I actually did have a post planned for today just before I jump into a fairly extended stretch on my blog tour. Incidentally the next five days I will be bouncing all around the place and I hope you will come with me to some amazing blogs (links below). However, I re-read my post and realised that what had begun as a discussion about why I had been disappointed by a trilogy I recently gave up reading had actually degenerated into a rant and I decided to scrap it and try again.
Here is my second attempt.
I recently began reading a trilogy of YA fantasy books and was instantly hooked by the first book. There was this interesting (if a little generic) female protagonist who did some reasonably unexpected things and over the course of the first book I came to really want her to succeed in her goals. The villains were a bit on the melodramatic side and their scheme was clearly delusional and set to fail before it began but you can forgive that in YA because overblown villains are the norm and when stupid people reach for the moon, of course they fail. The story was enjoyable and the side characters well fleshed out.
Enter book two and we see our heroine in a new location only now she’s less interesting because she has nothing left to reveal and this time the actual complication of the story isn’t introduced until half-way through because they are so busy trying to get us to see the protagonist in the new location. Instead of some dark past haunting her every step, we now have petty annoyances and domestic squabbles that fill in time until somehow there just happens to be a serial killer stalking around in her new home and somehow she just happens to be the one who is going to solve everyone’s troubles. Not that she isn’t out of her depth and completely lost and with no actual reason to involve herself at all. In point of fact, the author spends a bit of time trying to convince us that she becomes emotionally attached to one of the almost victims, but this doesn’t really sit right with the protagonists character and ends up just being a plot pointer.
By book three, I was more or less over the protagonist. However, in the grand tradition of trilogies, the danger is now upped to the point where it is so overblown and melodramatic that you fully expect the sky to darken at any minute. And yet, I just didn’t care. The characters of the first book were now mostly too far removed because they had all but been completely absent (other than a tokenistic appearance) in the second. The characters of the second book hadn’t endeared themselves to me at all. And the third book seemed determined to rush us into a complication that made very little sense as fast as possible.
I’m going to point out at this stage that I didn’t finish reading the trilogy. I made it half-way through the third book and then realised I was hoping that mysterious, overblown, master-mind villain guy would just wipe them all out and call it a day. At that point I realised that I’d completely disengaged from the story and there was no point in my finishing it.
The point of this was my wondering where it all went wrong. The first book won me over. I loved it. I was totally hooked into this world and these characters. In all honesty, I think it was the big shift in scenery that lost me. I loved the world that was created in the first book, but in the second we were in an entirely different setting and I didn’t really feel it. I missed too much of the first setting. Perhaps that is a petty quibble but as a reader it threw me.
So my question to the readers out there is this: How long will you read when you know you have disengaged? Do you give up straight away, or do you plow on and hope for a big finish?
Tomorrow Laura Diamond is sharing a post here on the realm and I am off to her blog to talk about females in fantasy writing.
If I am reading something slowly it means I do not like it.
If I am reading it really slowly, it means I am dissecting it in my head and ready to rewrite it from the beginning because I really, really, dislike it.
See, when I like something, I race through it. I eagerly read, my eyes keep jumping further down the page, ploughing further into the story and I don’t want to pause or wait, I just want to know how the story ends. I need to know. I’m caught up and captivated.
Then there are the books like the one I am currently reading.
It is a Shadowrun book – this one by Mel Odom called Headhunters and the premise is interesting enough. Group A is hired to steal a body from the morgue as is Group B. Group A succeeds in getting the body but then are worried about getting killed by Group B and so have to find out who Group A is and why they wanted the body. Enter intrigue and the usual Shadowrun politics with corrupt police and corps and mercenaries and the meta-human race relations and all the things that can make Shadowrun books extremely interesting reads.
Yet this book does not grab my attention. I know this because I started reading it nearly 11 days ago and I’m barely half way through. Yes, I have been busy, but I still would have finished it by now if I had wanted to find out how the story ended. I’d have woken up in the morning and checked my watch and sat for fifteen, twenty minutes frantically devouring pages if I had an interest in finishing this book.
