A large duck (burger_eater) wrote,
A large duck
burger_eater

I am a book grouch

Okay, I've realized that I'm a book grouch. I'm reading all these novels that other people love, and all I can do is grump about them. It seems that everyone but me loved Four and Twenty Blackbirds, but I felt kind of lukewarm to it. I read the whole thing, but parts of it bored me.

Have I mentioned A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham? It was another book that I put down before the 50 page mark. The writing was quite nice, but the pace was too slow and it failed the Eight Deadly Words test.

Apparently, I don't have much patience for fantasy worlds where people are rigorously polite. This one included formalized body language, and was full of lines like "He took a pose indicating acceptance suitable for a student to a teacher."

I kept stopping to wonder what that would look like. It made the pages turn at a glacial pace, and I eventually got antsy waiting for the big scheme to play out. There was one subplot that moved along nicely, about a fugitive business manager hiding out (and examining the books for) a ruthless pimp.

Jesus, just typing that out sounds weird. Yes, she's studying his accounts. Yes, it was interesting. The rest didn't hold my attention.

I followed that with Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell. This is another one of those books that everyone else seems to love, but that didn't work for me. Again, the writing was fine and the setting was unusual. I especially liked the different speaking styles of all the different cultures.

But I didn't buy the Azteca. Maybe it didn't help that there are a chain of Mexican restaurants in town with that exact name, and that Salad Eater and I spent a good portion of our first date hanging out there.

It also didn't help that I simply didn't believe in them. Mistaking aliens for gods is a time-honored idea, but I didn't believe the Azteca would transition from space-faring people fleeing from alien oppressors to pre-industrial human-sacrifice-makes-the-crops-grow-and-the-sun-rise savages in only 15 to 18 generations.

Of course, by the time we reach that explanation, the Azteca have been well-established within the story. It was a bit like crossing a bridge and noticing about 2/3rds of the way across that the whole thing is creaking under your weight.

Also, when the amnesiac hero of the story gets his memory back, he suddenly turned into a really interesting character, which only emphasized how bland he was before.

Still, it passed my highly technical test for a good book: I didn't put it away so I could look out the bus window.

Yesterday, I picked up Hammered by Elizabeth Bear. Being cyberpunk (or at least seeming cyberpunk) it's a book I would normally avoid, but I enjoy her lj very much and I'm doing this whole first novel thing...

I have to admit that I laughed aloud at some of the back cover copy ("hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut") and the story opened with an editor's note that I thought was ill-conceived.

In essence, the "Editor's note" said that the creators of the book had taken the protagonist's interview transcripts and additional materials (such as personal journals of other characters) and rendered them in "narrative format." Basically, this reads like any other book, but the little front note was... what? A teaser to establish that the book chronicles a history-changing event? An attempt at verisimilitude?

Because if the latter is true, any verisimilitude is immediately undercut
by Tuckerized famous names.

Also, saying "this narrative was once a transcript" actually damage the illusion of realism, since it points out what the book is not, and how unlike a genuine historical document a regular novel is.

Of course, this immediately made me think about a novel made up entirely of an interview transcript. It would be like a first person narrative with an unreliable POV character, with the added benefit of an insightful questioner who could see through the narrator's deceptions and dig for the true story, and maybe the secret behind the story.

It would have been something like More Than Human, but in a police interrogation instead of on a psychiatrist's couch.

Eventually, I realized that I'd spent the last half hour daydreaming a skiffy version the THE USUAL SUSPECTS. That kinda put the damper on my enthusiasm for the idea.

Anyway, I'm reading the book, cyberpunk or no, and it seems fine so far. I just feel like I'm missing out on the fun when I grouch on books that so many others like.
Tags: reasons i suck, words
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