Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Top 5 Books I just Can't Get Into Again

I've never been a big re-reader. Most of the time, when I really want to read a book again it's after I no longer have it for some reason: loaned it to a friend or just plain lost it. Since I started this blog, I started looking into re-reading certain books for my Second Glance articles (please read, some of the books I plan on giving Second Glance's to are not mainstream anymore but are exceptional books in their own right.)

The problem I'm finding with re-reading, though, is that some books I read once upon a time, I just can't get into again. It's not exactly that they are bad books, but more along the line that I have just read so many extraordinary books that the ones I want to re-read just aren't as good anymore.

So for your reading pleasure, is a list of the top five books I just can't get into anymore, and a few reasons why.

#5 - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games is one of those books that wasn't bad, but the more I looked at it, the more I disliked the characters and the story in general. I actually included Katniss Everdeen on a paper I did, and how I thought of her as an Anti-Hero. I know from certain points of view it doesn't look that way, but Katniss is kind of a hypocrite in her time period.

She strings two different guys along because she doesn't know how she feels about either of them. She plays on Peeta Melark's feelings for her during the games to get a more popular standing with the sponsors. It might seem kind of a survivalist thing to do, but I guarantee that if Peeta had done the exact thing, women would have been up in arms about him being a typical man, doing what he needs to get by and using this poor girls affections against her.

That kind of takes a side to the other reason I couldn't get into the book again, which is the point-of-view. The story is told completely from Katniss's point of view, but the story itself incorporates so many other characters that had something going on, who's stories you never really get a feel for. You only have Katniss's perspective on the side characters, which makes it really hard to sympathize with them. They kind of got made into red-shirts

#4 - Eragon by Christopher Paolini - I have so many reasons for my distaste of Christopher Paolini: There's the changing of his trilogy into a saga, the introduction of additional titles halfway through the series, the fact that almost all of the characters in the final book take dramatic changes to their personalities (King Orrin, Roran, Nasuada, even Eragon himself), the completely anti-climactic final battle, and the obvious ending that couldn't have gone any other way.

None of this has to do with why I can't get into the first book, which was relatively excellent, again. That reason is because of the fortune teller. Angela the Herbalist is the living manifestation of Deus Ex Machina (or God or Machine). The concept of deus ex machina is simple: did something happen because a divine entity forced it to be that way, or because the writer needed something to happen where it technically couldn't have. Was the battle won because god intervened, or because the writer needed that side to win for it to be a good story? That's the simplest explanation there is.

Angela the Herbalist completely ruins the story because anytime she is involved in the plot, she, through her all-powerful and mysterious ways, is able to shift the balance, or foretell the story. I talked about it in my article on Foreshadowing, but she basically tells you halfway through the first book whats going to happen in all the others. At that point, you don't even have to read the other books.

#3 - Changes by Jim Butcher - I love Jim Butcher's writing. I have all of his Dresden Files books, as well as the Codex Alera. Hes funny and witty without being campy, and that's just so hard to find in literature.

That being said, Changes, book 12 in the Dresden Files series, seriously made me want to throw the hardback copy I had right at him. It's just blatant sadism on print. Throughout the story, Harry Dresden loses everything that was important to him, one after another. Hes battered and bruised and miserable by the end of the book, and no matter what your feelings about him as a character, you just have to feel sorry for him.

And then just at the end, when you get the feeling that somehow things might turn out ok for him, BANG! he gets shot and falls off a boat into icy water. I feel comfortable revealing that much about his story, because the last book that came out was called Ghost Story and is about him solving his own murder.

I get that Jim Butcher wanted Harry to solve his own murder ( he talks about it in an interview I found on But systematically destroying a character is one plot device I could never get into. Intentional harm to a person is considered sadistic, and killing off a character in a story for no other reason than to thrill you at the very end is both cruel to the reader and literary manslaughter (patent pending, no stealing that).

#2 - The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss - Patrick Rothfuss is one of those excellent writers you have either heard of and love him to pieces, or have never known he exists. I'm of the former. I read his first book, The Name of the Wind, and it was one of the best books I've ever read. It's basically a very mature Harry Potter told from the main characters perspective several years in the future. It's one of the first books I ever intentionally went back and re-read, and I've bought three copies (I'm dumb and keep loaning them out to friends who either lose them or forget they had them.)

The only problem with The Name of the Wind, is that they are so many mystery plot devices never fully explained, and since it's a trilogy, it makes sense because he has two more books to have time to explain them in. I kept a sheet of paper after I read it the second time with all the questions left unanswered for when the second book came out. And if you have read the first and second book, you know it took a really long time, about four years to be exact. I'm not ashamed to say that when I finally saw the book in a local bookstore, I squealed like a little kid and pranced about with it on my way to the register.

I was disappointed. I don't know how I can be any more blunt. The first book was full of suspense and action and wonder. The second book was about sex. Lots of sex. And the parts that were full of action were so drawn out that they were kind of tarnished by the end I finished them. Remember the Karate Kid? Remember how they did little montages of him learning karate, and it was fun, and kind of interesting. If they had gone through the entire month or so it would have taken him to learn even basic karate, it would have been as dull as watching paint dry. That's what The Wise Man's Fear was. Paint drying.

When it wasn't about sex, or paint drying, the book was mostly about filling in those missing plot devices. Each chapter seemed to explain something from the first book, which was good to do, but it just had such a clinical feel to it that it was less "Oh wow, that's what that does!" and more "Eh, so that's what he meant..." I can only hope the third book is better, and more interesting, because it does the first book a disservice

#1 - Wizards First Rule by Terry Goodkind - Terry Goodkind's writing is inaccessible. I can't put it any simpler. The Sword of Truth books were bearable up until Chainfire, and then I just lost interest. Richard, one of the main characters spends so much time in his own head trying to figure things out in the most complicated of manners, that it reminds me of the old Power Ranger's transformation sequences. They spent so much time changing that I kind of wondered why the enemy stayed around and waited and didn't just go off and go blow stuff up. L.A. would have been toast by the time Richard finished thinking about things.

I've read a lot of critical responses to Terry Goodkind's writing, which from reading the books I can understand, but the main thing is that he is an excellent writer, but a terrible storyteller. It really is a wonder that anything gets done in the books

1 comment:

  1. I hate the Sword of Truth series. Despite the overhanded Objectivist mentality - which I could suffer through if the story was good - I just hated Richard. I get Richard was Goodkind's avatar in SoT, but that doesn't mean Richard always had to be right, even when Zedd, Kahlan, everyone else, and even the fucking universe told him he was wrong, somehow in the end he would be right every single time. And his whole "I don't believe in prophecy" philosophy, then he would go about and do exactly what was prophesied to the letter, sometimes even use it to his advantage (like when Kahlan "betrayed" him in Temple of the Winds) and then turn around and say "There's no such thing as prophecy. I make my own fate." I wanted a large rock to fall on his head every single time I turned the page.