The Infinity Man by Kirk Hastings – PublishAmerica (2010)


infinityman-hastingsWhat is one supposed to make of The Infinity Man? I will admit that the cover gave me pause. It’s a bad cover. All text and no images. I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but make some kind of an effort, dude.

Giving it the benefit of the doubt, I dove in. It’s a good concept with a storyline that’s not half-bad. It reads like a robot Frankenstein or like a pulp version of Robert Mason’s Weapon, being written largely from the POV of the machine who calls himself Jim Burton. It includes some military action, some mafia baddies and some rather intriguing discussions on morality, sin, God, and what it means to be human. It was recommended to me by a friend. It should have been right up my alley.

Unfortunately, it fell short on a few levels that a good editor could have fixed. For example, the author has a tendency to use a frequent amount of italics in a manner that would make a normal person’s speech seem bizarre. It’s like I’m listening to several characters re-enact the Princess Bride’s rhyming game between Inigo Montoya and Fezzik. Hastings also uses quotation marks to indicate a nickname [which is OK the first time], but then continues to use those quotes every time the nickname is used. There’s also a bit of head-hopping between points of view that I found a bit distracting.

The most distracting thing about the book was how the robot thinks and speaks. Seriously, wouldn’t a robot as advanced as Hastings describes be capable of thinking beyond 1950s robot speech or high logical Vulcan? The robot character is also inconsistent. One moment its feeling anger or love with great confusion over whether he’s feeling anything at all, but not once does Jim Burton stop to question the logic of its general contempt [yes, that’s a feeling] for homo sapiens [even the ones he thinks he might love]. Rather than an emerging personality consistent with the origins Hastings gives his protagonist [and I won’t spoil it; you’ll have to suffer through the book like I did if you want to know], the Infinity Man remains as emotionally stilted as Star Trek:TNG’s Data before he installed his emotion chip. Unfortunately, none of the other characters are as fully fleshed as Hastings’ inconsistently drawn protagonist.

The action in this book is mild. Jim Burton is pretty much invulnerable and it does get boring after a while. Nothing is overly graphic. A joke is made out of use of the word “hell” on page 36, Hastings’ take on the whole logical Vulcan robots no understand human profanity trope. Unfortunately, Hastings also uses the R-word on that page; I could never recommend a book that uses a word meant to denote someone with intellectual disabilities [“retard”] as an insult. It cheapens the world and makes it a darker place for persons with intellectual disabilities, especially when it’s qualified to mean “them people they have in mental hospitals.”

To this long list of complaints, I add one last detail which plagued me from the moment I read it. Here is a description of the six-foot tall robot [who is occasionally referred to as a giant despite his uncommon dimensions]:

“But the queerest about the man was his clothing. He was wearing a dark, tight-fitting uniform that was obviously intended to emphasize his massive, sculptured physique, which resembled that of a Greek god. The gray body suit covered the man from the neck down. Form-fitting black trunks draped his middle, held in place by a wide leather belt. He wore tall, black boots that reached nearly up to his knees. But the most exotic part of the unusual outfit was a long black cape that was attached to the neckline of his uniform and hung down his broad back almost to his ankles.” [pp.20-21]

OK, so he looks like the black-and-white TV version of Superman. Why? And why would his creator give him an invulnerable uniform that looked like a superhero costume [complete with undies on the outside] but choose such a horrid color in today’s world of colorful superheroes? Call me crazy, but I kept expecting the author to provide an answer to why someone would dress a robot in a drab gray superhero costume, especially when he goes out of his way to point it out. Get ready for disappointment! Hastings never bothers to tell us why his mad scientists dressed up robot Frankenstein in black-and-white Andy Griffith super hero clothes. Your guess is as good as mine, but it makes absolutely no sense. Absurdly, no one in the novel ever asks the robot if he’s a super hero. It never even enters anyone’s mind as a possibility!

In short, I can’t recommend The Infinity Man. Hastings’ golden nugget of an idea requires the tender mercies of an editor.

-Tony Breeden
From the Bookwyrm’s Lair

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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About Tony Breeden

Tony Breeden is an author, creation speaker, Gospel preacher, vocalist and artist from West Virginia. He is also the founder of DefendingGenesis.org. Find out about his books at http://TonyBreedenBooks.com.

One comment

  1. Kirk Hastings

    What is one to make of this book review? It is loaded with personal preferences and points of view (which, of course, is every reviewer’s prerogative and right) — but, in my personal point of view (the book’s author), not very much real substance. I say this for the following reasons:

    1) The cover: I deliberately instructed the publisher NOT to use an illustration on the book’s cover, because I want the reader to use his own imagination (based totally on my verbal description of the main character in the book) to determine exactly what my robot looks like. I wanted his exact appearance to remain somewhat of a mystery. Therefore (even though I am an artist myself, and have drawn pictures of this character that could have been used on the cover), I specifically instructed the publisher to only use a graphic design cover with simple, strong, large letters, and no illustrations. Unfortunately, I also instructed them to color the letters gray and put rivets in the letters in order to make them look like machined steel (referring to the main robot character) — but they accidentally reversed the cover’s colors and did not add the rivets to the letters. So the cover is not exactly what I wanted. But it is close enough to what I asked for. Many hardcover books today (both fiction and non-fiction) do not have illustrations on their covers either; they feature simple graphic designs. Would Mr. Breedon dare to advise all of them to “make some kind of an effort, dude?” too?

