I Can't Go On

For the third time this year, I'm probably going to give up reading in the middle of a novel. I'm generally pretty obsessive about finishing a book once I have invested any time in it. I used to think I owed it to myself and to the author to at least struggle all the way through to the end before giving it a harsh judgment. I had this idea that there might be times when I'd find a little satisfying reward when I fought to the end. It stands to reason: if I am sometimes thrilled with a story right up to the last few pages where I am horrified to find the author destroying everything that has been so beautifully built, then surely I must occasionally stumble upon a book that will redeem itself in its waning paragraphs.

I cannot remember a single instance where this latter situation has ever occurred.

And so, three times this year before I've even reached the midpoint, I have given up well before finishing a novel. I think that this might be a sign that I am finally recognizing my age. As I creep over the midpoint of my life and face the downward slope (my, isn't that melodramatic?), I see that I will not be able to read everything ever written. I must begin to hoard and parcel out my time with a miser's eye to the balance sheet. I will no longer push hard to finish a book with which I am bored at the halfway-mark if there is no reason to believe I will have gained anything from the experience.

(Of course, if it's really just an OAP's concern about the preciousness of time remaining to me, I don't suppose I'd spend so much of it on Twittering, refreshing RSS feeds, and constructing maudlin blog posts about my impending sunset years.)

So, these are the books that I have given up on this year, and this is your chance to jump in and convince me that it's worth my trouble finishing them. I cannot say whether these books have anything important to offer the world, but I can say that I was unable to finish them. I wonder if this spate of unfinished reading is why I haven't written a book tale since April? No, I think it's the lack of commuting.

  • Ghost: A Novel. Alan Lightman brings us what should be a pretty interesting story: a man in a funeral parlor thinks he sees a ghost and is drawn into conflict between scientific and spiritual explanations. But the moody molasses of thinking and pondering make this a true slog of a read and I just am not seeing the point in continuing. It's a 250 page book that feels like 600 pages.
  • Cyteen. This is a Hugo-award winning novel from C.J. Cherryh, who is a leading writer in the SF/fantasy field, though I've never read anything else by her. In this case, the book is physically as long as it feels, but I'm just totally bored by the people in this story. The first gazillion pages or so are filled with political posturing and meetings and motions. Yawn. It felt a bit like she had read the Foundation books and decided that she could do a better job by adding even more detail to the political machinations bits. (The Foundation books are sadly lacking in character development, but we don't spend enough time on anything to really care.)
  • Glory Season. This is a man's view of a woman's utopia, which means that David Brin has given himself a tough row to hoe. But issues of politics aside, I have grown tired of the main character and just don't care what happens to her or her planet. It's a travel novel, I suppose, in that we wander over this world to look at all the odd natives, but even the stuff that happens (dangerous storms at sea, train accidents, etc) doesn't seem to happen. That is, the happening of the happenings has no weight. They lack inertia -- which is an odd thing, I suppose. Generally, we think of inertia in this sense as meaning everything stays still, but inertia also has to do with how much mass and force keep things in motion until stronger forces stop them. In this book, very weighty things happen but the effects flitter away like so many feathers.

So there you have it folks. The comments are open.

0 thoughtful messages from friendly readers: