(Warning: this review contains foul language and fouler grammar due to the reviewer’s rage and disgust. Reader discretion is advised and, quite frankly, is totally understandable if you want to get out now before the screaming and the bleeding from the eyes gets to be too much.)
Very rarely do I come across a book that literally stops me in my tracks and forces me to ask the age-old question, “What the unholy fuck?” Norman Boutin’s self-acclaimed literary classic Empress Theresa is just such a book.
From the very first page I knew that this book was going to be different. Hubris is not in the author’s vocabulary, and in the introduction alone he challenges you by saying that this is a book unlike you have ever read. All I can say to that is, “You aren’t kidding.” The introduction does give us some insight into the creative process of the author, however, and it’s a terrifying glimpse of an attempt at literature gone terribly awry.
My brain was slammed with a large, ice-cold bucket of “the fuck?” on page 1 of the book. Suggesting that Scout from Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird led a charmed life led me to believe that the author hadn’t even read it, simply skimmed through the cliff notes version you can pick up online, and forced me to question my own sanity when it came to requesting this book for review. I had to go back and check Wikipedia to ensure that yes, this is the book he’s talking about and no, I hadn’t forgotten the plot. I mean, holy shit man, did you actually grasp the context of the book or did you simply watch the (excellent, by the way) movie? Or are you getting this confused with John Grisham’s lame ripoff A Time To Kill? What are you doing to me, Norman Boutin? I want to know more about your character, damn it. And while the main character (Theresa Sullivan, TYVM) tells you that she has a story to tell, she really doesn’t seem to know how to tell it. So far, all you’ve covered on the first page is a screwed up comparison of a classic literary novel with a dash of fired buckshot across a brief family description! I’m not expecting the greatest opening in the history of mankind on a first-time author’s very first page, but I’d expect a little… something.
Nonetheless, I soldiered on. I chalked the first page up to new author jitters, and figured “Hey, maybe it’ll get better.”
Note: do not get your hopes up. I did, and all that precious hope was shattered and shat upon, spread across the ground and then piled haphazardly in the darkest, deepest corner of Hell.
Theresa talks about going to different places around the world in the past tense, as well as suggesting that Theresa may well indeed become something far greater than a boring little girl from Farmingham, Massachusetts. Her parents are wonderful and bland, and rely on a computer to babysit her when she plays outside while they are at work. Her parents have convinced her, at the age of 10, that she will avoid drugs and boys through her high school years. Yes, I know, I was shaking my head here too.
But her story begins with the sighting of a red fox. In broad daylight. Weird, since the only time a fox is out in broad daylight is because they’re rabid (ed. note: it was brought to my attention that foxes are out in the daylight when they don’t fear humans and live in parks and whatnot. Living on a farm, we shoot foxes because they are after our chickens, especially the potentially rabid ones out in daylight, so I’ll accept that foxes are sometimes seen in daylight. Regional bias on my part), but Theresa doesn’t fear this in any way and watches as the fox walks up her back porch, sits down and stares at her. Then suddenly, a bright ball of light leaps from the fox and slams into Theresa’s stomach. She screams and runs inside, locks the door and… calmly watches the fox disappear.
Okay, think about this for a moment. No 10 year old girl would be rational at this point, no matter how normal and boring they are. 10 year old boys and girls flip out over the weirdest stuff, and a glowing white ball leaping out of a fox and hitting you is pretty fucking weird. Hell, I’m the most rational person I know (I should get out more, I agree) and I would have freaked out. Of course, I also probably would have grabbed the .22 and disposed of the fox because I don’t need rabid animals on the farm.
But I digress. This is starting to make my head hurt, and I really wish I had more booze on hand.
I really can’t get over how poorly the first two pages are written, by the way. It takes real effort to be this bad and, for a moment, I had a sneaking suspicion that the author was trolling everyone who had read the book. I looked him up and, well, he’s a real author and takes himself very, very seriously.
