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Posts Tagged ‘Predictability’

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

June 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Warning! May Contain Spoilers!

Catching Fire is book two of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It continues the story of Katniss Everdeen and her trials and tribulations after being a victor in the Hunger Games, a sadistic competition put on by the totalitarian government of a post-apocalyptic America. The games pit children against children in a yearly fight to the death.

First off, and bluntly, Catching Fire is not as good as The Hunger Games, the first book of the trilogy. Secondly, it is not a bad book and is quite above average. Thirdly, it suffers from, and even magnifies, one of the major problems with the first book – its predictability greatly detracts from the story. Read more…

The Deadly Sin Of Not Giving A Book A Five Star Rating

June 7, 2012 Leave a comment

There are seven commonly recognized deadly sins.  They include wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.  But there is also an eighth deadly sin so cardinal that is often over looked.  That sin is daring to say that a book is not “5 star” quality.

Yep, it is true.  Honesty is not looked upon kindly in the world of book reviews.  In that world, glowing, five star praise painting every novel written as the next best thing since Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkein or C.S. Lewis put pen to paper is the order of the day.  If you give a hedged four-star review while heaping praise, you can usually avoid most ofthe inevitable aftermath.  But, dare to give a book three-stars or less and you better be ready for scorn to be heaped upon you and the personal attacks to ensue.

When I said that Ian Irvine’s latest fantasy novel Vengeance, The Tainted Realm Vol 1 was only worth three-stars saying it read “like I was in the middle of a Tuesday night AD&D session” and it was not for anyone with “discriminating tastes in epic fantasy” it was on.  I received angry emails calling me a “worthless piece of s**t” and accusing me of “being jealous that I could never write such a wonderfully contrived novel as Mr. Irvine does time and time again.”  Well, excuse me for having an opinion.  Excuse me for thinking the book was mediocre.

Even when I recently posted my review of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which I gave four out of five stars, I was not immune from attacks.  While I recommended the book, I also said that some things disappointed me such as the “simplistic prose”, its predictability and the fact that the basic premise was not very original even if the story details themselves were.  That caused fans of the book to unleash upon me because I did not think it was worthy of five star praise like they did.  Again, sorry for having an opinion that you did not like I suppose.  Please note that I did give it four stars.  Geesh!

It is an odd thing to experience, especially as an aspiring writer seeking publication.  One person upset with my review of The Hunger Games whined at me in a long, meandering email, “How would you like it if someone called something you wrote ‘simplistic and predictable’ and did not give it five stars?”  Well, honestly, as long as they are being honest and not vindictive or just a generally ignorant ass?  Then I do not care.  Opinions are, as they say, like butt holes.  Everyone has them.

I’m not one to toss around five-star ratings for anything, least of all books.  I’ve only ever thought that three books I have ever read deserved such an honor: Bram Stokers’s Dracula, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.  Sorry.  That’s my opinion.  Others have come close, but none has quite hit those heights.

I’m honest.  If you do not like it, don’t visit my site any more.  It is still a free country.

Rube Goldberging A Story – Please Don’t!

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

A Rube Goldberg Device is something that is unnecessarily complex in order to accomplish a fairly simple task. Thus, by it’s complex nature it is clumsy, unwieldy, often breaks and fails to perform the task it was designed to do. Stories, it seems to me, often turn into such monstrosities. Yes, even published stories which get the full backing of a publishing house and make money for an author.

In stories turned Rube Goldberg devices, things tend to just happen. The author gets from point A to point D through events B and C, but those events are clunky and often seem constructed to purposefully drive a story through, even if they tend to make little sense as to why they needed to be taken even after they were taken. Such stories heap unpredictability among improbabilities upon out of character reactions until the story reaches the author’s desired ending. Don’t get me wrong, unpredictability is good because predictability breeds boredom. However, too much unpredictability, and not enough logic, leads to frustration on the part of the reader. A reader can only stand so many “out of the blue” realizations that save a character from certain doom, or plot twists that send the story off in new directions. Too many and the reader becomes dizzy.

There is one example that is most prevalent in my mind of this sort of story telling gone awry; the television series “24”. Although I hear the series “Lost” was the same way, but I can honestly say because I never watched it. The first season of “24” was great. I and many of my friends loved it because there were twists and turns and looking at them in hind sight, once revealed, made sense. The writers struck just the right balance.

Then came season 2, and it was good, though not as good as the first. The sense was that the writers knew that the unpredictability was the draw of the show, so they tried to squeeze in more of it. But some of the twists, even in hindsight, seemed little more than an appeasing grasp at the philosophy that unpredictability for the sake of it was a good thing.

After season 2, things went downhill fast. Some of the following seasons were better than others, but they all suffered from the same flaw of being too much like a Rube Goldberg Device. Characters would have a sudden flash of insight to escape a hopeless situation. Others would mysteriously appear for no other reason than to push on to the next cliff hanger ending each week. Still others would change stripes without any inclination that they were going to despite lots of screen time spent delving into their characters and portraying them in a certain light. Essentially, there series was chaos out of which emerged the ending some many weeks later.

Stories that proceed like this actually bore me more than encourage me to read more. Eventually, too much chaos and it becomes impossible to suspend disbelief.