Monday, May 9, 2016

When You Hate That Book That Everyone Loves

So, there's this book. A plucky band of travelers - some of them aliens! - have adventures in space. I'm not going to get more specific than that because I'm going to say Mean Things about it, I'm a writer not a reviewer, and there is such a thing as Writer's Karma. Sorry about that. However, judging by the rapturous reviews it's getting, The Book will probably appeal to you even if it doesn't appeal to me.


This book - a newish book, 2014 or thereabouts - was recommended on, which is where I've recently been getting my recommendations. It's also on the shortlist for the UK's biggest SF book award. So I bought it. And I read it. And it was bad.

Not Eye of Argon bad. But childish. With paper-thin characters and a plot that was picaresque at best. The best way to sum it up is "It's the future, and everybody is really, really nice." The author seems petrified of conflict. When characters have problems, they just talk things out and everything gets better. (Also, war is bad, and if you're in love, then your species shouldn't matter.) So if you're suffering from PTSD and you're afraid that any fiction you read will be a "trigger," then this is the book for you.

To be clear, I understand and support the idea of comfort fiction. I couldn't have gotten through childhood without P.G. Wodehouse, Susan Cowper, and Josephine Tey. But this book has the kind of problems that most writers struggle with in Year One of their careers. And everybody loves it.

So are they crazy, or am I? Have I wasted years trying to make believable characters? Are plots that actually extend across the length of the book just unnecessary? Is all that "writer's craft" stuff simply bullshit?

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