He is not going to like this review, I can guarantee that much.
So anyways, back to the story. Theresa admits that she’s worried about her weight (her mother says she’s too skinny, so this is the first time that the character has been portrayed in any semblance of “realistic”). Thinking she was hallucinating due to lack of food, she goes into the kitchen and makes fried eggs, bacon, toast and milk…
…and then a bunch of firetrucks appear.
No scene buildup, no suspense, just BOOM! and let’s keep moving. This could have been executed very well if the author had any talent at making the reader give a shit about Theresa. Even though it’s early in the book, this is reminding me of a book I read once called The All-American by John R. Tunis. But, you know, without the talent. Or skill. Or character development. Or a plot.
I’ve spent just about 900 words talking about the horrors on the first THREE pages and I’m starting to wonder if this is turning into a slam piece. I mean, I want to be professional about this review, but when I’ve wasted hours of my life reading this book (and never getting them back, I’ll add) I get really irritated.
Okay, so it suddenly got very warm in the middle of a summer day (she’s not in school, parents are at work, she has an idyllic lifestyle… I’m assuming this is the middle of summer here) and someone called the fire department to report a fire. I… come on Norman, what the hell? I can’t even lose myself in this book because you keep yanking my suspension of disbelief right out of the book with inconsistencies. You’re trying to make this sound like present-day, but it sounds more like Andy Griffith. I… I just…
Damn it, this review is never going to get finished. I can’t even talk about the basic plot of the first chapter without losing my shit.
Okay, I’m skipping ahead, because basically the next few chapters are Theresa becoming inhabited by an alien AI, meeting kindly Federal Agents who do not whisk her away to Area 51 to cut open her brain, and her becoming super smart and being able to throw a baseball very hard (this girl is a cheater, by the way, for using an alien intelligence to make her a better athlete than everyone else around her but hey, morals don’t matter when you’re Empress motherfucking THERESA). It’s strange, because the author even managed to make all of this completely boring. This could have been a great bit about her wrestling with the sudden expansion of her mind and awareness, discovery of hypersensitivity and perfect memory retention, or even simply watching a 10 year old outwit and outduel a grown woman (things that kids actually will enjoy reading about). Instead, the author falls flat again and deprives the reader of some quality character development.
I really can’t describe how horrid this is. Putrid, fetid stink emanating from an old urinal cake that was forced through a septic system is the closest thing I can think of, and the argument could be made that I was insulting the urinal cake. By the way, if someone sends me something like this again, I will find you, and I will do things to you that would make even Liam Neeson shudder in horror.
Now, one thing the author does well (yes, a compliment) is show the various interaction between the Canadian and British governments. Of course, the immediate question which came to mind is why the US government is completely ignoring the girl after discovering that she is interacting with an alien machine. Unfortunately, by this time the author has flayed the reader’s mind with numbing agents called “words” in a vast attempt to write a literary masterpiece that falls somewhat short of Atlanta Nights. I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m being catfished by the author the further I go. It’s like I’m Alice, he’s the White Rabbit and we did some horrible peyote before falling into the well from The Ring (complete with creepy murderous girl).
Theresa promised to save the world for Prime Minster Tony Blair but unfortunately she is unable to crack the alien code of HAL (what she calls the alien machine inside her). While the pace is moving along, I just can’t seem to garner up the energy to give a damn about Theresa or her new husband Steve. I’ve never seen an author go out of their way before to make a main character so bland and boring, and kill any attempt that the reader may make to engage her. She’s a Mary Sue, half-assed fantasy of a man who doesn’t grasp the concept that characters need to do more than walk through the pages of a book. She’s trying to save the world, and all I can think at this point is that I’m not even halfway through the book and I want to end the pain.
But I can’t stop reading, because my seemingly endless suffering is for your amusement. Yes, dear readers, I love you that much.
You all owe me. You owe me big.
