Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Literary no-fly zones

I saw this post at Book Riot yesterday. It is a really delightful post by Raych Krueger on Stuff I Won’t Read and how that has changed during the author’s life.

I used to be able to read any old thing I wanted, except for books about torture. Torture has always been my Number One Do Not Want. If someone ever writes the novelization of Game of Thrones: The TV Version (I KNOW THEY ARE ALREADY BOOKS, MY DUDES, don’t even look at me like that. But GRRM is more restrained about his torture than Messrs Beniof and Wiess, and doesn’t just hang out there for pages, peeling a person), I will not be able to read the Theon scenes.

But unless someone was being flayed (why is that even a thing? Whose terrible, terrible idea was that in the first place), I was pretty down to read. EVEN IF THERE WAS A DOG DEATH, as long as it wasn’t protracted, I could muscle my way through.

Then I had a kid, and then I had another kid, and everything went tits up. Gone are my salad days, reading with the gleeful heedlessness of youth, where nothing really bad had ever happened to me and nothing on earth could break me.

The whole post is fun to read, you should definitely click through if you have time. But it’s also interesting. Actually, there are two Don’t Read That kinds of things for me: JUST SKIM THIS PART and DNF THIS BOOK, and they are completely different.

I’m with Raych: no skinning people alive. No no no. But that kind of thing is much worse for me if presented visually, on TV or in a movie. (Mental note: yeah, maybe no need to ever get around to watching “The Game of Thrones.”) Because not only does it seem more “real” with the added visual, it’s harder to skip over.

I can handle a dog’s death. I can! I’m tough. But I’m likely to skim over any dog-lost-on-the-street scenes. And if the book contains a significant portion of dog-lost-on-the-streets, then it better have a happy ending.

For me, I skim lightly over: Torture scenes because ugh. Detailed erotica, because I feel like a voyeur reading that, seriously. Almost all bad-guy points of view, because not interested.

For me, DNF categories include: Too much Emotional Emoting from the protagonist, because I am really not into angst. Or, the author is attempting to jerk me around emotionally and I can tell. Or, the author gets too much of the science wrong, and it’s science I particularly care about. (It’s okay with me if Superman picks up a whale without squishing right through to bone and then having its entire skeleton disarticulate around him. I know you cannot pick up a whale without lots of bad stuff happening to the poor thing, but I don’t care that much about physics.)

I once stopped in the middle of a book and wrote down a list of all the reasons you cannot have giant bugs and spiders the size of Cadillacs because until I did that I COULD NOT COPE with the impossibility of giant bugs. But the book wasn’t bad, actually, and I did finish it. (I can’t remember what it was, though, sorry.)

This is all aside from “The book just isn’t that great” or “The book just isn’t catchy.” I DNF quite a lot of books because life is short, right? But here I’m thinking of stuff that makes me stop in the middle and give a book away even though it’s well written and/or catchy.

How about you? Have you got a clear distinction between “the book is great but skip pages 55-81” and “the book is well-written but too annoying to finish”?

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2 Comments Literary no-fly zones

  1. SarahZ

    Zombies gross me out, so those books are usually disqualified (so haven’t read World War Z or Mira Grant’s Feed). This is why I’m conflicted about Rob Thomas’s new TV show. I love Veronica Mars, so normally anything from him would be must-see tv, but his new show is a zombie show!

    If a character spends way too much time pondering a mystery that really isn’t that mysterious (Who could the demon stalking the neighborhood be? It couldn’t be nice old Mr Crowley from next door, could it?), I’ll skim or not finish, but that seems more like a failure of execution.

  2. Rachel

    I’m okay with zombies, though not that interested in them. I thought FEED was very well done but should ideally have been left as a standalone; I thought it lost some (okay, a lot) of its impact when the series continued. Also: major plot implausibility issues.

    I also loved Veronica Mars and actually I’m more likely to watch a zombie show of Thomas’s than a contemporary show . . . if I watched tv . . . which I kind of don’t have time for, plus I don’t have cable. But if Thomas’s show gets rave reviews, I will probably get the first season on DVD and then stick it on a shelf and ignore it for a few years. Cause that’s what I do.

    I hate mysteries where all the physical evidence points to one person, yet the supposedly clever detective never thinks that maybe it could be that person because, well, because then the book would be too short. Again, a failure of execution.

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