Sci Fi Sunday — I Need A White Flag

I just may have to give up on this one. Here’s what I’m currently reading:

It's a library book, obvs. Support your local library!

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark. Please note that this isn’t a bad book — it passed my “50 page test,” meaning it was good enough after 50 pages to continue reading (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo flunked). However, it is really, really long. And really slow. Picture Lev Grossman’s The Magicians if it had been written by the love child of Dickens and — who was the guy who paralyzed me with boredom in college? — oh yes, Anthony Trollope. There are entire chapters of this book where nothing happens except PEOPLE TALK ABOUT MAGIC. Then they go visit each other and talk some more. On top of that, the main characters are mind-numbingly dull. All the exciting things happen to the secondary characters, so I spend most of the time wanting to scream at the author for not sticking with the secondary plot. After a week, this is how far I’ve gotten:

Yep, about halfway.

I’m oh-so-tempted to give up, especially since my library hold list coughed up two steampunk novels this week. I hate to do it halfway through the book, because sometimes the book haunts me and I end up having to go back and finish. However, I’m pretty sure the main characters in this one can haunt themselves just fine if I put it aside.

As I said, this isn’t a bad book. I can imagine it coming in useful…say, if one had a long illness or a particularly drawn-out pregnancy on bed rest. Or if you wanted to kill a wolf spider or needed a doorstop. Don’t let me dissuade you from the experience that is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

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Posted on December 4, 2011, in Sci-Fi Sunday. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Did you take that picture in my den? I have a copy of that book with bookmark in exactly the same place and I try not to make eye contact with it when I go in that room. I just couldn’t do it. I kept waiting for something other than make me wade thru miles of Dickensian description of absolutely nothing. I so wanted to love this book, but in the end, we had to stop seeing each other.

    • Clearly, we’re the same person. I console myself with the thought that as a library book, it will soon be back in circulation with someone else. Kind of the way I think of some of my more obnoxious exes.

  2. Gah! The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo… I … I just don’t know how people rave about that book. I don’t know that I got through three pages of it. And now there’s going to be a movie… blarg.

  3. I am suspicious of anything that is described as really really long. Even if you say it’s not a bad book.

    • Well, the last Harry Potter was really long but worth it. Most authors can’t keep up the pace in a super-long book though. One reason why I haven’t started Game of Thrones….I’m waiting to see if Martin will finish the series.

  4. OK, no offense, but don’t become a book salesman. Woman. Person.

    Seriously, that book looks really interesting, on the outside, but I don’t think I could take it if I had to read through pages and pages of discussion on magic and it wasn’t Tolkien.

  5. Life is too short for boring books.

    re Tolkien: My husband suggested skipping anything that had Hobbits singing or Tom Bombadil. That helped but I had a hard time not reading because my mind would still want to know, then I would think, hmm, that was good advice…

    • I loved the poetry in Tolkien, and the reason for Tom Bombadil becomes evident in the Return of the King. I skimmed all the elven history and the monologues about Middle Earth — I think those are the more dullish parts and they don’t add anything to your understanding of the plot.

      Not only is life too short for boring books, but it’s already too short to read all the good books out there. Why waste your time with the bad ones?

      • I was trying to read the books to keep up with the movies, I can’t say it’s good stuff to read under pressure. My husband loves it all, even things like the Simarillion (I’m assuming I slaughtered the spelling there).

        Absolutely agree. As much as I like a little cotton candy for my brain, my patience for the crappy ones is declining with time.

  6. this is one book i hated!

  7. I loved Tom Bombadil! but we won’t start a war here, and instead agree on the terminal dullness of those two people in that thick book, and the gah! of the Girl… We could call her That Girl with the Fluffy Unicorn Tattoo – that might be better.
    Somebody told me women aren’t really hated in Denmark. Maybe it was just the guy.

    • I was trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume the translation missed a lot, but I finally decided he was going for the edgy, gritty urban noir thing. Given the setting and plot of his book, it did not work very well.

      The Girl with the Fluffy Unicorn Tattoo would make an AWESOME parody. Somebody write it, please!

    • I was trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt and kept thinking it might be a bad translation….but on the whole, probably not.

      The Girl with the Fluffy Unicorn Tattoo would make an AWESOME parody, though.

  8. If Anthony Trollope could read today’s good fiction he would pull his books from the shelves and use them to level up his mobile home.

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