put the book down

The Athena ProjectRecently, I did something I rarely do. I stopped reading a book part-way through it.

Usually, even if a book is mediocre, I’ll finish the thing. Especially if I bought it. I may make copious mental notes about how not to write while slugging through it, but I’ll read it to the last page. Basically, a book really has to suck for me to just stop.

Ah, but suck The Athena Project did.

Now, I have to say, the last time I blasted another author (not for her work, but for her attitude), it brought on a shit storm of attention I hadn’t anticipated and frankly didn’t want. Even the author, herself, commented on my humble blog. I’m not trying to get that kind of attention now.

But it’s only fair to tell you some of the ways in which this book sucked, and that I will do.

The Athena Project is about a covert CIA task force composed entirely of female agents. The agents are all attractive, (of course). They’ve been recruited from a pool of athletes, the strategy being that athletic women would be competitive, focused and driven. Not deep stuff, but moderately plausible, even if a little sexist. (I’d guess there are plenty of non-athletic women out there who could bring a lot to the table.)

I picked this book up at an after-Christmas sale for a whopping $2.50. It’s a hardcover, making $2.50 a great price. I got a few other books, as well, mostly by authors I’d never read. While this one didn’t sound deep, the jacket made it sound almost Robert Ludlum-esque. It was not.

From the beginning, the four female agents are described in painfully unimaginative and blatantly sexist fashion. They prattle on about who likes who. You know, likes likes. They talk about men using descriptive words like “hunk” and they obsess over each other’s hair, makeup and outfits. These are supposed to be CIA operatives. Professional killers. Focused, highly-trained government assassins. But the harsh truth is that they sound like sixth grade girls trading bits of gossip in the halls between classes. Even the most poorly imagined YA romance novel would include a more mature, well developed female cast.

In the first 25 pages, one of the women calls another a “you-know-what”, electing to avoid the word “bitch”. Because, you know, people who kill for a living are often cartoonishly conservative when it comes to swearing. Had I continued reading, I would not have been surprised if, after a day of romping through the middle east, the four principle characters had returned to their shared hotel suite to don sleepwear from the Victoria’s Secret Pink collection and work out their frustration and anxiety via a pillow fight. Yes, it was that bad.

But, as I said, that’s not the point.

The point is, if you find yourself reading something that feels like a form of torture, put the book down. Granted, when it comes to recommendations from people you respect and the classics, there can be a kind of value in reading things you don’t particularly enjoy. But, if you’re reading something purely for fun and you find yourself hating it, there’s no loss of honor in slapping the book closed and finding something better.

Which is what I did. And, I have to say, Stephen King‘s Full Dark, No Stars is incomparably better. Thank God.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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