It took me a bit to settle on what to read next after the whole John Ringo fiasco (if you want the details look up John Ringo Part 3). I honestly had a hard time sitting down and reading anything. That story left such a foul taste in my mouth that everything else felt tainted. So I set aside the good books that I have on my endlessly growing tbr and looked for something I could make fun of. This involved Googling “the worst book ever written” and what I found was the Eye of Argon – and my life will never be the same.
First let me give you a little bit of info on this one. The Eye of Argon is a heroic fantasy (I cannot even type that without laughing) novella written (a term here stretched to it’s most technical of definitions) by Jim Theis. It was published in 1970 by OSFAN which was the Ozark SF Society. Since then it has lived in science fiction and fantasy fandom in this state of infamy. Games are played at cons where people see how long they can read this aloud without losing it. There are videos of it on Youtube. And there are rumors that it was actually a satire work by a group of writers but it’s all a he said, she said kind of tale. So I am going off of the assumption that this is indeed meant to be serious.
On to the meat as it were. This is the greatest story I have ever read. Not because it’s good – it most certainly is not – but because it pushes through bad to terrible to execrable to emerge on the other side gloriously, hilariously awful. It is the Andy Dufrane of books. It crawled through a mile of shit to make something amazing. It is the literary equivalent of The Room. The words are in English but you aren’t sure whether the author understood them or was some kind of alien attempting to write human literature. The Eye of Argon is what you would get if you stuffed Conan and a thesaurus into a blender with purple food coloring then hit frappe. You could write as sensible a story by every time you needed a descriptive word or a name just shaking out a can full of Scrabble letters and putting in whatever comes out.
There is no way to prepare someone for what they will experience with The Eye of Argon. It is an indescribable thing. The maddening reach for the most archaic of terms and inevitably choosing the wrong one. The spelling errors that were so bad that I actually had to cross reference to make sure I didn’t have a bad copy. I did not. The contradicting, melodramatic descriptions. Every interaction sounds like a robot trying to understand human mating rituals. This is the chaos inside a schizophrenics mind. Nothing makes any sense and the words tumble out in the most laughable word salad mankind has ever produced.
I decided that the only way I can review this is chapter by chapter because reading this through without frequent breaks is impossible. I’m also not really going to go into the story much because the story is very generic bad heroic fantasy. Nothing to write home about (women are wenches or whore and exist only to be saved or sleep with the hero, barely clothed barbarian hacking his way through hordes of mindless minions, lots of macho posturing, etc) but I want to share the linguistic gems I come across.
If you’re brave you can read along here: http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/sf/eyeargon/eyeargon.htm
Chapter 1 – Let’s Fucking Go
I am just going to share the opening passage so you all understand:
The weather beaten trail wound ahead into the dust racked climes of the baren land which dominates large portions of the Norgolian empire. Age worn hoof prints smothered by the sifting sands of time shone dully against the dust splattered crust of earth. The tireless sun cast its parching rays of incandescense from overhead, half way through its daily revolution. Small rodents scampered about, occupying themselves in the daily accomplishments of their dismal lives. Dust sprayed over three heaving mounts in blinding clouds, while they bore the burdonsome cargoes of their struggling overseers.
Holy shit. Where do you even begin? This is the purplest way of describing a sunny day in the desert that I have ever seen. The authors thesaurus was maliciously abused in the writing of this book. I want to take a knee to protest the brutality this man inflicted upon the English language. But it gets… better?
“Prepare to embrace your creators in the stygian haunts of hell, barbarian”, gasped the first soldier.
“Only after you have kissed the fleeting stead of death, wretch!” returned Grignr.
One – this soldier has a surprisingly strong vocabularly. Is that a requirment for these soldiers or does the kingdom have a very progressive English program? Plus I don’t think you get to gasp overwrought lines like that. I tried. It doesn’t work well. Two – why is Grinr (oh gods the Scrabble names!) so insistent that this man commit beastiality with Death’s horse? And – yes – stead is mispelled. There is no time for proofreading in the midst of writing a good bestiality based taunt.
