This weekend our club received a copy of the book The Professor and the Dominatrix in the mail. It included a two page (form) letter from the author, John Harrigan. Let me just include snippets from it, so we’re all on the same page:
“I am a secular humanist, John Harrigan by name. … My suspense novel is dripping with sex and has occasional violence along the way–to attract those who don’t read science or who never have seriously examined their religious beliefs, our regular folks. The hero of the story is a humanist professor, the villian a pious serial killer. … So, I am promoting The Professor and the Dominatrix by sending a free copy to each secular humanist group, especially college campus ones. I ask only, if you like the story, talk it up. … It is selling in Germany for an astounding sixty dollars, presently at Amazon for twenty-five. Frankly my publisher over priced it–worth about fifteen.”
Dripping with sex and violence? Humanist professor and a sexy dominatrix? Showing random people what atheism is really about? Hell yeah, I thought, I’ll read it! I had nothing else to do this Sunday, anyway.
I really wanted to be nice to this book, I really did. I was all ready to give it a chance and write up an honest review to help this guy out. Well, this review will be honest, but not what he was looking for. This has to be one of the worst books I’ve ever read. At first, I thought may it would get better if I kept reading…maybe the plot would pick up. Then it got to the point where it was so bad that it was making me laugh. Then it went back to just being plain awful, but I had already wasted my time reading half of the book. I figured I would finish it and write a complete review so no one would have to suffer through this novel ever again. Unless they like torturing themselves and making Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary…in which case, you’ll absolutely love it. I’ll warn people that there are spoilers below, but no one in their right mind should even read this book anyway.
There is so much stuff wrong, I’ll have to break it into sections. I know it’s long, so I’ve bolded the especially ridiculous stuff in case you want to skim.
Dear lord, this man is not a good writer. You’d think a retired professor would have some sort of verbal ability, but no. I had to stop myself from writing corrections on the pages because it felt like I was reading a first draft. Sometimes I didn’t know what sentences were even trying to say until I reread them three times. There were even typos, including this gem:
“Homosexuals would be demons working for Satin.”
Damn the minions of satin, with their smooth, silky seduction!
Most of the book is rambling nonsensical monologues by our protagonist, Professor Synan Slane. There would literally be pages without any description or action, not even “he said.” All of Ch. 4 is describing him in class with his students…and if a real lecture was as unorganized as this, I’d drop the class. It looks like the author tried to condense every argument against religion and for atheism into one chapter…without any flow between ideas or description. Let me summarize the topics he flies through on a single page to give you an idea:
People used to believe in geocentrism > Eucharist comes from cannabilism > Rejection of evolution > Thinking Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife > Not knowing the difference between Sunni and Shiite > Sweden being atheistic > Bonobos turning into fundamentalists (wtf?) > Child rape by priests
That continues for a solid 33 pages. The rest of the book is littered with it as well.
The descriptions, when he actually had any, were awful as well. When setting a scene and describing a dog in the room, I don’t need to know that it had “balls the size of honeydews.” Actually, most of the book was completely irrelevant to the “plot” (if it had any). I had to skip a two page discussion on boxing that was literally two people having small talk with each other. Maybe instead of all the pointless filler, he could have actually described what was going on with the murder mystery, since I was constantly lost.
And for the love of god, don’t phonetically spell accents. No. NO. Especially when you decide 90% of your characters need some sort of bizarro accent. It’s not cute, it’s annoying.
The above phrase is something this author has obviously never heard of. Professor Slane is a giant Mary Sue. For this of you who aren’t knowledgeable about fanfiction lingo, a Mary Sue is a “pejorative term used to describe a fictional character who plays a major role in the plot and is particularly characterized by overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors or readers.” Hmm, now why would I ever think Professor Slane is a Mary Sue? Maybe I’m being too judgemental.
Former combat marine
Former combat marine
Writes crap that makes me want to punch babies
The kicker is that Slane, along with every other character, is completely 2 dimensional. You’d think if you were just writing yourself, you could give the character some depth. But nope – instead every character is just the voice of the author. I even thought maybe everyone seemed like a flat stereotype because he was being tongue in cheek…but I’ll get back to that later. He desperately tries to make up for this by describing each character’s entire live history in a giant wall of text. You know what, I don’t need to know that Joey Damico (random police officer #5) has a mickey mouse watch and a mother named Rita, especially when that character is never mentioned again. Or really, why are all these random passing characters even getting full names? There were so many names and pointless characters floating around that I couldn’t even keep track of the important ones. I don’t need to know that the janitor who never even appears in the book is Theodore Poopface Von Winklehiemer III. Just call him the fricking janitor.
I was constantly lost, because whatever murder plot this book might have had was interrupted by atheist rants. Oh, and the climax occurs on the last page of the last chapter. There’s a page and a half afterward to sum up what happened to everyone. Great writing, there.
I have to give it to him, the gratuitous violence was the only part he did well. Which is sad, because it just ended up freaking me out more.