The world begins to die for inexplicable reasons, droughts reign, and crops wither and die, all the while the world sits back on its ass and waits for an 18 year old girl to save it. The science in the book started to drive me crazy. Bad science, horrible science, and not even explained rationally enough to make a YA reader (because really, that’s the target audience here) to say “Okay, cool” and continue on with the story. Really, I went back and read that bit three times trying to figure it out. I mean, maybe kids would skimp over it and cut him some slack (because YA readers are a forgiving bunch; look at how well they adapted to Catching Fire after The Hunger Games came out! #/sarcasm).
This book review is starting to make me sick. I’m getting a stiff drink to see if I can finish this up without losing my sanity. I’m changing the author’s name, by the way. No more shall he be called “Norman Boutin”. No, Norman shall henceforth be known as “The Black Goat of the Woods, Shub-Niggurath, Devourer of Souls, Eater of Sanity, Beholden of Chtulhu and Smiter of the Righteous.” Seriously, our hero and savior changed the poles in the book so that everyone can have summer all year long! That’s great for people in England. Sucks to be in the southern hemisphere but hey, fuck those guys, amiright? I think that the author should have gone into the Dark Arts. They’d love to learn just how well he can cause suffering at levels they had only previously masturbated to. H. P. Lovecraft couldn’t even imagine the horrors held in these pages. This book breaks the confines of a pandemic outbreak, requiring handling in full CDC garb, and should be called “Litbola” (courtesy of a Twitter follower, @zeewulfeh)
Much of what the author shows throughout seems to have been made up on the fly, including (and not limited to) the military, the government, how things work, nature, aliens, terrorists, OPEC, treaties, gravity, physics, water…
*long suffering sigh*
Look… this is, quite frankly, one of the worst pieces of published fiction I have ever laid eyes upon. For some reason, the author thought that he could project his world domination fantasies onto a populace in the form of a young girl, fixing all of the worlds problems without considering that the basis of human nature is to fight against being controlled. This is not a book for kids (unless you want them to hate reading), and I wouldn’t even say this is for adults (adults, hopefully, know when a book is so bad that nothing can save it). This is nothing more than idiopathic projection in literary form.
I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or by merely one book review, but for the love of your unborn children, run away. Run as far and as fast as you can. Do not look back. This is your Sodom and Gomorrah, kiddies. Don’t look back or a pillar of salt you shall become. Don’t waste your money, time, or sanity trying to make it through this book. Don’t even try to start it. Don’t force yourself to get to chapter three. Don’t swallow the arsenic and push to the end. The payoff isn’t worth it (since there isn’t really any payoff) and you’ll hate yourself for it afterwards. I suffered through this so you would not have to.
Don’t make my suffering be in vain.
Grade– *is “Ebola” a low enough grade? Did I go too far? Did I go far enough?
-Reviewed by Jason (May God have mercy on his soul)
#1 by lobo314 on October 28, 2014 - 3:07 am
Owe you? Owe you? Bollocks. You were the one stupid enough to pick up the gauntlet that various folks[not I as you’ll recall] were silly enough to throw down. Dropping bread crumbs and such in one of our favorite haunts. Not my fault you ain’t got no self control Jason.
I spent the entire review laughing my ass off though.
#2 by Barb Caffrey on October 28, 2014 - 3:33 am
Thank you for reviewing it so I didn’t have to. (And I laughed, too. Hard.)
#3 by T.L. Knighton on October 28, 2014 - 8:44 am
I’m very disappointed. There’s no reason to insult Ebola by comparing it to Empress Theresa.
But I laughed my butt off at the review. That was just awesome. 🙂
#4 by Jasini on October 28, 2014 - 8:48 am
I think the author would have done better with one of the Stock covers Amazon has. (Seriously, he thinks that’s a good cover?)
