Author Guy Hasson
Things You Might Like
- Cool premises
- The cover art’s trippy
- Fancy typeface
Things You Might Not Like
- The oozing of self-hatred
- Extended pro-life arguments
- The deft crushing of what could have been
Guy Hasson’s Secret Thoughts, a collection of three novellas, could have been so much more than what it turned out to be: disappointing.
1 out of 5 Abandoned Academies
When I read Glenn Beck’s Broke and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, my reaction was to say “What the fuck” several times a chapter (if not several times a page). The problem with that is that I typically read it in public, which, contrary to what you might be thinking, did not lead to amazing conversations.
When I finished those books, I thought to myself—displaying all the hubris that used to damn Greek heroes to their inevitable, ironic demises—that there was no way I’d ever feel that way about a book again.
Then I opened Secret Thoughts by Guy Hasson.
The book is a collection of three semi-connected novellas, all dealing with individuals who have telepathic powers—which, to draw the line between telepath and telekinesis, means the ability to read people’s thoughts.
That’s right, we’ve got three novellas about people like Professor X. You can imagine how psyched I was when I read the synopsis.
And then how crushed I was when I started reading. Kind of like this:
I’m going to warn you: This review is full of spoilers. I usually avoid them, because I do believe in letting books stand on their own, and the best way to do that is to, you know, not ruin everything in it so readers of these reviews (Hi, friends) might pick up the books and make their own judgments.
Well, not so much in this case. There was so little to keep me from scrawling “Fuck you” into the book, that, frankly, I think giving you the impression that this is worth reading is insulting to both you and I.
I’m going to go around snarkily describing the stories, then I’ll tell you why they made me froth at the mouth. Let’s begin!
The first novella is called The Perfect Girl.
The novella is about a telepath who is at a place called “The Academy” for some reason. (The Academy, by the way, is one of the things that ties the three novellas together, but we have no hint of that yet.) We are never told the purpose of The Academy, only that people who leave The Academy are enlisted into military service. Our telepath, Alexandra Watson, has no personality aside from a deep, abiding self-hatred.
When she arrives, she’s treated to a great little orientation where the head professor of The Academy tells them that the faculty will cull the class by half each progressing year. We don’t know why, as it stands to reason that, after cautioning the students not to fuck up, he says, essentially, “it doesn’t matter if you fuck up.”
This orientation, by the way, occurs in a surprisingly large auditorium for a group of thirteen students. Were there more students in the past? Did the telepaths move in and take over for some reason? We never know, and Hasson doesn’t really seem concerned in giving us any backstory.
After being assigned to work in “the morgue,” (because corpses retain thoughts and personalities because… the soul?) Watson begins trying to get all the memories of a girl who committed suicide. She then starts hating herself for hating herself, presumably because the girl hated herself.
After stalking the girl’s parents and ex-boyfriend (who is responsible for the girl killing herself because omg they were so in love you guyz but he broke it off), Watson is told by a professor at The Academy, “You hate yourself.” Watson agrees and goes back to spending more time with the dead girl and stalking her family. After the thoughts fade away (because Jesus called the soul to be with him?), Watson flips out and a professor tells her “stop hating yourself,” which she does.
She still doesn’t have a personality.
The next book is called The Linguist and has even more potential to be awesome. And, to be fair, it is the best-written of the three in Secret Thoughts.
Rachel Akerman has lived through the, er, well, The Purge of telepaths across the country. Once again, we’re left out of the loop as to why the government decided to hunt down and kill one of its greatest assets, but let’s just infer that it’s something like X-Men, shall we?
She lives a modest life until a CIA(ish) agent shows up outside of her house one day and tells her that he found her because once, a long time ago, she kept him from killing himself. See, they’re both telepaths and she figured out that—
Okay, it doesn’t matter. It’s Character Building, and fairly lazy.
But CHECK IT. He shows up to tell her that her country needs her because there’s a friggen alien around and they need to converse with it.
He convinces Akerman that assuming a new identity and helping out the government is the only thing she can do, she agrees, and they drive to a super-secret military base where the alien, referred to as “Charlie” is kept.
