Friday, August 5, 2016

Rejected Books: An Essay and a Survey

I can count on the fingers of one hand the books I’ve abandoned after once beginning them. It takes the other hand and some toes to include books I’ve finished, then vowed never again to read that author.

See, I fall in love with books. I eat, sleep, breathe the protagonist’s problems, imbibe his ideals, yearn for her desires, mourn their losses. I trust the author I have met and loved before to take me on an interesting journey. I’ll make the connections, I’ll put in the hours, just take me along!

So when I do encounter a novel that I just cannot finish, I don’t think it’s just me. 


Gregory Maguire let me down with Mirror, Mirror, after I tripped with Wicked, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Lost. I haven’t thrown out the book—yet—but I can’t get past page 46. The characters don’t engage me, and this is one time the retelling of the fairy tale is not refreshing, but boring. I’ll try again, perhaps some day when my reading well has gone dry. Meanwhile, it sits on my shelf, one prominent crease in the spine marking where it lay open on the coffee table for three weeks.

Richard Paul Russo is also on my wha’ hoppen? list. Ship of Fools has a great concept (a generation-ship whose crew have forgotten their origins, and encountered something that may be evil), and the author had done wonderful things with the cyberthriller Carlucci novels. But somewhere in the middle of Ship, the story simply grinds to a halt. You don’t care anymore, you just want off the boat!

I “try before I buy” with books, by applying the Rule of 33, although usually I only do this with a new or untrusted author. But long before I developed that rule, I read Thomas Tryon’s Harvest Home. I devoured this book, because I had so enjoyed The Other. In fact, even my rule would not have helped me spot this one. The problem with Tryon’s book, for me, was what I call the “unexpected gross-out.” This is a shocking plot element that is unforeseen because the writer has carefully masked its approach, the authorial equivalent of burying a razor-blade in a sweet red apple.

I adore David Weber’s Harrington novels, and even enjoy his fantasy series that starts with Oath of Swords. The series about Earth's Moon as an alien secret spaceship, though, leaves me cold. Curiously, my spouse did love Mutineer’s Moon, and bought all the subsequent books. I, on the other hand, look at those novels and see a waste of time that could be better used telling us about Honor Harrington or her tree-cat Nimitz.

The final rejected book I’ll list here is from the pen of Larry Niven. I had such hopes of Scatterbrain, which promised a peek into the skull of this brilliant writer, but delivered an incoherent mush of essays and half-finished stuff juxtaposed with excerpts from his better-known stories. I’ve read everything Niven has published—the Ringworld, Smoke Ring and Known Space series especially. This is the only one I regret!

It’s not a long list. There are few others I could name
although I admit, it is easier for me to abandon Kindle books than physical tomes, it is not because I've rejected them outright. 

And now the floor is open for nominations from you. Are there any books that so repulsed you that you vowed never to read another word from the author’s pen? Please leave your nominations in the comments!