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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Books I Never Finished But Wish I Did

In case you can't tell my attention span is very squirrel. The only times I've not finished a book is if I strongly believe I'm not going to get anything out of it: books that are terribly written or outdated non-fiction. It's not them, it's me. There are books I simply cannot get through. I cannot find a way to get them to work for me. So this is my apology to those books.


The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

I know, I know. Me, a fantasy author. Never read all the books in the trilogy. I saw the movies, and I love them, but the books I just can't work through. I guess there's too much detail, too many side bits, too many aspects that are irrelevant. The action isn't "action-y" enough. It's too literary, like like it's not aware that it's supposed to be exciting.

I did finish "The Hobbit" and "The Fellowship of the Ring" (even made it past Tom Bombadil), but got lost in "The Two Towers". It didn't make sense why they were splitting up when destroying the ring was their single hope of killing Sauron. The storyline got too split, I wasn't sure who I was supposed to latch onto. I had been so used to following stories with one single protagonist.

Chances of going back to it: Medium. I think I'm in a good place to read it now. But my question is... why? The movies are already out, they follow the book quite well. As Scalzi said, maybe cinema is the better medium to tell this story.


East of Eden

Before I had access to a public library or eBooks, the only real access was my bookcase. Fortunately, I had just moved in with my fiancee, and she brought a few shelves worth. Unfortunately, she is a history teacher. So all she had was non-fiction, historical fiction, and classics.

So I picked this up and got about halfway through. I can't quite remember why I stopped, but I'm pretty sure it had to do with the story never seeming to go anywhere. There was no protagonist, no one with a goal, no one to get behind. I guess it's supposed to be considered more of a work of art or modern epic. All fluid with poetry and description. The side characters were more interesting, like the Asian cab driver who only spoke pidgin English because that's what people expected.

I understand it's a Nobel Prize Winner, but I just can't get through it. I don't want to get through it. It's so mild that an average talk show has more interesting events. The burn is too slow, and it's too in love with its bible metaphors and themes to punch up the plot. I guess it's one of those things where it's a book for literary supermen who can appreciate all those nuances. The funny part is that I finished up to the point where the movie starts off, so I feel like I got the complete story.

Chances of going back to it: Low. Post-modern literary fiction? No thank you.


Atlas Shrugged

I asked for this book for Christmas when I was in high school and I cannot for the life of me figure out why. I knew nothing about Ayn Rand or her books or beliefs (or even that she was a girl). Just hearsay and scuttlebutt. I had no idea what the book was about. I didn't even know how much of a doorstop it was until I opened the present and saw it. (Funny aside: that year I also got Ender's Game and The Perks of Being a Wallflower -- you can tell I had no idea what kind of books I wanted to read yet).

Like the others above, it suffered from "When does the story start?" syndrome. The prose was so overloaded, I couldn't gather anything about what was happening. I knew there was something called Rearden Steel, and there were lots of business concerned about it. But beyond that, I couldn't grasp it. I didn't know when which characters were talking.

There's a lot of politics and economics. Two subjects I'm not terribly interested in. I think I didn't get more than 10% through. Maybe 5%. And keep in mind, I went in with no biases. I didn't know objectivism from chauvinism. I was too stupid to understand I was being preached to, sold something. But fortunately the poor plot construction took care of that.

Chances of going back to it: Very low. I got all I need about objectivism from Bioshock, thank you very much.


The Great Gatsby

I've tried to read this book twice and failed each time. The writing is very flowery and poetic. There's as much time spent on describing events as a person's nose. It's also got the "classic" and "often read in school" stamps of shame on them. It's supposed to be praise, but for people like me, that's a message that says "stay away". It means "nothing happens in this book". Characters exist for the sake of metaphor and message and literary-ism, not for entertainment.

The big stopping point for me was the characters. I could not follow such unlikable people through any sort of journey or time commitment. And really, who would? They are so short-sighted and misogynist and materialistic and hate being rich.

However, that's the point. They're supposed to be unlikable. They're supposed to be jerks, because they're a cautionary tale. They're examples of why America went into such downfall in the twenties. It's about a hub character observing everything that happens around him, and how Citizen Kane really just wants his Rosebud.

Chances of going back to it: High. I saw the movie. I have the cliff-notes. I understand what kind of novel it's supposed to be. And it's short. Third time's the charm.


Boneshaker

See my original review here. I guess I'm not as into steampunk as I thought. Maybe it works better in a visual medium, where you can see all the clanking gears and Victorian dresses. Although, that wasn't the big flaw with this book.

The opening chapter is what intrigued me to read. But the following chapters seemed to have nothing to do with it. I'll tell you like this: I eventually skipped to the end and found all the plot questions answered in the last two pages. Everything that takes place in the middle does not matter to plot or character development. It's just action, action, action, with no consequences or character development.  And the need for an understanding of Seattle's topography.

Chances of going back to it: Low. I'll just see the movie.

Honorable Mention


The Second and Third Book of Swords

My college roommate lent me these when he found out I was writing a fantasy novel. They're high fantasy books that revolve around twelve swords, forged by gods, that all have different features. One slices through dragons like butter, another gives good luck, another can kill from a distance, and so on.

I finished the first book. It was all right, but kind of tedious. When you've got a great concept like this, it's a shame to see it wasted by tedious prose and cliche trappings like Tolkien-esque overwriting and characters walking around.

Like most of the others, I don't blame this book for making me quit. I just wasn't in the place at the time to read it. To read anything. I hadn't cemented myself as a writer. I was just trying to survive college. I was in a hard major, I was depressed, I had no friends, I hadn't the time to devote to reading for fun.

The problem is I can't find these books anywhere. They're not even in the Minnesota public library network. They're not available to buy. I can't even pirate them. I'd love to try them again, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen soon.

Chances of going back to it: Medium-high, if I can find them.
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