email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
10th Grade202432 Stories4th of July99 DaysA Change in AltitudeA Demon in My ViewA Dream of WolvesA Falling KnifeA Finely Tuned Apathy MachineA Heart of StoneA Life Lived RidiculouslyA Multitude of SinsA Parting GiftA Question of BloodA Quiet PlaceA Red Heart of MemoriesA River SutraA Short History of Tractors in UkrainianA Slight Trick of the MindA Stir of BonesA Thousand Miles from NowhereA Voyage Long and StrangeA Wedding in December About a BoyAbraham LincolnAcross the River and Into the TreesActs of GodAfrican PsychoAfter DarkAfter YouAfter You'd GoneAfterwardsAgenda for MurderAliens in the Prime of Their LivesAll Alone in the UniverseAll Families Are PsychoticAll in the MindAll the Way HomeAltered LandAlternatives to SexAmanda's WeddingAmelia RulesAmericaAmerica AmericaAmnesiaAmong the DepartedAn Object of BeautyAngelsAngry Youth Comix #2AnimosityAnne SextonAre You Experienced?Aristotle and Poetic JusticeAristotle DetectiveArlington ParkArtemis FowlAs Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank MeAsking For MurderAtonementAway Laughing on a Fast CamelBabylon and Other StoriesBad BoyBad SeedBag Of BonesBalancing ActsBarbara the Slut and Other PeopleBeach RoadBeat the ReaperBeautiful GirlsBed of RosesBefore I Go to SleepBefore the FrostBeg the QuestionBeginner's GreekBellyBeneath the SkinBenedictionBest New American VoicesBig BrotherBilly and GirlBiteBlack & WhiteBlack HelicoptersBlack Market TruthBlameBlanketsBleed for MeBlind SightBlonde FaithBlood, Salt, WaterBlueprints for Building Better GirlsBody SurfingBoneMan's DaughtersBoneyardBoneyardBoomsdayBorder CrossingBoth Ways Is the Only Way I Want ItBoysBracketBrain TrustBrava, ValentineBreaking Out of BedlamBreathing UnderwaterBrick LaneBridge of SighsBridget JonesBridget Jones's DiaryBrief Interviews with Hideous MenBruisesBrŁselBullyBurn, Bitchy, BurnButterflyBy BloodBy The Sea ShoreCalled to KillCanadaCanvasCaricatureCase HistoriesCellCemetery DanceChange of HeartChangesChasing the DimeChild 44Cinema PanopticumCinnamon KissCircle NineCity of the LostClay's WayClose toYouClose Your EyesCloud 9 AffairCoincidenceCold CaseCold HitCold in HandCollected StoriesCome Up and See Me SometimeComfort and JoyCompulsionConfessions of a ShopaholicConfessions of an Ex-GirlfriendConsider LoveCouch FictionCrispinCross CountryCruddyCrumpleCutCypherDaddy's GirlsDakotaDamageDancing After HoursDanger in High PlacesDanger! Cross CurrentsDante's PoisonDante's WoodDarkest FearDating Without NovocaineDead BoysDead Canaries Don't SingDead EndDead EvenDeadly AdviceDeadly ButterflyDeadly GambleDeaf SentenceDear American AirlinesDear Zoe,Death of a Department ChairDeath of an AddictDeath with InterruptionsDeath Without TenureDeceitDecemberDeceptionDefending JacobDeliverance From EvilDemonologyDepraved HeartDisobedienceDisturbing GroundDivine JusticeDivisaderoDixie RoadDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDriftlessDuplicityEcstasyEmerald City BluesEmpire FallsEmpress of the WorldEnd over EndEven DeadlierEven Dogs in the WildEvenings at FiveEvery Note PlayedEvery Visible ThingEye ContactFaking ItFalling ManFamily HistoryFascinationFat Angie Fear of the DarkFeeling Sorry for CeliaFellsideFeminist Philosophy And Science FictionFever 1793Field of BloodFinal JeopardyFlashpointFlorid StatesForgive the MoonFortunate SonFortune's RocksFour Blind MiceFour CornersFred the ClownFrom Girls to GrrlzGallatin CanyonGaudi AfternoonGenerosityGeorgia Under WaterGhost at the WindowGiftedGiganticGirl in TranslationGirl Walking BackwardsGirls Closed InGirls Like UsGod HeadGod Is DeadGod Is Not OneGods and BeastsGoldengroveGone GirlGood GriefGrace, Tamar and Laszlo the BeautifulGuises