Akerman attempts to converse with it via her nifty telepathic touch powers, but every time she does, she starts feeling that either a) Charlie is boiling her skin off or b) drills are appearing out of nowhere and are about to bore through her skull.
Eventually, she figures out that Charlie is broadcasting his fear of being amongst aliens (geddit, cause it’s all relative) and she is able to use that as a starting point to establish communication.
She tells the Generic Military Guy in charge about that, and they have sex. Why? I don’t know. Neither of them expressed any attraction to each other prior to the sex, so I guess adrenaline? Stress? Is that what turns you normal people on?
Anyway, they bone and she starts to revel in her role as an alien linguist.
In Most Beautiful Intimacy, we’re treated to the worst dialogue this side of a dying man in a Lovecraft story right alongside the longest pro-life argument I’ve ever seen.
See, Non-Telepath Husband and his wife, Super Awesome Telepath Because She’s The Protagonist of The Book, And Guy Hasson Told You So have successfully fled The Purge (as I’m calling it) and are living in a self-made cabin up in the mountains.
Everything’s splendid because, well, I guess it’s hard to argue with your wife when she knows exactly what you’re thinking all the time, and you don’t mind not having privacy. (The wife, it should be noted, “invades” the guy’s dreams and, er, well it’s described as kinda perching and watching his dreams.)
Of course, the catch that’s mentioned—and Big Foreshadowing for everyone who remembered high school English—is that if she’s ever pregnant, both she and the baby will die. See, because they’re constantly touching, then she’ll get wrapped up in what the baby’s doing, and… er… forget to eat, I guess.
Anyway, she’s pregnant, and then he convinces her to terminate the pregnancy, but then she asks what if they waited a couple of months. You know, to understand what it is that happens as a baby forms. The guy acquiesces with the caveat that, at the end of the first trimester (I think?) his old college roommate (who is now a surgeon of some sort) will come and terminate the pregnancy.
So, the old roommate comes by, they divulge their secret, and he agrees to perform the operation. So Husband and His Friend are hanging out, right, and then the baby’s heart starts to beat, and then Wife’s heart almost stops itself.
Which, you know, should be a sign that—holy shit—they were told correctly and she’s gonna die.
But no, she recovers and convinces the husband to call off his friend.
They have what appears to be their first fight, but eventually, he caves.
So we’re treated to some ellipses-ridden dialogue for twenty to thirty pages and then the birth scene comes around. It’s pretty visceral, and, not surprisingly, the wife survives because she’s Super Special.
Right, so, holy balls. The sheer amount of potential that was squandered in the last story alone was shocking. There could have been an amazing amount of dramatic turns and emotional fuckery to make this a Piece of Literature by having the wife get wrapped up in the baby’s development to the point of killing herself, but, instead, it seems that Hasson has opted to write a work which has at its central point that life, wonderous life, begins at conception.
It’s incredibly disappointing, because Hasson’s short story in Apex World of SF was truly cool and great, and it wasn’t afraid to ruin a character’s life. But it seems that creating this Point was more important than a structure like what I theorized above.
And that’s basically the problem with the collection as a whole. Hasson’s writing suffers a lot from its own weight. Characters are forced to come out and say how much they’re tortured by their status as telepaths instead of showing us… I dunno, being miserable.
Seriously, people. In the first novella alone, I believe “My God, I hate myself” was repeated at least thirty times.
Then, as mentioned above, there’s the dialogue. Here. Read with me, won’t you?
A thread is a single piece of logic learned. It’s actually a building block of logic. Each piece of learning requires steps we were never aware of, steps so basic that… No, they’re not steps.
And, yeah, it goes on from there. Once again, the problem is that Hasson is trying to have a character vocalize thoughts about what makes up thoughts—which belongs in a philosophy tract and not in a novel about friggen telepaths.
I dunno. Maybe I just lack emotional maturity or some stupid shit like that, but, damn, man. This book could have been so much more interesting and fun to read.
Buy, Rent, or Pirate? NONE OF THE ABOVE. But, if you must, buy this book from Amazon now. (NOTE: Bullet Reviews does not condone piracy. If you pirate things, you may be forced to work in the morgue.)