Monday, June 29, 2009

Watch Your Axes

You know me. I'm all about books. And if you've been here long enough, you know I appreciate books with an underlying philosophy behind them. However, sometimes an author can go too far and underlying philosophy turns into a festival of axe grinding.

I just put down (okay, I wrote this post last night) a book after the first 55 pages because it was just such a festival. I really should've known better, but I don't read jacket copy. I like starting books fresh - without catching whatever wave the blurb writers and copy artists have in mind. After closing the book, never to open it again, I read the back and saw a hint of what might be inside. Heh. I could've save myself $4.79+tax. (Another clue was the book's presence on the 40% off rack, but I'm all about bargains.)

Of course, after reading what I read, the author blurb on the back seems a way off-base: "An electrifying ride that rings with authenticity." Authenticity? Ummm, only if you believe all the crap you see on MSNBC. Personally, I lost my suspension of disbelief in the first few pages.

Anyway, I didn't start this post to kvetch about the particular travesty of publishing. If nothing else, this book reminded me of an important point about writing fiction:

The story is the most important thing.

Whatever else you might have to say about politics or philosophy or any other idea, never lose sight of the fact that someone laid down good money to read a story.

I hope that I've artfully woven my ideas into my stories. Sure, Caldera is anti-ecoterrorist. It's crucial to the story, but taking that stand shouldn't interfere with the reader's enjoyment of the story. (Unless the reader is an eco-terrorist. Then they would probably chuck my book against a wall after the first few chapters, and that's fine with me.) I think 99.9% of the rest of the world can enjoy the story I've written without thinking they've picked up a treatise on the evils of eco-zealots.

Writers certainly can, and do, have strong opinions. That's fine. I think Ken Follett did an awesome job with Hammer of Eden, even if it might piss a few people off . I think Dan Brown wrote awesome stories in both Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code. I appreciate Michael Crichton's story within research in his book The State of Fear. I might not agree with every idea these men put forth, but I really enjoyed the stories those ideas were woven into.

Because in every instance, the story was the most important thing (even if Crichton did feel the need to justify himself with footnotes, which was a little irritating).

I probably could've pushed my way through the rest of this book tonight - even with the axe-grinding - but beyond that, the damn thing wasn't even that well written. (Which totally pissed me off.) After spending a large chunk of today editing, I found myself picking at too many of this author's sentences. Between those distractions and the numerous cheap shots, I couldn't focus on the premise of this "roller-coaster ride of suspense".

Roller-coasters speed straight along. Sure, they have twists and turns, but you're always headed in one direction. This book had too many points where I was pulled out of the story to be a roller-coaster. A school bus, perhaps.

In this person's defense, though, I can see how some of the Amazon reviewers applauded this book. I guess if the author's philosophies had been even a smidgen more in line with my own, I might've been able to stay in the story more easily. But seriously, once you've taken pot-shots at the country, the government and the military, where can the story go but down?

Of course, that's when the author made a snide comment about Reagan. Sorry, folks, but I happen to think that even with his faults, he was the best President this nation has seen in a long long time. But even if you don't agree, sniping at a Alzheimer's victim who kept jelly beans in the oval office is like kicking a three-legged puppy for tripping over your shoes.

And I still would've let it go if the rest of the story had been worthwhile. Even I can set aside my feelings for a good novel.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go check my work to make sure I haven't slid into the grinding wheel and taken my potential readers along for the ride.

(In the interest of keeping the blog snert free, I won't be sharing the author and title of this book. I reviewed it at Amazon, and that was more attention than this book deserved.)

PS. I totally stole the picture from Jennifer Lyon's blog. It fit too well to leave it out.

 *All images deleted to avoid any chance of copyright infringement*

1 comment:

  1. Love the poster. I don't know that I've read any axe-grinding books lately. Not that I can think of anyway.