic revelation of the entire series is that quantum strings are made out of love.

Frank Herbert’s God-Emperor of Dune. It makes sense in context, but I still find it hilarious that the climax consists of the main character becoming a million worms.

Lord of Legends, by Susan Krinard. I still have no idea why the heroine’s housekeeper turned into a talking fox.

And finally… drum roll… the winner!

Spider Robinson’s Starseed. The heroine is paralyzed via drugs, has multiple bad guys holding guns on her, and isabout to be killed. As her last request, she asks for a moment to meditate. When they grant it, she achieves enlightenment. This enables her to become telepathic, overcome the effects of the paralyzing drug, and slaughter the bad guys with kung fu.
My case studies on disappointing revelations to fascinating mysteries:

Gateway, by Frederik Pohl. Though dated and likely to offend, in purely artistic terms this is a perfect little novel. Earth is slowly dying of overpopulation and ecological damage, but humans found an abandoned fleet of alien starships, which can accommodate no more than five passengers. If you fiddle with the computer until a valid destination pops up and hit a button, the ship will go to that destination. The catch is that humans have no idea what the destination actually is until they get there, so they are liable to fly the ship into a star, go so far that their food runs out before they even arrive, etc. Most voyages discover nothing of value; lots return with all the crew dead, or never come back at all. But a few strike it rich. In two alternating timelines, the protagonist, who struck it rich on an otherwise disastrous voyage, recounts his time at Gateway and, back on Earth, explores the depths of his own psyche with a computerized psychologist. The novel stands completely on its own. No sequels were necessary.

Gateway is about mystery: the mystery of the ships, the mystery of shipping out for an unknown destination (metaphorically, life), the mystery of one's own motivations. These are not mysteries that can be completely solved; the mystery is the point. The sequels produce the most mundane and dull explanations possible.

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons, is an sf-nal Canterbury Tales in which seven travelers share their origin stories, all involving mysterious events. This is a bit different in that while it also sets up fascinating mysteries, they are the sort for which one does want explanations. But one wants interesting explanations. The Fall of Hyperion is a mixed bag, with some good ideas but some not. It also defangs spooky beings who should have remained spooky. Subsequent sequels continue explaining and explaining, with explanations that make increasingly less sense, until it explains the entire cosmos with the stupidest explanation possible. Ybir YVGRENYYL ubyqf gur havirefr gbtrgure. Yvgrenyyl. Zbyrphyne obaqf ner znqr bs ybir. (Be cbffvoyl dhnaghz fgevatf. Fnzr cevapvcyr, gubhtu.) (Decipher with rot13.com.)

And then there's The Other Wind, by Ursula Le Guin, in which the main thrust of the story is explaining and solving the world of the dead, which was never set up as a mystery or a problem and did not require any explanation or solution. (Yes, it was depressing. But in a mythic way which fit the tone of the earlier books.)

Religious/spiritual/mystical explanations for physical phenomena are generally unsatisfying in science fiction novels. It can work in short stories, where less build-up is required, or, of course, in mainstream novels about religious people, in which one expects something like that.

What other novels fell prey to unsatisfying explanations, whether or not any explanations were even necessary? Which novels managed solutions that lived up to the mystery, and didn't destroy the sense of wonder?
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