    2) Secondly, I myself am an editor, and a professional proofreader, and I cannot agree with Mr. Breedon’s constant assertion to “get a good editor”. Again, his editorial criticisms of my book consist mostly of his personal opinions and preferences, not actual technical errors. His criticism of my using italics too often to designate nicknames is one example — it is not grammatically improper to do this, and many other top authors do it.

    3) Mr. Breedon’s criticism of my novel containing too much “head-hopping between points of view” is another example. Most full-length adventure novels do not maintain a single point of view throughout their entire length; this gimmick is more often used in short stories or novelettes, not longer narratives. It is too hard to maintain for longer books, and it can become somewhat boring after 300-400 pages. And it also severely limits how the story can be told.

    4) Mr. Breedon complains about my robot character’s speech pattern in the book. Apparently he did not understand the effect I was going for with this — how the robot’s speech pattern progressed from a stilted machine-like dialogue in the beginning (after he first came to “life”), to becoming more sophisticated later on (after he had studied actual human speech first-hand from the people around him). His speech was also directly affected by his rapidly-expanding mental capabilities, and the machine-like precision of his artificial brain. It is explained in the narrative how his electronic brain took longer to function at full capacity than the rest of his body did because of the sheer technical complexity of that brain. But even so, he was never supposed to sound exactly like a human being — because he isn’t!

    5) Mr. Breedon also apparently did not grasp the intellectual and emotional growth pattern of the robot character throughout the book, which is one of the main points of the story. He also didn’t seem to understand the fact that the robot is not a mere machine, but partly human (at least mentally), and how that affected his mental and emotional development. This character begins “life” as essentially a newborn baby, just learning about things around him, and experiencing himself for the first time. But he also has the latent mentality of an adult human being buried somewhere within him that he slowly rediscovers as well. This is the whole point of his emotional and mental confusion throughout the book. Mr. Breedon’s complaint that the robot never “stops to question the logic of its general contempt for homo sapiens” is also far more confusing than anything the robot says or does — the robot is almost constantly confronted in the story with humans that are selfish, dishonest, unintelligent, violent, and foolish; qualities that the robot himself does not possess. Why would he need to stop and question such behavior, when it is being almost constantly demonstrated to him throughout the book, and he is intelligent enough from the get-go to know that that kind of behavior is logically and rationally inferior?

    6) As for Mr. Breeden’s complaint that my robot character is “as emotionally stilted as Star Trek: TNG’s Data (or Star Trek TOS’s Mr. Spock, who happens to be one of the very characters I deliberately patterned my robot after) — both those characters are extremely popular characters in modern popular fiction. If I’m going to pattern my own fictional characters after others that have gone before, then why not pattern them after the most popular and well-liked? As for the other characters in the book not being “fully fleshed” — Mr. Breedon, this is basically an adventure novel, not “Terms of Endearment”. I believe the supporting characters are “fleshed out” just as much as they need to be to move the story forward. I never intended this book to be a soap opera.

    7) Mr. Breedon then complains that the “action in the book is mild” and, then goes on to say that “nothing is overly graphic”. What was he looking for in this book, a R-rated bloodfest full of lots of bodily carnage and violent gore? Sorry, I don’t write those kinds of books. I don’t read them either. I believe they are all a total waste of time and brain power. And poor story-telling to boot.

    8) I find it incredibly bewildering that Mr. Breedon could state (as a supposedly open-minded book reviewer) that he could “never recommend a book” that used the “R-word” in it. No, not THAT “R-word” — he means “retard”. He also totally ignores the point that it is an ignorant criminal-type person that uses the word (once); conveniently just the type who would probably use it in real life. But the way it is used in my book in no way condones the word, or recommends that the reader ever use it. I went to great lengths to not use explicit obscenity in this book, because I want it to be accessible to readers of all ages. But, apparently, even briefly using such relatively mild words such as “hell” and “retard” (both in their proper context) is still too much for Mr. Breedon. Apparently it is true that no matter how much you bend over backwards to use language properly and responsibly in a book, someone will still end up being overly sensitive and insist on taking inappropriate offence at something. Sorry to offend you, Mr. Breedon.

    9) And once again, Mr. Breedon completely misses the point in my book that the robot character featured therein is supposed to resemble Superman (another very popular character whom I deliberately based mine on) — and that he is supposed to have somewhat of a “superhero” look to him. This is meant to accentuate the idea of his overwhelming physical power — but also to serve as a contrast with his somewhat anti-superhero attitude toward the human race. The dark colors of his uniform are supposed to mirror the fact that he is in fact not a brightly-costumed, sunny superhero in the classical sense — but a much darker, more conflicted anti-hero. This is another one of the many main character thrusts of my novel that Mr. Breedon apparently simply did not get. He also apparently did not get the references in the book as to why the creator of the robot dressed him in the fashion that he did. Mr. Breedon, try reading the top of page 21 again. Also the bottom of page 207, and the top of page 208. Okay, so I might have neglected to mention somewhere that the robot’s creator was a big fan of the superhero movie serials he grew up with in the 1940s, and wanted to dress his “super”-robot in a similar manner. So sue me because I neglected to reveal every single detail of Dr. Kennedy’s psyche in my book.

    10) Why would anyone in real life actually come out and ask someone if they are a “superhero” or not? And this is another reason why Mr. Breedon cannot recommend my book, because no one in it bothered to ask the main character this silly question?

    In short, I cannot agree with most of Mr. Breedon’s review of my book, for the reasons stated above. It was apparently a waste of time for me to send it to him. And for free, too.

    In my personal opinion, I think it is Mr. Breedon who requires the tender mercies of a real book reviewer, to show him how it’s really supposed to be done.

    — Kirk Hastings

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