The operative word is “lame.”



George R.R. Martin’s sprawling saga comes in for a satire not worthy of the Cracked cutting-room floor.

Martin has made a considerable fortune and built a massive following with his long-running Game of Thrones franchise, which makes him and it fair game for the parody served up here by the editors of the Harvard Lampoon. “I’m, how do you put this delicately, really goshdarn fucking rich now,” the presumed Martin of this slender volume begins, adding snootily that HBO has turned his books into “the preeminent softcore porn series” of its day. The book—the one you wish Martin would write, according to the cover copy—proceeds by sounding the depths of the lowest common denominator, which is pretty low indeed. Remove 90% of Mel Brooks’ brain, including the parts that control humor, and this is what you would get. “Once again his inability to read had prevented him from reading,” goes one gag, an extremely faint echo of the joke trope that Groucho Marx started with, “I’d like to stay, but that would prevent me from leaving.” Most of the remaining shtick is built around characters with sophomoric names like “Ratpiss,” “Asserhole,” “Fucknugget,” “Yomomma,” and “Cervix Bangsister” (??), characters who witness and/or commit some pretty nasty stuff. There are lashings of violence, too, which is faithful, at least, to some of the more extreme elements of Martin’s original: “Dog Shit unsheathed his sword and began making his way toward Whoremund….Whoremund began to launch into an impassioned speech about how this was a historic day for Mildling rights, one sentence into which his throat was cut by Dog Shit.” It’s not worthy of the National Lampoon of Douglas Kenney’s day, which was just as dumb and sex-addled and pun-crammed but with one difference: It was funny.

The operative word is “lame.”

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-306-87367-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.


Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?