of DesireHalf In Love With DeathHappiness Sold SeparatelyHappy FamilyHappy Mutant Baby PillsHappy Now?HarleyHarry Potter and the Sorcererís StoneHe Counts Their TearsHeartbeatHeftHell's IslandHey, Wait...High HeatHolidays On IceHope in a JarHot MilkHotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel WorldHotels of North AmericaHouse of JavaHow a Gunman Says GoodbyeHow People ChangeHow to Be GoodHow to Set a Fire and WhyHow to Stop TimeHug MeI Can See YouI Don't Know How She Does ItI'd Know You AnywhereI'm Traveling AloneIf I Fall, If I DieIf You StayImagine Me GoneImposter for HireIn ZanesvilleInfinite JestIngloriousInnocentInnocent WorldInnocentsInspired SleepInvisibleIronshoreIs This What Other Women Feel Too?It Takes OneIt's Love We Don't UnderstandIt's Not Me, It's YouJacob Have I LovedJimmy CorriganJohn Dies at the EndJournal d'une femme adultŤreJust LifeKhalifahKick the Animal OutKicking the SkyKim: Empty InsideKisscutKissing DoorknobsKissing in AmericaKnockout MouseLambLast Chance SaloonLast NightLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLawnboyLayoverLeft NeglectedLeisureLeo the Lightning BugLeslie's JournalLet Me Be Frank With YouLie to MeLies My Girlfriend Told MeLife After LifeLife ClassLife Is a Strange PlaceLife of PiLike the Red PandaLike You'd Understand, AnywayLikely to DieLillian in LoveLisa, Bright and DarkLisey's StoryListen to the SilenceLithium for MedeaLittle Black LiesLittle ChildrenLittle LitLittle ScarletLiíl SantaLonerLord of the FliesLosing JuliaLostLost GirlLost in the ForestLost Memory of SkinLove and Shame and LoveLove in the AsylumLove Songs for the Shy and CynicalLovely Green EyesLowboyLucy Sullivan Is Getting MarriedMade for LoveMagnificenceMaking ScenesMaliceMan and BoyMan in the WoodsManstealing for Fat GirlsMary, MaryMercy StreetMerry Christmas, Alex CrossMiddlesexMischlingMisfortuneMissing PresumedMoby DickMomma and the Meaning of LifeMonsterMonths and SeasonsMr. CommitmentMrs. DallowayMunich AirportMurder BookMurder in ByzantiumMurder in the InnMusic for TorchingMy AbandonmentMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy Life with CorpsesMy Name Is RedMy Sister's KeeperMystery Time StoriesNasty, Short and BrutalNecessary NoiseNelson Mandela's Favorite African FolktalesNemesisNeuroticaNever Fade AwayNever Let Me GoNew Australian StoriesNew York 2140Night FilmNina: AdolescenceNo One Can Pronounce My NameNo Place to HideNone of the AboveNorth of BeautifulNothing RightNovel About My WifeObjects of My AffectionObservatory MansionsOdd Child OutOdd HoursOddsOld SchoolOn Chesil BeachOn the CouchOnce You Go BackOne Flew Over The Cuckoo's NestOne Good TurnOne More WednesdayOne Pill Makes You SmallerOptic Nerve #11Our Souls at NightOver Tumbled GravesPaint It BlackPanicParadiseParadise LodgeParanoiaParty GirlPeculiaPerfect LivesPharmakonPhobicPianoPictures of YouPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying with FirePlea of InsanityPopCoPoppy ShakespearePower SplitPreaching to the CorpsePrepPresumed InnocentProzac HighwayPumping Up NapoleonPureRachel's HolidayRacing the DevilRadiant CoolRaptors Red SnowRelentlessRemembrance of Things Past, Vol 1: CombrayRescueReturn to IsisReunion at Red Paint BayRevolting YouthRevolutionary RoadRight LivelihoodsRippleRoomRun DownRun for Your LifeSamaritanSand DollarSaturdaySaturday's ChildSay You Are My SisterSay You're One of ThemSay You're SorrySaying It Out LoudSchopenhauer's TelescopeSeason to TasteSecond LifeSee How SmallSeed of the Dogwood TreeSelf-Portrait with BoySerious GirlsSexyShades of BlueShadow BabyShamelessShatteredShooterShort PeopleShutter IslandShy GirlSigned, Mata HariSilencedSilent CruiseSince You AskSister CrazySister MischiefSisterlandSkin DeepSleeping