The disemboweled mercenary crumpled from his saddle and sank to the clouded sward, sprinkling the parched dust with crimson droplets of escaping life fluid.
I share this one because it’s the first real incident of reaching for that archaic language and choosing the wrong word. The others are worse – and we will get to them – but this is the first. It also highlights the contradictory nature of the descriptions. A sward is an expanse of short grass or the upper layer of soil when covered by short grass to be technical but in the first paragraph he describes everything as dusty and barren. It is this puzzling mishmash of imagery that makes this so very awful. Also it’s fucking hilarious. Just look at it.
A gasping gurgle from the soldier’s writhing mouth as he tumbled to the golden sand at his feet, and wormed agonizingly in his death bed.
Look at it! Someone wrote this, read it, and went “Fucking genius.” Imagine the lack of awareness that this takes. It’s amazing. I couldn’t write like this if I tried. There is no drug that could wring this from me.
Grignr’s emerald green orbs glared lustfully at the wallowing soldier struggling before his chestnut swirled mount.
Names used – Grignir, Norgolian, Ecordian (I can hear polka for some reason), Gorzom, Crim
Tags Used Instead of Said (this is going to be a recurring theme) – gasped, returned, shrieked, and reverberated.
Said only appears 5 times in the entire thing. Everything else is this shit. So buckle the fuck up. We’ve got a ways to go.
Chapter 2 – Heaving Thews and Non Sequiturs
Eyeing a slender female crouched alone at a nearby bench, Grignr advanced wishing to wholesomely occupy his time. The flickering torches cast weird shafts of luminescence dancing over the half naked harlot of his choice, her stringy orchid twines of hair swaying gracefully over the lithe opaque nose, as she raised a half drained mug to her pale red lips.
Welcome to our first description of a woman! There is so much here that one could talk about. Like apparently how whoring is a wholesome activity. How “string orchid twines of hair” brings to mind a methed streetwalker with virtually no hair left – which would at least be moderately realistic. But my favorite is her “lithe opaque nose”. It is very good to let us know that her nose is not transparent. Is this a necessary fact though? Did the women the author knew have transparent noses?
What the fuck am I reading?! I can’t breath.
“Thou hast need to occupy your time, barbarian”,questioned the female?
“Only if something worth offering is within my reach.” Stated Grignr,as his hands crept to embrace the tempting female, who welcomed them with open willingness.
It’s not just me. His reply had nothing to do with her question, right?
The engrossed titan ignored the queries of the inquisitive female, pulling her towards him and crushing her sagging nipples to his yearning chest. Without struggle she gave in, winding her soft arms around the harshly bronzedhide of Grignr corded shoulder blades, as his calloused hands caressed her firm protruding busts.
Wow… that first line is an alien transcribing human mating rituals into a journal for study. This is so far from human in description. It could be anything. There are biologists studying apes with this line in their papers.
A flying foot caught the mug Grignr had taken hold of, sending its blood red contents sloshing over a flickering crescent; leashing tongues of bright orange flame to the foot trodden floor.
This is beautiful. Not only is it one long, run on sentence (And not the first one either. The sentences run like they are being pushed out of a moving car and believe that if they move their feet fast enough they won’t become street pizza.) but it is also massively over described in a way that would give Stephen King a hard on (if he didn’t already have a permanent one from the dump trucks of money his fans lavish upon him) and it has the foot imagery. A flying foot. I don’t know whether I like the idea of some medieval soldier throwing a jump kick or someone hurling a random foot his way more. Either way is glorious.
With a nauseating thud the severed oval toppled to the floor, as the segregated torso of Grignr’s bovine antagonist swayed, then collapsed in a pool of swirled crimson.
What do you imagine reading this sentence?
A: An oddly shaped cow head coming off of a racially seperated body falling into a pool full of kool-aid.
B: A soldier being beheaded.
“The slut should have picked his quarry more carefully!” Roared the victor in a mocking baritone growl, as he wiped his dripping blade on the prostrate form, and returned it to its scabbard.
I’m not sure slut is the word I would use to describe a soldier I just killed but then I wouldn’t have stared lustfully at a writhing soldier on the ground either. Whatever floats Gringr’s boat. I don’t kink shame.