I felt weird knowing some 60 year old professor wrote this, especially with his photo staring at me on the back of the book, but I thought I’d give him a chance. It only takes two sentences before there’s some awkward discussion about a guy’s erection, but then there’s no sex for a while. At first I’m a little upset. I was told the book was dripping with sex! Finally I sense a sex scene coming, so I start getting excited.
There are two sex scenes in the book, and it’s a blessing there aren’t more. The first is the most frightening description of oral sex I’ve ever read. If you want to subject yourself to the whole thing, ask politely and I’ll type it up. To summarize, the entire segment refers to the guy’s penis as “Captain Marvel.” For two pages. What the hell. The description included such Shakespearean writing, such as:
“She was a connoisseur. A gobbler of whangs par excellence.”
Seriously? That’s the most horrible, amazing, ridiculous thing I have ever read in a book. Not just wangs, but whangs. Hhhwwhhaanngs. This may honestly be the only good thing that’s come out of this book, because I’m going to use this phrase as frequently as possible.
And if the oral sex wasn’t bad enough, the sex later was even more horrible. No foreplay whatsoever, guy just sticks it in and rams home, the girl instantly orgasms after insertion, keeps orgasming over and over again just from penetration alone…what the hell? Has this guy ever even had sex? If he has, I feel bad for whatever woman had to put up with it. And in a later scene he describes someone’s behind as a “bummy.” Really, are we all five years old now? You couldn’t say ass, butt, booty, anything else?
The author apparently thinks the best way to win people over to atheism is by being a gigantic troll. The killer, and really any villain in the book, is shown to be overtly and over the top religious. Slane and his atheistic partner, the Dominatrix, both show the error in theists’ ways by constantly ridiculing and mocking them. I don’t know how any Christians could read the first page and still want to read the rest of the book, let alone get through his Chapter 4 diatribe.
Since Slane has absolutely no personality, his only purpose is to insert random facts and quotes about atheism and religion into the book. Some of his long monologues about random topics would be good as blog entries… that is, they’re (mostly) factual, they explain concepts decently…but a book meant to be fiction shouldn’t read like a one sided debate. But that’s the problem – it’s only good enough for a blog entry. Not even a great blog entry. In fact, I’ve seen these arguments explained much better in various blogs. It’s like he wanted to write a book about atheism but his arguments weren’t well thought out enough, so he filled the gaps with a poorly written murder plot. Even then, they’re not the sort of arguments that are going to win over people to atheism…they’re mostly just random facts about all the horrible things religion can potentially lead people to do.
I had a neutral view on the book’s atheism (I thought the random facts were mostly just disjointed and annoying) until the end of the book. The two atheist “protagonists” (I use the term lightly, as I eventually came to hate every character in this book) get into a televised debate with two evangelists. Long story short, the atheists insult and mock the intelligence of the evangelists, the preacher tries to punch Slane, and Slane the macho boxer procedes to beat the crap out of him. The female evangelist then tries to attack the Dominatrix, but the Dominatrix rips off christian girl’s dress so she’s naked on TV. The atheists then laugh and joke about their victory. All of this occurs while a man dressed as Jesus gets a handjob in the audience. What the fuck? How the hell is this book supposed to make me like atheists? How the FUCK is this promoting atheism and secular humanism in a positive light?
Holy shit was this book sexist. Now, I consider myself a feminist, but I’m usually pretty laid back about things. I do things that are “bad” like making and laughing at sexist jokes. But this book crossed way over the line, and was packed with stuff offensive to women. At first I wanted to believe that some of the characters were just being described as jerks…but even the enlightened “Professor” would spew garbage about women all the time. And it really didn’t matter, since every character basically came off as the author speaking through them (this holds true for the next two sections as well). That is, even when characters said dumbass, bigoted stuff, no where in the book was there context to show these are bad points of view. Sometimes they were even shown as being positive.
Every female character was a demeaning stereotype. This is especially annoying when the majority of atheists are men, and they should be trying to actively recruit more women…not scare them away by acting like chauvinistic douchebags. If you’re not a hot, young, ditsy sex object, you’re old and disgusting. Don’t believe me? Let me list all the female characters, major and minor:
- Mindless university secretary, submissive, easily scared
- Two raging butch dykes in charge of “Dykes Taking Over”, lesbians only because they had bad experiences with men/their fathers (WTF?), short crew cut hair and hiking boots
- Coy cunning Dominatrix…who seemed like an independent woman for about a page, but then she reveals her inner most desire is to just find a good man. 24 hours after meeting main character wants to have his baby and marry him, they talk about marriage after the first time they have sex, and she doesn’t use protection so she can get pregnant. They get married after knowing each other a week.
- Frumpy neighbor lady whose physical appearance disgusts Slane.
- Frumpy dense secretary at police station, easily manipulated by men in order to get facts about the case.
- Cheating wife of the murder victim, has many DUIs, shoplifted, used to be a skanky “ho” who was in pornos.