BeautySleepwalkSlip of the KnifeSmackSmall Avalanches and Other StoriesSmutSnowSo Brave, Young and HandsomeSome Thing BlackSometimes It's New YorkSong for EloiseSongs for the MissingSongs Without WordsSounds from the Bell JarSourlandSpeakSpeaking With the AngelSpeed ShrinkingSquirrel Seeks ChipmunkSshhhh!Stealing TimeSteel BreezeStill AliceStill MissingStir-FryStoner & SpazStop PretendingStraight ManStrange FleshStrange Stories for Strange Kids StrayingSummer BlondeSunstrokeSupreme CourtshipSwimmerSwimming Sweet ArrowSwimming to ElbaSwimming with StrangersSworn to SilenceSycamoreSylvia PlathTaking FlightTales of PsychotherapyTalking to AddisonTeaseTell the Truth, Shame the DevilTestimonyThat Old Cape MagicThe DrifterThe 101 Best Graphic NovelsThe 7 Deadly Sins SamplerThe Abortionist's DaughterThe Abstinence TeacherThe AccidentalThe AdultsThe AlienistThe Almost MoonThe Arctic IncidentThe ArrangementThe Artist of DisappearanceThe Austere AcademyThe Average American MarriageThe AwakeningThe Babes in the WoodThe Bad BeginningThe Beach HouseThe Beast of CretaceaThe Beat Goes OnThe Bell JarThe Best AwfulThe Big GirlsThe Big KissThe Big LoveThe Bird HouseThe Bird WomanThe Birthday RiotsThe Bitch PosseThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe Blue NotebookThe Boat RockerThe Book of JamaicaThe Book of JoeThe Book of LeedsThe Book of LiesThe Book of LiverpoolThe Book of the DeadThe BramblesThe Brass VerdictThe Brimstone JournalsThe Burden of ProofThe Cake HouseThe CallingThe Castle in the ForestThe ChemistThe Children ActThe Children of MenThe Christmas TrainThe Christmas WeddingThe ClosersThe Consciousness PlagueThe Conspiracy ClubThe CorrectionsThe CorrectionsThe Covery and ThenThe Cuckoo's CallingThe CureThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Dark HouseThe Dark RoomThe Darkest Evening of the YearThe Day I Ate Whatever I WantedThe Dead Fathers ClubThe Dead Fish MuseumThe Dead HourThe Dead of SummerThe Death of Bunny MunroThe Delight of Being OrdinaryThe DepositionThe Devotion of Suspect XThe Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Disobedience Of The Daughter Of The SunThe Diviner's TaleThe DivinersThe DollmakerThe Double BindThe Dream BearerThe Dressmaker of Khair KhanaThe Dubious Salvation of Jack V.The Dulcimer Boy The Dynamite RoomThe EcstaticThe Education of Mrs. BemisThe Elementary ParticlesThe End Of AliceThe End of EverythingThe End of Mr. YThe Erotic EdgeThe Eternity CubeThe Extinction of DesireThe Field of the DogsThe Fig EaterThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustThe Fortunate OnesThe Gingerbread GirlThe Girl in 6EThe Girl in the GardenThe Girl on Mill StreetThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestThe Girl Who Loved Tom GordonThe Girl Who Played with FireThe Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Girl Without a NameThe GirlsThe Good PsychologistThe Great Books Foundation Short Story OmnibusThe Green ParrotThe Grief of OthersThe Grim GrottoThe Guise of AnotherThe Gum ThiefThe Guy Not TakenThe Hearts of MenThe Heretic's DaughterThe HoursThe Housekeeper and the ProfessorThe Ice QueenThe Ice TwinsThe InseparablesThe InterestingsThe IntimatesThe Keeper of Lost CausesThe Keeper of Lost ThingsThe Kindness of StrangersThe Kings of LondonThe Language of SecretsThe Last ChildThe Last MileThe Last PhysicianThe Last PrecinctThe Lay of the LandThe Lincoln LawyerThe Little FriendThe Lost MotherThe Love HexagonThe Lovely BonesThe Lover's DictionaryThe Madonnas of Echo ParkThe Madwoman in the AtticThe Man from BeijingThe Man in My BasementThe Man of My DreamsThe Map of True PlacesThe Marriage PlotThe Master BedroomThe Memory Book The Memory Keeper's DaughterThe Mercy RoomThe Mermaids SingingThe