At work, as part of the Wal-Mart reading club (it’s a long story), one of my coworkers, an agent waiting for his appointments and the ability to actually sell insurance, I have been discussing what may be the best worst novel of all time, 2045 , and examining all the ways the novel is gloriously bad in a way that makes it entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Despite the fact that it has received a lot of puff reviews that consider it a novel about big and important issues and a novel that is entertaining and even on a level of Leo Tolsoy’s War And Peace, the fact is that the novel may be the worst novel ever published. If not that bad, it’s at least in the running for that noble honor on account of its many and very serious flaws.
Perhaps the most serious flaws of the novel come from the fact that the author has no ability to actually show the world of the future, but constantly tells it or has a female character named Helen, the daughter of a longtime comatose man from the early 2000’s named Carl, tell about the world. By having so much in the novel given through narrator talking without accurate worldbuilding or compelling dialogue or anything that makes characters sympathetic to readers, it is mysterious how anyone who does not agree with the philosophical bias of the author himself (who appears to have no idea in how to portray young people or lengthy dialogue conversations) is going to appreciate the novel on its writing style and artistic merits. In fact, in looking at the novel, it would appear that the only possible fair comparison between 2045 and War And Peace is the fact that the end of Tolstoy’s novel has the same sort of heavy-handed philosophical discussion that 2045 is full of. Otherwise, the comparison made between the two novels is about as accurate as saying that a portly and marginally talented weekend softball league player has the tools of a major league baseball player, which is to say, not an accurate comparison at all.
One of the biggest mysteries to me at least in looking at this novel is how its author, Peter Siedel, even got it published in the first place. The writing in the novel is so terrible that it would not deserve a passing grade in an AP American Literature class, and would almost certainly fail any standard at the undergraduate or graduate level. To consider such a terrible novel as a work of great literature is the same sort of dishonest act as that of those who tell someone who simply has no musical talent but has hired a voice coach that they sing great and will be the next winner of a singing competition, only to be ruthlessly exposed with the unpleasant truth by someone as acerbic and blunt as Simon Cowell (or myself). Given the terrible prose and nearly total lack of any sustained or remotely interesting dialogue or characterization or plot, the entire appeal of the novel itself is a mystery.
The novel itself contains at least one compelling quality of interest, but it is not a good thing. The novelist himself, in his characterization of others, appears to be very racist. Over and over again characters are defined and dismissed with rather harsh commentary, given very stereotypical treatments as a black man who is “so very black” (which is perhaps the funniest line in the whole novel), or a Mexican housekeeper for his daughter’s household, or a polite and friendly Asian doctor. Though the novelist may try (in vain) to claim that the racist sentiments are supposed to be from the novel’s protagonist and not the author himself, the fact that there is no distancing and such a classically racist portrayal of characters on so many levels suggests a certain racism in the mind of the author himself that is somewhat disturbing, and worthy of comparison to such racist portrayals of life as Gone With The Wind, Birth Of A Nation, or Song Of The South . This is a reason to read a novel, but not a very flattering one, one that makes it worthy of being the best worst novel of all time, or at least in the right ballpark.