Last night, I started reading a book that is very popular and has had a movie made from it fairly recently. The reason I decided to read the book was because people in lab have raved about it and I decided that the next time a conversation springs up about it, I wouldn’t be relegated to the sidelines in ignorance. (In any other subject aside from microbiology or books, I’m okay with saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t have any experience about that”.) The last time I tried a fiction book that other science people were raving about, I found it mediocre. And as for this time? Well, let’s just say I’m going to try to stick with non-fiction recommendations from now on.
Keep in mind that I’ve only read three chapters so far. Normally, I toss a book if it doesn’t interest me after the first chapter, but I’m determined to finish this even if it mentally kills me. As someone who has perused submission guidelines in a serious way, I know that writers–if their initial query gets through–submit the first three chapters of their work to the agent or editor. If the first three chapters don’t pass muster, then there’s no chance that the agent or editor will want to see the rest of the manuscript. With that in mind, I expect the first three chapters of every fiction book on market to have certain strengths that would make an agent or editor go “yes!” even if the subject matter for me, personally, does not appeal.
This book that I’ve started does not have the yes-factor. Nothing happens in the first three chapters. I have no sense of the setting–which is something I discussed in the previous post that I think is critical for a great story. I can’t relate to the characters and the writing is, well, stylistically incompetent at best. I had to put the book down after three chapters because the writing itself was giving me a headache. I’m still giving it a benefit of a doubt, though. There are plenty of books that start out slowly. Maybe the characters and plot become more interesting later even if the writing itself is a trainwreck.
I’m not going to reveal what the book is just yet although you can probably guess what it is already. This book has sold millions and I’m trying to figure out what it has that makes it sell–even to people who don’t normally read. Maybe, if it’s not a literary factor, it’s due to marketing. (If it’s just due to marketing, then the publishing industry should be able to sell any sort of dreck it churns out. But this can’t be solely the case because sometimes bestsellers are well written with little marketing push.) And once I’ve finished, I may have to write a review of it–mostly for myself to define where the boundaries of my tastes are.