Meursault InvestigationThe Ministry of Special CasesThe MiracleThe Miserable MillThe Missing ProfessorThe Most Dangerous ThingThe MuralistThe Museum of InnocenceThe NarrowsThe New YorkersThe NewleywedsThe Night ListenerThe NixThe Notebook of Lost ThingsThe Obvious ChildThe One With the NewsThe Other Side of the StoryThe Outlaw AlbumThe Particular Sadness of Lemon CakeThe PastThe People of the VeilThe Philosopher's LoverThe Philosophical PractitionerThe Possession of Mr. CaveThe Pregnant WidowThe Promise of a LieThe Promised LandThe PyramidThe ReaderThe Red HouseThe Red RoomThe Red ThreadThe ReporterThe Reptile RoomThe Resurrection StoneThe ReturnThe Right MistakeThe RoadThe Rule of FourThe Same Stuff as StarsThe Savage GirlThe ScarecrowThe Schopenhauer CureThe Second GirlThe SecretThe Secret Life of BeesThe Secret of Lost ThingsThe Secret ScriptureThe Secret SpeechThe Secret Wisdom of the EarthThe SharkThe Shock of the FallThe Shutter of SnowThe Silence RoomThe SisterThe Sisterhood of the Traveling PantsThe Sky ChangesThe SnowmanThe SongwriterThe Sorrows of an AmericanThe Sound of Broken GlassThe Speed AbaterThe Speed of DarkThe Spinoza ProblemThe Stethoscope CureThe Stone GodsThe Story HourThe Story of Beautiful GirlThe Sudden Arrival of ViolenceThe Sweet Relief of Missing ChildrenThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the PieThe SyndromeThe Tenth CircleThe Tenth JusticeThe Third AngelThe Time Traveler's WifeThe Torn SkirtThe TouristThe Trick Is to Keep BreathingThe Trouble with Goats and SheepThe Troubled ManThe Undertaker's WifeThe Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector ChopraThe Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia MossThe UnnamedThe UnquietThe Unseen WorldThe Usual MistakesThe Vanishing Act of Esme LennoxThe VegetarianThe Virgin BlueThe Virgin CureThe Water ChildrenThe WaveThe Weed That Strings the Hangman's BagThe Whole TruthThe Wide WindowThe Wild Assís SkinThe Woman and the ApeThe Woman UpstairsThe Wrong Side of GoodbyeThe Year of the FloodThe Year That FollowsTherapyThere Are No EldersThings You Should KnowThinks...Third Class SuperheroThirty NothingThis Beautiful LifeThis Body of DeathThose GirlsThose Who Wish Me DeadThumbsuckerTimothy Tunny Swallowed a BunnyTina's MouthTiny DeathsTisToby's RoomTony & SusanToo Much HappinessTooth and NailTouchTouching Spirit BearTouchy SubjectsTrailer GirlTransparencyTraumaTreacherous LoveTrespassTriburbiaTucker PeakTuringTwentieth Century EightballTwinmakerTwo Can PlayTwo Little Girls in BlueUnaccustomed EarthUnder Rose-Tainted SkiesUnder the DamUnder the HarrowUnder the InfluenceUnfitUnholy StoriesUniversal HarvesterUnkemptUnlessUp in FlamesUp in the AirUpstateValenciaVenus DriveVeronika Decides to DieVery ValentineViolet & ClaireVisits from The Drowned GirlVoid MoonWaiting for SunriseWakeWastelandWatching the DarkWe Are All Completely Beside OurselvesWe Are OkayWelding with ChildrenWell-Remembered DaysWemberly WorriedWhat Became of UsWhat It Means to Love YouWhat the Birds SeeWhat Waiting Really MeansWhat Was She Thinking? Notes on a ScandalWhat We Don't Know About ChildrenWhat's So Terrible About Swallowing an Apple Seed?When We Were AnimalsWhen We Were OrphansWhere We LivedWhite HotWhy Did I EverWidowWild AwakeWild ChildWill@epicqwest.comWillful CreaturesWitWithout TessWolf in White VanWomen's Murder Club Box SetYou or Someone Like YouYou Should Have KnownYou Will Know MeYour Body is ChangingYour Heart Belongs to MeZapZap
Jean-Francois Mopin is a callow Frenchman who has written a science fiction novel in English. Jean-Francois succeeds insofar that he reveals a writer with a great deal of potential. However, that potential is not actualized in his latest novel, herein reviewed.