- Police officer that doesn’t say much. Her only purpose is to supply someone for the male officers to hit on. When she has to interview someone about sex she gets all bashful. While the other officers talk about furthering her career, she is more worried about flirting with her boss. Actually the most independent female in the book…until she gets brutally murdered at the end for no reason. Yay.
- “Fem-nazi” department head/woman’s studies professor who flunks students if they don’t spell woman “womyn.” Sleeps with female students, total man hater.
- Student described as sleeping with the female womyn’s study professor in order to get an A, airhead who jumps from one religion to the next for whatever is popular. Training to be a dominatrix.
- Militant Christian female student…who instantly sees the light once atheist superhero professor owns her arguments, because she’s a dumb girl (note: all the male classmates are atheistic to some extent and “get it”)
- Girl working at a sex shop who’s also a hooker…and hitting on everyone, giggly idiot
- Frumpy old hotel maid who does nothing but talk about her deceased husband.
- Slane talks about his two middle school teachers. One was a hot young teacher who wore skirts without underwear and knew the boys would try to peek up them, and would let them do this. Slane still found this wonderfully awesome. The other teacher was an angry fat old lady that everyone hated.
If those characters aren’t enough, huge chunks of the books are devoted to bashing “gender feminists” and just females in general. Of course, it’s not just females he bashes…
There are two full pages dedicated to describing how the town’s mayor, the only African American in the book, speaks “black English,” not “proper” “standard” English. All of his dialog is written to seem ignorant, and he’s constantly swearing. This is in light of the fact that everyone else in the book, including the police officers, hookers, pimps, dominatrixes, and students all talk with the vocabulary of a college professor (aka, the author). Wow, way to go.
The whole plot revolves around two gay guys, one a closeted pastor obviously meant to parallel Haggard, being brutally murdered. At first I thought the plot would be pro-gay since it’s about investigating this hate crime. Nope. Every homosexual in this book is a flaming stereotypical nancy boy. Even one guy’s name is Sisley, which sounds like “sissy.” I don’t think I’m stretching here, since the forward states that the characters have metaphorical names meant to mirror their personality. In fact, any sort of gender or sexual deviation is associated with a villian or outwardly mocked by the characters. The only sex scene shown in a “positive” light is Slane’s minute man missionary no-foreplay romp. Let me just show you some of the gems the book had to offer:
About a boy Slane went to school with: “Everyone called him Sis [not related to Sisley]. He really should have been a girl. He didn’t play with the boys or know and dirty jokes, or want to. If you started to tell him one, he’d throw his hands up and turn away. No normal boy would act like that.” WTF
About the closeted pastor/bisexualism: “Wright seems to have been bisexual, probably never formed a clear gender identity or more likely is genetically different from the norm, perhaps has a brain pattern or map more like a woman’s than the average hetereosexual male’s.” WTFFF
And I need this whole section to make my point:
Alfie thought back to what Evan had said when he faced off with Charles who had become Charlene. “That Evan had some good lines: ‘Female hormone injections and having your penis mutilated does not make you a woman, just a medical mess. God made you a man, a surgeon can’t change that.”
“No wonder Charles now Charlene broke down and screamed.”
“Remember when he called him-her an it then said, ‘Homosexuality is an abomination.'”
“God, yes! When the it jumped up and scratched Evan, that was the highlight of the show.”
“It was quite a show,” Alfie agreed.
“Ya know,” Grant said, “this whole homosexual and sex change stuff is weird. Put it this way, if women are no more than makeup, so to speak, that falls right onto the lap of the gender feminists. The only difference they recognize is that anyone with a giblet is bad, rotten, evil, oppressive – you name it. Men are bad just because they’re men; women are good just because they’re women. So, the name is the difference? Some of those gender feminists want to keep as few men around as possible, ten percent I’ve heard, for breeding only. Jesus! What will they do? Drown nine out of ten baby boys? Well – not long ago gays and lesbians were called unnaturals, now they’re considered okay, a preferred minority, and anyone who doesn’t think homosexuality is okay is a fucking homophobe, has a mental called homophobia. The gays calling in were saying Evan is a big homophobe. Boy, when it comes to name calling, the shoe is on the other foot now.”
Don’t read this book unless you get off on being angry at this sort of tripe. This proves to me that not all atheists or professors are enlightened intellectuals. I just hope theists don’t get a hold of this book as see it as a representation of all atheists, because this guy does NOT speak for me. The only positive thing that came out of reading this is that I’m now more motivated to finish my own books I’ve been working on…because hell, I KNOW I can do better than that.
Friend: do you need a drink now? or at the very least, good sex?
Me: This book has made sex disgusting to me currently. I don’t want to think about someone’s Captain Marvel.
Friend: that’s a real feat
Me: Yes, yes it is
EDIT: Except of the awful Purple Prose is up
EDIT 2: The Professor responds, and he’s not happy