I’ve seen the web page and occasionally go and look at his Amazon reviews when I’m feeling morbid, but haven’t dared to actually look inside the book. And I doubt I ever will. 😀
#5 by smithgift on October 28, 2014 - 4:43 pm
That’s the actual cover? The thing at the top? 😦
#6 by warpcordova on October 28, 2014 - 4:44 pm
It’s one of three I found. Apparently this is an older one, but I feel in encapsulates the review the best.
#7 by Jasini on October 28, 2014 - 4:58 pm
There are three covers he has made. Each of them is worse than the other two.
#8 by Jasini on October 28, 2014 - 5:01 pm
Here’s another one. Those aren’t alligators in the distance.
#9 by T.L. Knighton on October 28, 2014 - 9:09 am
Don’t. Doing so may well rip your sanity apart, leaving nothing but the empty husk that was once “you” in its wake and it toddles along destroying buildings and pooping in public.
You really don’t want that.
#10 by Karen Myers on October 28, 2014 - 9:19 am
As the sick joke goes, every time you see a WTF pop cultural meme out of Japan… “Japan. Nuked too much or not enough?”
#11 by Walter Daniels on October 28, 2014 - 9:41 am
I read the “blurb,” and that was more than enough. It will never darken _my_ purchase, or even my wish list.
#12 by daphnis on October 28, 2014 - 10:15 am
I’m going to be frank: Empress Theresa is comparable to most other “indie” novels in quality.
#13 by Thomas Monaghan on October 28, 2014 - 10:59 am
BS. Daphnis I’ve read a number of indie novels and enjoyed them. You are painting with a very broad brush and not very well.
#14 by T.L. Knighton on October 28, 2014 - 10:22 am
That’s a good one.
#15 by suburbanbanshee on October 28, 2014 - 10:35 am
FYI, healthy foxes roam around in the daylight in many places in the US. For example, on campus at Loyola in Chicago, where foxes are not afraid because they have no predators and food is plentiful. You are more likely to see them in summer when students aren’t as plentiful and noisy, but they are out and about in the day all year.
#16 by warpcordova on October 28, 2014 - 10:39 am
On a farm in VA, you see a fox out in the daylight showing no fear towards humans, you shoot it because rabies is rampant down here. I’ll take the blame for that one as a regional difference.
#17 by D. Jason Fleming on October 28, 2014 - 11:04 am
The Norm Boutin Negative Review Response Form
(check all that apply, all that don’t apply, and all that don’t even enter into it)
[ ] …DIDN’T EVEN READ THE BOOOOOOK!
[ ] …is an evil atheist.
[ ] …is lying about the content of the book.
[ ] …is a member of the Empress Theresa Haters Club.
[ ] …doesn’t understand the world-historical importantness of Empress Theresa.
[ ] …must be part of the anti-Empress Theresa conspiracy.
[ ] …will feel shame and regret when watching the Oscar®-winning Empress Theresa movie.
[ ] …is not intelligent, and Empress Theresa is only for intelligent readers.
[ ] …completely and totally misrepresents the awesomeness of the book.
[ ] …calls things “bland” and “boring” when they are really “good” and “wholesome”.
[ ] …is an attempt to slander the book and its author so that others will not discover their life-changing message.
[ ] …is unknown to the author, and therefor unimportant.
[ ] …must not be very credible, because they would publish delusional trash like this review without even warning readers of its vulgarity.
[ ] …is a part of the anti-Empress Theresa reptiloid alien mind control conspiracy.
And the sad thing? Only the repitloid conspiracy in that last bit is entirely made up, and not based on something dear Normie actually said.
#18 by warpcordova on October 28, 2014 - 11:06 am
I’m hoping he shows up to dispute my review. I could write a review of the dispute.
#19 by Chris on October 28, 2014 - 12:13 pm
I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry.
#20 by smithgift on October 28, 2014 - 4:52 pm
I’d heard of a book with this name, but I wasn’t sure if this was it. After some more research, it is.
Where had I heard it? The author was talking about it in a random comment thread, SPOILING THE ENDING.
