Like many, I love getting caught up in a story. And I love unexpected twists! Challenges I would not have forseen being thrown at the characters, turning the whole thing on its head–it’s great!
Except for when it’s not.
One such twist has happened in a book I’m currently reading called The Passage. And spoiler warning, though I will try to keep this fairly vague for those who may read it. The first portion of the book I very much enjoyed. Small town people collide with government conspiracies, a hint of mysticism that may just be insanity, big consequences for small actions, and clear tones of mystery and horror. Good stuff, and I wanted to read more.
(Okay, and really, here be spoilers)
Then the book took a drastic turn, jumped about 90 years into a future that was, due to international disaster, more like a throwback. Antiquated lifestyles, simpler living in smaller and more contained towns, horseback instead cars, bows and arrows instead of guns…all things that make sense give what’s happened, but it was incredibly jarring. There are two strikes against it here. One isn’t the book’s fault exactly, but it reminds me a lot of what happens in Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling. Also not a bad book, but I grew very tired of the characters and series as it clunked it’s way closer and closer to a headlong dive into fantasy after starting off as science fiction. Second, which is the book’s fault, at least thirty pages into this new section and it has yet to connect directly with the characters from the first chunk of the book. It lost that connection between one
scene and the next, and rather than feeling like I’m seeing a natural progression, I feel like I’ve been
unwittingly sucked into a spin-off of the show I was watching without anyone telling me. Aha! It’s a
Backdoor Pilot! (Or a Poorly Disguised Pilot, whatever you prefer.)
I’m trying to continue on–this section I’m in isn’t on it’s own all that bad, it’s just that the transition was so jarring and disconnected that it hasn’t really worked for me. I do want to know what comes of the stories unresolved from the earlier section as well, so it’s still worthwhile enough for me to push through.
The other thing that often jars me too much to keep reading is when a main character is suddenly just not who they are anymore. Something happens to change them–and that’s just fine, that should be happening–but when the change is too much, it’s hard to keep reading. You’ve been misled, the hero is not the person you spent the last half of the book reading about. And you just might not like them anymore, to boot.
This has happened to me twice. Both in my teen years. Spoiler alert again, this time for Mary Brown’s Master of Many Treaures and Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule. MoMT is a sequel, and I found the first book, Pigs Don’t Fly, to be really fun. This was a while back now, so my
memories of it are vague, but I recall enjoying it and liking the characters quite a bit. It had a cliffhanger ending, so I jumped into Book 2. And the characters got really annoying…I forget exactly why and how, but Summer, the protagonist, was just irritating and stupid, from what I do remember.
Somehow despite that she finds her true love in the end, and then suddenly there’s a really weird epilogue where….I think they got eaten by other dragons? Maybe? It was hard to figure out, but on top of everything dumb that had come before, this was the big ending for this pair? Seriously? No thank you! I actually think I skipped to the end, read that, and gave up on the rest of the book. The dumbing down (this may have been my first encounter with the Idiot Ball) and then quite literally even more character assassination, was jarring, annoying, and I had no interest in continuing on. There was just no point to the story at all. They did some stuff, and then they died, summed it all up.
The second instance was the opening novel of the Sword of Truth saga. Richard is all stalwart and heroic, he and Kahlan are in love, things are going alright halfway through even if he hasn’t killed the bad guy quite yet! Then he gets captured–ooo! This should be exciting, heroes rarely get captured, so I was expecting something good.
Uh…instead, I got leather-clad dominatrixes (dominatrices?) with magical pain sticks.
Yep. In a sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel. Evil dominatrices, out of nowhere. Wait, was this filed under the right section in the store?
So the Mord’Sith, as they are called, capture Richard, torture him with their pain sticks, break him entirely, have him basically begging for the pain from his mistress eventually, and I stopped
reading. I’m told this was important because it enable him to kill out of love and not hate. Of course, I’m also told Richard, the good guy, went on to use the enemies’ peasants as a meat shield further down the line, so all-in-all, I think I got out of that series at exactly the right time.
It’s worth noting, however, that despite the Mord’Sith, the TV show Legend of the Seeker knows exactly what it is and it’s a hilariously campy romp. I’m pretty sure Zed’s actor is constantly drunk.