Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Omega Rising

Sometimes you read a book and you think, "this is what I wished for when I was a kid."

Omega Rising is one such book. Jason Burke, a former military special operator ninja type living in his cabin in the mountains sees a crash landing and goes to render aid. As it turns out it isn't an airplane crash, but a temporarily disabled UFO. And it turn out that instead of rendering aid, he gets trapped onboard and shortly thereafter he enlists as a crewman.

How cool is that?

Turns out his mad weapons skillz translate well to what's needed in this part of the galaxy. And off he goes finding friendly aliens to fill missing slots in the crew. He ends up righting wrongs and fighting intergalactic crime and becoming a regular hero.

Fun stuff.

Is it deep literature that'll make you think about the human condition and man's place in the universe? Nope. It's popcorn, buttered, tasty and salty.

And that's what I loved and what I see as the novel's weakness. Salty language doesn't fit in here.

When the Good Lord sent Moses down from the Mount with the tablets of the Law, the 3rd Commandment said not to take the name of deity uselessly. It did not say, "Thou Shalt Not Say F*ck."

As far as my own moralistic whining is concerned, I have much more trouble with OMG than WTF, because OMG uses the name in a profane fashion, whereas WTF employs a mere vulgarity. There's a commandment for the former, not for the latter.

But my friends at church, and my family members take a dim view of the latter. I have a cousin who likes Science Fiction, but any swear words had better be in Mandarin or munged into euphemisms like, "frack." Thus he won't enjoy Omega Rising for reason of the salty language alone.

I thought Omega Rising would be an excellent juvenile. Since our hero is the only human, and he's pretty busy saving the galaxy, there are no sex scenes. But junior might get a vocabulary lesson that mom or dad might not appreciate. If you're cool with that, then by all means you should read Omega Rising and then hand it over to your favorite adventure-loving boy or girl.

5-Stars if you don't mind the f-word.

Since I've mentioned bad language, I want to open my mind a bit on the subject. From a moral standpoint, something is not right or wrong if I approve or not. If you believe deity cares about the 3rd Commandment, then you'll have to worry about answering to him about it. Not me.

Strong language extends beyond profanity to other usage that is socially inappropriate. The f-word is a vulgarity, the s-word is a coprology, and the n-word is an insulting term. None of these words are good or bad in and of themselves, but how & when they are used. My mother-in-law was a devout Christian whose moral example met the highest standard was beyond any reproach. Yet, she was a farm wife and when discussing the cleaning of a barn, I heard her use s-word in a matter-of-fact matter. She wasn't any more or less righteous for that usage. It merely reflected her agricultural background.

Likewise, when in college I made the acquaintance of someone from Australia. He used different swear words. He couldn't say words that I found innocuous and vice versa.

I'm not saying all this to preach at you, but to establish that these words have an effect on your audience that you want to control. If you think X is a shocking word, you should use it when you want your reader to be shocked.

Usage should be fitting for the character. Your elderly nun probably should not curse like a sailor, while your sailor has a license to use whatever ribaldry the scene calls for.

I worked in a factory beside a fellow who would use curse words as a sort of mantra. They didn't mean anything as he said them, they just came out of his mouth in a continuous stream. I'm not condemning the fellow, but such words are a coin that is easily debased.

Consider how you use spicy peppers, they add a certain piquancy to a dish that some people, like my sister-in-law, have zero tolerance for. Conversely, leave them out and I find the disk bland and boring. Though you will find lots of spicy peppers in my insanity chili, they are a spice, not a main ingredient.

I think this is how you should use strong language. Don't overdo it. Include enough to avoid blandness. But be sensitive to a market that may have zero tolerance.

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