“Your sirenity, resplendent in noble grandeur, we have brought this yokel before you (the soldier gestured toward Grignr) for the redress or your all knowing wisdon in judgement regarding his fate.”
Sirenity… this is word number 475 that I have Googled in this work to find out if it’s A) a word or B) has a meaning I am unaware. The answer to all of these have been no.
“By the surly beard of Mrifk, Grignr kneels to no man!” scowled the massive barbarian.
Did he sneeze when he made his curse? Is this is Klatuu, barada, nikto moment? Did the author suffer a mini stroke? How the fuck do you pronounce that?! Also why does Grignr talk in the third person?
“Take this uncouth heathen to the vault of misery, and be sure that his agonies are long and drawn out before death can release him.”
I want a vault of misery.
“I shall never understand the ways if your twisted civilization. I simply defend my honor and am condemned to life confinement, by a pig who sits on his royal ass wooing whores, and knows nothing of the affairs of the land he imagines to rule!” Lectures Grignr ?
Apparently even Grignr is no longer sure of what is happening. I feel ya, buddy.
“Enough of this! Away with the slut before I loose my control!”
Once again slut is not the word I would have used to describe the giant angry barbarian man in my court but you do you, oh jelly rolled sirenity.
The fat prince stood undulating in insurmountable fear before the edge of the fiery maned comet, his flabs of jellied blubber pulsating to and fro in ripples of flowing terror.
The prince went rigid as Grignr discerned him glazing over his shoulder.
Glazing over his shoulder? Was he making donuts? Finishing pottery? Installing windows?
Names – I have to point that the only name given in this chapter is “his sirenity’s” advisor. The ruler is never named. The advisors name? Agafnd. I fucking dare you to pronounce that without swallowing your own tongue.
Speech Tags! In this chapter people questioned, stated, gasped, admitted, blabbered, bellowed, roared, stated again, skipped tags or bothering to identify who spoke one statement entirely, mouth wrinkled, commanded, scowled, answered, whispered, sayeth, lectured, growled, and finally cackled.
Chapter 3 – Why The Fuck Is It Only 3 Paragraphs Long?
Consciousness returned to Grignr in stygmatic pools as his mind gradually cleared of the cobwebs cluttering its inner recesses, yet the stygian cloud of charcoal ebony remained. An incompatible shield of blackness, enhanced by the bleak abscense of sound.
Stygmatic pools? His consciousness returned in pools bearing the wounds of Christ? What is happening here?! I can only imagine he meant stygian but he’s spelled that properly before. And that is 4 separate words for darkness in 2 sentences. I am having Light Dawning flashbacks.
And – yes – this chapter is only 3 paragraphs long. It’s him laying in the dark deciding that he is not dead. That’s it.
Chapter 3 1/2 – Because POV Shifts Mid Chapter Are Too Mainstream
A tightly rung elliptical circle or torches cast their wavering shafts prancing morbidly over the smooth surface of a rectangular, ridged alter.
I dare you to make sense of this sentence. Making it make sense is like decoding the predictions of Nostradamus. Replacing letters and words until it makes some kind of message that vaguely passes as coherent. Had editors not been invented in the 70s?
Encircling the marble altar was a congregation of leering shamen. Eerie chants of a bygone age, originating unknown eons before the memory of man, were being uttered from the buried recesses of the acolytes’ deep lings.
My eyes are starting to bleed. This chapter is so ridden with these kinds of mistakes that I cannot begin to share them all. I am going to share all the misspelled and/or non-existent words here: alter instead of altar, protuberating, prescene, groved instead of grooved, shamen instead of shaman, lings instead of lungs, thw instead of the, diety instead of deity, lusciour instead of who fucking knows, dvory instead of ivory, tow instead of two, and obling instead of oblong (?). Fucking ballsacks.
I don’t have the strength for more of this right. I am light headed from laughing so much. So stay tuned for part 2 of The Most Abused Thesaurus! Where in I will endeavor to push through the remnants of whatever this is I am reading.