Monday, July 18, 2011

Reading Elimination Tournament - Round 1: "What Happens Next?"

DSC_0077The most important objective a writer has to achieve within the first five pages of a book is to compel the reader to ask the question: “What happens next?”  If you can manage this, you might have them hooked, but in order to set the hook completely, you need to provide an answer to another question: “Why should I keep reading this?”

Lord Foul's Bane – Stephen R Donaldson (1977)

This book has been one of those legendary staples of fantasy fiction that I never have managed to get around to reading.  I have probably owned this book since junior high school.  If the yellowing pages aren't a definite indication, the Dee’s Paperback Exchange stamp on the inside cover tells me that I bought it in the town I grew up in a long, long time ago.

The book starts out as Thomas Covenant is walking two miles into town to pay his phone bill while the reaction of the people he passes by suggests that he's done something horrible or frightening.  He has a rare disease that desensitizes his nerves which requires him to be aware of inadvertently hurting himself. The disease seems to be very depressing or debilitating. No words seem to be spoken to him during this walk, and most of the conflict has been set up through his thoughts and reactions of the people he passes. This conflict is engaging enough that I want to read more. I'm sending this on to the next round.

Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurtry  (1985)

The fact that this is a Pulitzer Prize-winning epic masterpiece of the American West, should be enough to pass it to the next round, but I need to be fair. The first five pages are filled with sensory details that give you a clear picture of the world of Lonesome Dove.  The text helps you get a sense of who the characters are even though the only one we've met so far is Augustus.  There is no definitive sign of conflict so far, except for some hinted at between Call  and Augustus. This is enough to get me to read more.  On the next round.

Stronghold: Dragonstar Book 1 – Melanie Rawn (1990)

This book turns out to be the first book in a second trilogy, and assumes that you have read the earlier trilogy, and familiar with the characters presented on the first pages along with the historical events alluded to.  Going to have to pass on this one and give it away to someone who has read the first series of books.

The Outlaws of Sherwood – Robin McKinley (1988)

This book is a retelling of the legend of Robin Hood, and on the first page we learn that he's more of a fletcher (arrow maker) than he is an archer. There are a lot of big paragraphs dense with words and description which make it hard for me to get interested. But McKinley is a Newberry Award-winning author, and I may be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I'm not sure I'm that interested in continuing to read this book. I will put this down as a maybe for now, and see what the other books in the round may bring.

Books Eliminated So Far (and available if you want them):
  • 21 – Jeremy Iversen (2005) 
  • Farm Fatale – Wendy Holden (2001)
  • Freezing -- Penelope Evans (1997)
  • Stronghold: Dragonstar Book 1 – Melanie Rawn (1990)


lines n shades said...

love your blog...glad to have stopped by :)

Michael said...

Thanks for the kind words. I have a lot of posts coming up here in the next couple of weeks. If I may ask, how did you find the blog?