Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Books I didn't really like, but maybe you will...

So, for the record, I like books with conclusive endings, no loose ends, books with maps at the front, mysteries, suspense, action, adventure, romance, noble causes, redeeming values... I've read everything Dean Koontz has ever written. I'm excited about the final book (13? something like that) in the Wheel of Time series. I loved Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, and The Spiderwick Chronicles. Yes I've read all of Tolkien, including the Simarillion (which nearly bored me to tears, though I loved the other stories). I don't like Game of Thrones and actually stopped reading. That's an important point. I... I feel commited to books, even ones I don't like, and I keep reading, hoping they might get better, so for me to quit... it takes a lot is all I'm saying.

There are 3 books that have recently gotten under my skin... well, 5 actually, since one was a trilogy of books, but I'm counting it as one annoying thing. And actually, after writing all this out, it's so long even my eyes are starting to glaze over, so I'm going to break it up into a little series. Better to stretch out this whole NaBloPoMo* thing anyway.  We'll do 2 today, and save my major griping for tomorrow. Aren't you lucky!

Stephen King: Full Dark, No Stars (actually, no spoilers here)

So, I bought this book on a whim, at the grocery store. Sometimes those sort of things turn out well. This time was not one of those times. It's a collection of short stories, which I like the concept of. I thought I had read (and liked) stuff by Stephen King before, so I thought it was at least worth a shot. Oh no. I will say that of the 5 short stories in the book, I did actually enjoy the last one. I figured out the "trick" early enough to feel clever, but not so early that I thought the author was giving it away. And the 4th one was... ok. The rest of the stories however... well, you'll hear me say this a lot but they had really unsatisfying endings. The first story actually wrapped itself up pretty well and I felt like the loose ends were addressed, but it was gorier than I like. It's Stephen King, so I should know that horror and gore and ookiness are bound to happen, but there was a kind of vulgarity that really turned me off. The second story was not only vulgar (and I felt unnecessarily so, which may be redundant, because is there such a thing as necessary vulgarity? Maybe, but this wasn't it.) but at the end, I was seriously staring at the pages thinking there had to be a mistake. That's it? It just... ends? Like that? I don't trust any of the characters and the whole thing felt really shakily resolved. That feeling only got worse with the 3rd story--where at the end I literally threw the book down and went to go do something else because I was so disgusted. The premise of the 3rd story is that a dying man gets a life extension at the cost of someone else's happiness. Ok, there's lots of potential there. I was excited & interested to find out how things went, only the story ends with NO RESOLUTION! Things just go up, up, up, up, up, then end. You know how story arcs are supposed to go?  Conflict, escalation, climax, RESOLUTION. Resolution is a very important part of the story. I'm not saying it has to be "and they all lived happily ever after" or anything, but I would like it if my story did have some sort of end. This one... it felt like Steve just got bored and stopped writing.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy (some detail spoilers, but no major plot revelations)

So, I saw that this was going to be a movie, so I decided to Read the Book First. I don't remember if I knew it was a trilogy then or not, but that's not really important. It is a trilogy, which is important. You could probably just read the first book if you wanted to, because the only unresolved plot point at the end of that one is a relationship between two characters. Of course, for me, the relationships are the best part of any story, so I kept reading. Silly me.

First of all, the books have a lot of names. A lot of Swedish names. A lot of Swedish names that the author confuses the heck out of me by sometimes using a character's first name and sometimes the last. I got lost. Also, 3 whole books set in Sweden and not one Linnea? Really!

Secondly, you know the little plot synopsis on the back of the book? The one that tells you why you're going to like reading this book because here's a sneak peek at what happens? In the first book, you don't even get a HINT of that until page 108. 108 pages of Swedish names I can't pronounce and things that are all elaborate set up for what's GOING to happen later. Maybe doing Faire has ruined me, because I like stories that start in the middle. Start in the middle, get me hooked, and then you can explain your universe to me as we go, and I promise I'll let you. 108 pages of lead up, and I'm rolling my eyes a lot. The second book was worse! The back-of-book-plot-snippit didn't start until page 216. I wish I was kidding! Thankfully the third book did start in the middle of the action, so I didn't have to go punching anyone.

And now for my minor spoiler: I think my biggest complaint with the book was Mikael, one of our two main characters. He's described as this sort of average guy, no great beauty, but charismatic, good at his job, middle aged dude doing stuff. And YET! He's this amazing Casanova. Every female character throws herself at him. He sleeps with them all. Nevermind the fact that all of these women are very, very different (which, good for you Steig, for showing a range of female characters)--they are all helpless when faced with the Bloomkist charm. And what's worse (to me)? He doesn't even charm them. They all just up and decide one day to sleep with him, with no encouragement from him. He doesn't hit on them, he doesn't sweet talk them, he isn't anything more than passingly polite to them, and they just can't help themselves. They must have him. Boldly they proposition him and he is helpless to resist. What the... no. Sorry. Don't believe it. Even if he is played by Daniel Craig in the new movie--heck, even if they got Cillian Murphy to play him (which would be totally bizarre casting, but I'm just saying, the #1 on my list) I wouldn't believe it. 5 women from different backgrounds, with different personalities, different social positions, different life experiences, all just up and decide one day to go proposition ye olde average Joe? It's all a little too much like the author just liked women a lot so wanted his hero to get ALL THE GIRLS.

Oh, yeah, and while there is resolution, the major conflict between our two primary characters just ends with an "oh, ok, sure, whatever." Unsatisfying!

So... I guess unfinished business is absolutely NOT what I'm looking for in my works of fiction, thank you very much. Which you will see why the next book on my list drove me batty... tomorrow.

*National Blog Posting Month... or something. The challenge is to write a post on your blog every day for the month of November. We'll see how I do.  30 is a lot of days.


Toni With An I said...

I have never been able to get behind Stephen King, it is as though he is speaking an entirely different language and it takes me six times longer to finish one of his books than any other authors'.

Jesabes said...

I've been thinking I should read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but maybe I won't. I don't really feel like it, anyway.

Elsha said...

I'm a Stephen King fan and I've read a bunch of his stuff, but I definitely think his novels wrap up WAY better than his short stories. Also? I tend to favor his older stuff over his newer stuff.

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