Friday, September 11, 2015

What makes a book unreadable?

Polaris book cover.jpg 

This is a hard sci fi book about a lost space yacht. Stephen King calls the author "The logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke" and the book was nominated for a Nebula award. For a sci fi lover like me what's not to like?

And indeed this book did transport me back to the old days of sci fi that I grew up with. Unfortunately, as well as being full of excitement, adventure, and hard science, those were the days when sexism was the norm and women were mostly for decoration or a prize.

Here are a couple of excerpts so you can judge for yourself.
Ten minutes later, the Sentinel's captain appeared, Eddie Korby, young, quiet, studious. Look at him and you thought he was timid. The last person in the world you'd think would be piloting a starship. But he always had an attractive woman on his arm. Sometimes two or three.
And a bit later on, of a character working in ground control:
He'd been trying to coax Talia into his bed for the better part of a year. That night he broke through. Afterward, he concluded that the business with the Polaris [the missing space craft] had, in some way, been responsible. It's an ill wind ... he thought.
I imagine there are other examples because I've only reached page 16. I will never know, because I really can't bring myself to read any further. It was the "he broke through" comment that finished it for me.

I'm so glad there are plenty of other books  around now where sexism just isn't an issue. It reminds me how far most of us have come.

I wonder what makes a book unreadable for you.


Lexi said...

That sentence in the first extract: 'Look at him and you thought he was timid' - would put me off. I couldn't read a book's worth of contorted syntax like that.

I guess I'd be okay with the 'broke through' bit as long as the passage was in close POV, and it was there to demonstrate the character was a jerk.

I find I have to switch off Richard Briers and Prunella Scales in the 1963 'Marriage Lines' on Radio 4 extra, because of its antiquated assumptions about men and women. Grisly rather than funny.

fairyhedgehog said...

Lexi, the standard of writing was poor but I admit to being willing to overlook that for the sake of reading sci fi. The sexism bothered me more!

And I agree that if it was close POV "broke through" might be acceptable in showing jerkhood, but in fact it seemed to be the POV of the narrator.

Times have changed and I can get my sci fi fix without having to read a lot of sexism these days! For example, I don't know if you've read The Martian, but it's seriously good and not sexist at all!

Simon Kewin said...

Well, I think I'm with you. Hard to judge from a few short excerpts but it read like a spoof of 1950s sci/fi to me...

fairyhedgehog said...

Simon, it would have been much more fun if it really was a spoof!

Sylvia said...

Ugh, yeah. The "two or three" blows it for me.

fairyhedgehog said...

It is pretty bad, isn't it?

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