The problem is a philosophical one. You see Jean-Francois (and yes, I do like that name, it sort of rolls off the lips) is immersed in the Sartrean "moi," that existentialist derailment so popular with the rebellious youth of the 60's and 70's, and mercilessly spends 326 pages writing the new liturgy of individual self-justification through sexual relief with anything warm, available, and inclined, the obligatory sacrifice to the gods of environmentalism, women's rights, and political correctness, and the usual iteration of the classical Gnostic structure reflecting Hegel's magical speculation.
The other aspect of this novel, the structure of the story, while having potential never quite achieves the nexus between the psyche of the author and the heart of the reader that signals literary success. There are just no epiphanies!
The story itself fails on two levels, form and plot. In the latter, the problem is that's the construction is just too complicated. The author works assiduously to cram in as many science fiction concepts, all of which are quite brilliant and even original, as he can and the first casualty in his relentlessness is the failure to meaningfully develop his characters, and if you're going to write a novel that incorporates human beings, even though they're human beings 35,000 years from now, that's something you really, really want to do.
For example Jean-Francois fails to develop a nuanced comprehension of his lead character, the future Lioness of the Empire (and, yes, you read that correctly), the lovely Sowena Meishan. She likes sex, she's beautiful, smart, yada, yada but we are told this in a the manner of instruction, the description of her highness sliding across the page like a dry, doctrinal litany expeditiously achieved so that the author can re-enter the complexities of the plot as quickly as possible. It is, then, the author's failure to examine these characters in detail, to probe their psyche and to convey to the reader the existential "who" in terms of their being that so distorts the work. If I can't accept the reality of the characters, I'm not really interested in the plot.
The young Frenchman would do well to turn his back on Postmodernity and examine the classics, even classical science fiction. He should read Cormac McCarthy, Asimov, and Bradbury all of whom would be most helpful to him because the complexities of his future world bog down the reader and don't help to explicate the constitutive factors of a future society conceived in the mater familias.
Oh yes! Big Mamma's top dog! Not of a mere planet, mind you, but an inter-galactic empire run rather efficiently, thank you very much, by the distaff side. And here, dear reader, we are introduced to the inevitable Gnostic reconstruction, so favored by the Left, that restores the proper order of the world-empire that the Demuirge, represented by the Veroms, assist in their alien wisdom while man inevitably screws up. It displays the immature psyche of the epigonic Marxist: the failure to see the moral life as existential, and the immanetization of the transcendent.
The author's complicated construct and his grasp of science are all rather impressive. The Covery, Recovery, the Plunge, Peter the First represent the personality and conceptualizations that are incorporated into the novel. They are much too abstract and complicated and I did not care, in any way, for this book! So affected was I by reading this novel, I contracted a singular case of "writers block!" Yet, I harbor no grievance toward Jean-Francois. Indeed, it's "my own damn fault" as Jimmy Buffet once famously sang.
