Weblogs: the ruination of books
Posted by aogSunday, 02 July 2006 at 16:45 TrackBack Ping URL

This post by Big Arm Woman is about her inability to sit through bad movies, but it reminded me of my own recent experiences with not enjoying books as I used to (I have long since lost the unoccupied stretches of time necessary to watch a movie).

I think it’s writing this weblog (and being a comment contributor elsewhere) that has made it much more difficult to enjoy books. My online experience has taught me to remember details better and more automatically note contradictions and logical errors. It’s exactly the sort of thing that makes snark and sniping so much more effective but it can really ruin a novel.


For instance, I recently read Resurgence. I did not enjoy it as much as earlier books in the series (which I read before I spent so much time onine) and I think it stems for obsessing about certain plot errors instead of just cutting the author some slack.

The biggest problem is that Sheffield gave himself the “transporter problem”, where a super technology is invented to cover some other issue or just to be cool and the writer then has the problem of explaining why it isn’t used in obvious ways to solve problems for the characters. In this case the characters have super-tech spacesuits which can withstand direct contact with milli-Kelvin environments and “even return to orbit” if necessary. This leads to scenes which were intended to be tense but came across as boring.

In one, the characters are exploring a low gravity super-cold planet when they are attacked by a deadly mist. In the end, one character is killed and the ship permanenty damaged by the mist. The entire time I was reading I was wondering “why don’t they just jump off the planet, if it’s so low gravity?”. Or use the suit boost capability?

Another incident involves them being on a planet in the process of being chilled. This is again supposed to be scary but given that they’ve already explored a super-chilled planet in the suits, what’s the big deal if it cools while they are on it? The fact that the ship can’t land because of the wild weather from the condensing atmosphere is makes sense, but why can’t they boost to orbit and get scooped up by the ship?

If this were the only book I would just blame the author, but I have noticed myself doing it much more than in the past. On the other hand, it could be that I am just becoming the grumpy old man that was always inside me, waiting to come out.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Jeff Guinn Saturday, 15 July 2006 at 20:47


The bane of science fiction and fantasy genres is the plot device.

Outside of Pirates of the Caribbean, there is scarcely one that fails to succumb.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 15 July 2006 at 21:19

It’s a matter of how much work I have to do to overlook it. But I am definitely more sensitive. I can no longer read works that feature a doughty liberal society menaced by a powerful, repressive / evil one because the question “how did the Evil Regime get wealthy enough to fight the Good Regime?” skips around in my brain, shredding my suspension of disbelief. I think I’ve started too many semi-autonomous processes in the old brain pain.

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