On second thought, I’m glad I didn’t seek it out.
#21 by KyBunniesie on October 29, 2014 - 11:48 pm
Wonderful review. Thanks so much for sharing. My husband and I had a great laugh.
Hope you have some shine to kill the Empress Theresa in your brain.
I hope Norman pops by here. I can’t wait to see his rage.
I really am sorry you had to read this horrid book.
#22 by Collegeprofessor on November 7, 2014 - 2:28 pm
That review is the most ignorant ranting I’ve ever seen.
After reading it, what do you know about the story? Nothing.
#23 by warpcordova on November 7, 2014 - 4:44 pm
I was wondering when you were going to show up. I welcome thee.
After reading the review, people are left knowing that a story of this magnitude can’t be properly assimilated by our minds because they have moved above the “thumb sucking” stage of life. They have also learned that the book can be used as a lightweight doorstop, a coaster for coffee cups, and can also take up unwanted data on a hard drive.
You are very welcome, my good sir.
#24 by T.L. Knighton on November 7, 2014 - 5:08 pm
Really, Norm? Do you think you have anyone fooled?
#25 by thewriterinblack on November 7, 2014 - 5:12 pm
Yeah, that level of diction and discourse is exactly what I’d expect from a “college professor”. (Is there a “rolleyes” emoticon on this thing? Well, presume one.)
#26 by D. Jason Fleming on November 7, 2014 - 5:41 pm
Isn’t it funny how, in this new internet world, cowards can hide behind fake names to attack people, and yet they can’t hide that they’re really Norm Boutin attempting to use a sockpuppet to slag a review he doesn’t like?
I’m sure, sir, that you are just as much a college professor as you are a stock market millionaire, an army captain, a dentist, and a world-historical novelist.
#27 by T.L. Knighton on November 7, 2014 - 5:46 pm
At least now we know the identity of the “university curriculum coordinator” now. None other than Renaissance man, Norman Boutin. 😀
#28 by A professor at a different college. on July 25, 2015 - 2:22 pm
That’s an interesting critique, collegeprofessor What’s your subject?
I think you’re trying to ask ‘What does the reader [of the review] know about the story?’ You use the ‘you’ ambiguously.
When we task students with writing a book review in school, we want details about the story, yes. The very purpose of the review is to be able to see if they read the book, rather than skimmed the Cliff Notes or watched the movie. We want to see if they understand terms like plot and theme, and apply the knowledge in identifying those elements in the book. If they can tell the difference between plot device and literary device.
If we’re not teachers, though, we read reviews to know if the book or movie is something we would want to spend our time reading. For that, the review you’re lambasting is wonderfully adequate.
Your ‘review’ of the review? No so much.
#29 by thewriterinblack on July 29, 2015 - 12:07 pm
Seems to me you’re describing the difference between a book report and a book review
Book report. I wrote any number of these in school and college. Generally got a B+ or higher so I figure I was reasonably good at doing them.
#30 by Chris on November 8, 2014 - 1:30 am
Wow. And I thought my ‘don’t read this’ review was brutal. You sir, are a master of verbal evisceration. You have my respect and admiration.
#31 by Oniwasabi on December 26, 2014 - 9:31 pm
I’ve been clicking around reviews for this book since I saw it on “Worst Things for Sale” and I’ve been laughing my ass off for almost half an hour. This review was a fine place to conclude that spree!
Forget the actual book, anyone else think we should just collect all of the longer reviews (including the glowing five star reviews Norman gave himself, and a few others that I’m reasonably certain are him using an alias/different account) and release THAT in ebook format. Comedy gold, and FAR easier to read (and more likely to BE read) than the book (I tried the free sample. I gave up around page 10)
#32 by Ture Eijsbouts on September 29, 2015 - 8:22 am
Just in case anyone is interested, the shitfest that is the Amazon review discussion page is still rolling. Over 1800 posts already…