However, in all fairness, the author does have a certain talent and I may be the author's worst fears come to fruition; a gentleman of "a certain age" a factor which may have played a significant role in my dislike for this novel. I am something of a Luddite and quite proud of it. I miss the rotary dial phone, I don't "twitter," I don't even know what that is.
Perhaps, just perhaps, if a Star Trek devotee, a Philip Dick fan, or a computer game-playing geek read this novel they'd like it! I think that's very possible.
It may be that this struggling French author, who is bright enough to write in English, is merely a victim of the capricious literary gods having their jape. What if the reviewer had been someone his own age, someone who shares the nihilism and ennui of the twenty- and thirty-somethings that roam the dissolute ruins of the West? Perhaps, this review would have signaled the rise of a brilliant new star.
When Jean-Francois understands that the potential of God is, each time, perfectly actualized, making all necessity "absorbed into a moral necessity," he will pen the great novel. The problem is this rather brilliant young man doesn't believe in the magic.
© 2009 Robert C. Cheeks
Robert Cheeks is a freelance writer living in Ohio. His recent work has appeared in Philosophy Now, The University Bookman, Crisis, Touchstone, and The South Carolina Review.
Author Jean-Francois Mopin submitted the following reply to the review by Robert Cheeks, published June 16, 2009.
Robert Cheeks' review of my book puzzles me on many counts. He does pinpoint some of the real weaknesses in my book, but most of what he dislikes is precisely what made me write...
First, I was surprised to see a review published on a site like this one. Not that I hold anything against it, but it did not occur to me that science fiction was of interest to people like Mr. Cheeks. I do not know how he came in possession of the novel. As he very clearly says, he is not my prime target audience... For my first novel, In Memoriam, I would have understood.
As for science fiction itself, I am not a great reader of contemporary novels. I like Babylon 5, but the most recent book I have read is Dan Simmons' Hyperion (1990). Another reviewer found my universe was close to Asimov's... which I am here blamed for not knowing. This is all a matter of perception.
I may be immersed in the Sartrean "moi". Or not. I do not know what that means. As for Gnosticism... I believe Gnostics are Christians. I am an Atheist, and here lies the main problem, the great irreconcilable gap between Mr. Cheeks and I. He mentions god several times in this one-page review about a book that in no way deals with God. He is appalled by "the new liturgy of individual self-justification through sexual relief with anything warm, available, and inclined, the obligatory sacrifice to the gods of environmentalism". I suppose he would contend that sex is an activity that is immoral and should be practiced only within the bounds of marriage. Well, as much as I understand that self-gratification can have disputable side-effects, I am absolutely positive that self-mortification is far worse. Check your history of the world. More damage was caused by frustrated people than by hedonists. More teenage unwanted pregnancies occur among the "silver ring" people than among the other teenagers.
Another division between his vision and mine is about "women's right". Yes, I based my invention on the idea of the "mater familias", as he writes. I very willingly grant that believing the world would be better if women were in power just because they are women is naïve. But then, you have to exaggerate some points in a novel if you want to convey a message. However, a sentence struck me as very disturbing in Mr. Cheeks' very literate and academic review. It is this one: "Oh yes! Big Mamma's top dog!" It seems to epitomize a whole conception of the role of women in society. The very idea that they may rule is so preposterous that it is discarded in a rather male-chauvinist way.
Now for the points about which Mr. Cheeks is right... There is too much political correctness in the novel. The characters are not developed enough. Both faults (I acknowledged them as that) are the result of editorial requirements. If you check the article on my website (http://www.jean-francois-mopin.com/pardon-my-french.php), you will see I had to concede ground on the language. As for the depth of the characters, I was faced with two problems: dealing with their psychology too much would lead away from the real "message" (the very message which appalls Mr. Cheeks so much), and the book would be too long for publication in one volume. Besides, I have already published two novels (in France), in which my main concern was the insight into characters. I tried to take some distance with this approach. I may have strayed too far. Oh, and one of my books is a work of erotica.
Finally one thing summarizes our divergence. Mr. Cheeks considers Sowena as the lead character. To me, she is on a par with Berena, Dozibella or Volana. I was under the impression that the lead character was Peter Lobrieve.