Why don’t I like it? I have read so many other books in this series and really enjoyed them. I’ve read them out of order so I can’t honestly say where this book falls as far as the timeline.
I think it comes down to the protagonist. Skater. The mercenary who in the midst of this body snatching crisis is facing a personal dilemma of how to care for his infant daughter and worrying he may not be a good father. I must admit, the moments when he is blathering on about his fatherly concerns are the bits where I keep putting the book down and then dragging my feet picking it up again. It isn’t that this sub-plot is not interesting. It is more that I don’t believe it. Everything else Skater does is rational and deliberate and I know that they are trying to open up this emotive can of worms but it just seems far-fetched and so out of character for him.
It could also be that they keep telling me things. Skater was angry. Skater felt betrayed. Skater this. Skater that. I don’t like Skater as a character to begin with and he emotes so little on the outside that without being told he is experiencing emotion we, as the reader, would probably never know and it bothers me.
I am going to finish reading this book. I want to know why the body is so important. Unfortunately I fear I probably missed some key clues and I know I’m not going to go back to read them. Hopefully it all comes together.
By the way, if you are interested in a Shadowrun book I would suggest 2XS. It is a fascinating read and the protagonist in that (also bogged down by a family sub-plot) is really quite interesting. I actually cared whether he was getting shot at or not.
How about you? Do you read slower or faster when you are not enjoying something?
I’m not usually a big fan of book reviews because I think tastes are fairly subjective so even though I’ve called this a review it is more a discussion about a book.
Tomorrow, When The War Began by John Marsden
There are a few reasons why I decided to discuss this particular book. Firstly, it is Australian, set in Australia, and while it is realistic in its portrayal of Australia and Australians it has enough fantastic elements to keep me interested. Secondly, the main character and narrator is female and extremely interesting. Thirdly, despite not liking having to read multiple books to get the whole story, this seven book series is well worth reading, multiple times for sheer enjoyment.
This series is about Australia being invaded by an unnamed enemy (though the description given at times would seem to indicate a few ideas about who the invaders may be). The politicians have bailed out of Australia, flying to New Zealand and America to hide and none of Australia’s allies seem inclined to intervene.
Elle, our narrator, is a teenage girl who decides not to go to her town’s annual show and instead sets off with a group of her friends to go camping for the weekend. By doing so, the group of them are not rounded up and captured when the invasion occurs.
The story recounts Elle’s initial fear and surprise and then determination as she and her friends learn what has happened and then set about attempting to disrupt the enemy, possibly free some of their friends, and to survive. Things don’t all go Elle’s way and this story at no time assumes that untrained teenagers would run rings around armed soldiers. Marsden was sensible in choosing a country town where the kids grew up on farms and had a slew of practical skills, working with machinery and minor explosives prior to the war.
I said initially that I like this story for three reasons. The Australian setting is one of them. The setting varies between extreme scrub, farmland, rocky valleys and small towns and each setting is described beautifully and they are all believable. It really felt as though you could drive out to the town and walk into the mountains and actually find the rocky basin the teens nick-name ‘hell’. This setting is used to great effect providing shelter for the teens and a means of out smarting, and out hiding, the enemy when things get rough as well as isolating them and creating its own dangers.
The second reason is Elle. She is an incredibly detailed character. As a farm girl she is tough but she is emotional and loyal to her friends. She is recounting the story (writing it down on behalf of the group) and she is brutally honest in her reflection. As a reader you can forget at times that this isn’t a real recount, it is simply a story. Elle is a phenomenal character and one I couldn’t get enough of when I first read this series. If you get far enough along, you will genuinely cry at some of the things that befall her (trust me on this one).
Finally, the story is incredible. The plot has been worked over until it feels completely seemless. Maybe some people will have a hard time believing teenagers are actually capable of doing more than watching television, but if you get over this, the story is amazing.
Tomorrow, When The War Began – very much worth the read.