I don’t like giving up on books. I kind of feel like books are like people and should be given a fair chance to prove themselves. But, like people, some of them…well, try as I might, I’m just not that into them.
Since I’ve challenged myself this year to only read award nominees, I know that the books I bailed out on are books that other people adore. Many of the books I quit on are not just on one award list, but dozens.
So, you know, it’s not the book; it’s me.
Thing is, I know for a fact that I go through phases in my reading. I have no idea if I’m alone in this, but there are times when all I want to read are graphic novels, or I have a crazy, insatiable yen for uber-light urban fantasy. These past few months, I’ve been in one of these deeply judgy-super-exclusionary moods. I’ll take any science fiction, no matter how literary or barely-there, but the majority of the fantasy books I’ve tried, I’ve bounced clean out of. I got all of twelve pages into the Nebula and Hugo award nominated Goblin Emperor and I was like, “High fantasy cooties! Ick!”
There are exceptions. I really enjoyed the steampunk novel, Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, that was up for the Philip K. Dick. I assumed this meant that steampunk was an exception to my weird anti-fantasy mood, so I tried Beth Cato’s The Clockwork Dagger, which was up for the Locus Award. Nope.
I got pretty deep into this book before I bailed on it. The main character, Octavia Leander, is a gifted healer (a “medician’) who is leaving the orphanage she was raised in for the first time. She’s instantly caught up in a mystery involving a lost heir and a handsome/sexy porter, Alanzo, (on a dirigible, ‘natch), who, despite his mechanical leg–a prosthetic in aid of an amputation from a war injury–may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers, a kind of royal super-soldier/Praetorian Guard. This whole set-up is a lot of what I love and Cato has a very easy-to-fall-into writing style. So what the heck happened?
Maybe it was the romance. Maybe it was the fact that Octavia is one of those healer-types that’s just a little too good for my liking. Early in the book Octavia stops to rescue a dog that’s been run over and, you know, she’s THAT heroine. At one point she goes to some lengths to rescue a bat-like goblin that she names Leaf1 Maybe it was how self-deprecating Octavia was about her superpower or how tiresomely Victorian the society was, but I quit. Admittedly, I’m a hard sell on royalty and lost heirs. I couldn’t care less any time there’s a rightful ruler in need of a return to a throne.
Another fantasy book I bailed on, I bailed for entirely different reasons. I liked it too much, and I realized it was the THIRD book in a series: Max Gladstone’s Full Fathom Five which was up for a Lambda this year.
I don’t even know if I can explain how cool Gladstone’s book seemed from its first few pages–our main character is Kai, she’s got a weird job that involves real, living idols/gods and she lives in a world where there’s an entire economy based (stock market included) on the manufacturing and maintaining of said gods. I got about twenty pages into this book and I thought, “Nope. Way too fascinating. I have to start at the beginning.” The first one is, apparently, Three Parts Dead, and, as soon as my reading challenge is over this year, I’m going to hunt that book down with the intention of devouring it in full. I don’t want to spoil what little I know about this, but let’s just say that people wondering where all the cool trans characters are just might want to check out this series.
So sometimes I love too much. Sometimes I just can’t even. Sometimes it’s just who knows.
I’m hoping we can still be friends. I’d honestly like to give some of them a second chance.
[Post image via Shutterstock]
whom I may have imprinted on, as I found myself far more worried about Leaf at points than either Octavia or Alonzo. ↩