Monday, January 17, 2011


Cheated, that's how I feel.

I'm not talking about Africa - at least not today. No, I thought I'd kick of 2011 with a bit of a whinge about books.

I try not to read literary fiction. I just don't get it. And when I do, by some odd twist of fate find myself reading something other than the airport novel thrillers that I really like (to read and write), I always end up disappointed.

Anyway, thanks to the wonders of the Amazon Kindle, I found myself exposed recently (or is that recently exposed?) to a work of literary fiction by a British author (I won't name names). You can have 11 Kindles linked to one account, so Mrs Blog and I share our selection of trashy potboilers with our relatives - some of whom creep occasionally into the high brow end of town.

So, I thought I'd give this worthy tome a try. And you know what - as I started to read it, thinking I would hate it, I actually started to like it.

It was, I think the term is, character-driven. Its many (many, many) characters all had fascinating back-stories and interesting problems and aspirations, or lack thereof. I found myself wanting to know more about these people and, more importantly, what would happen to them.

And beaneath all of this profiling was the beginnings of a story. Yes, a real-life honest-to-goodness story. When an element of impending danger reared its head, I thought, game-on! I could see how the author was setting up all these very different people's paths to cross. However, I couldn't guess which one would get it in the neck, which would survvie, and which would get it on (if you know what I mean).

And then, at the end of the book....

My brainy, personable, attractive and single publisher, C, has had occasion to ask me, when she's finished reading the manuscripts of one or two of my books; "Tony, did you get to a point where you thought, 'I've done enough words, I'm a bit sick of this book, so I think it's time to end it?"

To which I have replied, on each occasion, "Umm, yes."

That does happen. I get to the stage where I think, enough twists and turns, enough red herrings, it's time to wrap this sucker up. It's time to kill off the baddies (and perhaps one or two noble supporting goodies), give the guy the girl, or the girl the guy, and let those who deserve it ride off into the sunset.

I actually like books with short, sharp endings but, importantly, they must have an ending. My publisher, wise person that she is, gets me to tie off a few more loose ends that I might have missed, and insert an Epilogue which tells the reader what happened to everyone later. I can live with that. I can live with just about any sort of ending, but I must have an ENDING.

And so, at the end of this beautfiully crafted piece of fiction that I'd been reading, ABSOLUTELY BLOODY NOTHING HAPPENED.

There was a culmination of sorts, when one of the characters, an evil genius, almost saw through his plan of bringing down the western banking system, but.... we didn't see it happen. OK, so maybe we don't need the 'big bang', maybe it's enough to imply that it would happen, but surely this should have had some impact on the lives of some of the other characters?


They had nothing to do with that part of the book. There was a girl and guy - misfits of sorts - who looked like they might get it on, and they did (well, they didn't actually get it on - perish the thought, nothing so cheap as a sex scene in this book). No, they well... seemed like they were getting on famously, and....

And, nothing. There was nothing to link their story with anyone else's. God, this was like sitting through five days of Tarantino movies! All these irrelevant sub plots with nothing in common.

And then there was the guy who was going to set off a bomb. Yes, an actual bomb.

But, instead of the Big Bang, well.... nothing. Didn't Chekov or some Russian dude say that if you introduce a gun in the first act then someone's going to get a sucking chest wound in the third (or something like that?).

All these sub plots could have, should have, to my feeble mind at least, gone somewhere and drawn in all the other characters and sub plots. But... no.

Oh, and let's not forget the top line athlete and his pin-up girlfriend. They were... well, totally bloody irrelevant to anything at all related to any of the other characters or sub plots as far as I could see. And the schizophrenic brother of one of the characters who... well, don't worry, because nothing happend to him, either.

Reading the author's notes at the end of this book (which were almost as long as the book, but, hey, mine are a bit like that) I learned that the author had consulted many, many people and had done an awful lot of research into his characters' life stories. And it showed - they were, as I've said, perfectly formed. It's just that nothing happened to any of them. What's more it took him FOUR YEARS TO WRITE THE THING.

I wonder what would happen if I wrote a book with no ending. Perhaps I'd win a literary prize and the book would be made into a movie and I'd make a heap of dough.

And you know what, the other thing that would happen is....

What do you reckon, LOF? Read any worthy books that just fizzled out? What do you look for in a story? Do you look for a 'story' at all?


ali g said... that to the end and said WTF... held it up and shook it in case there were some extra pages that had maybe got luck..turned it upside down and looked at the back cover looking for some closure then looked for a 'to be continued' but again nada.
very strange that one.
stupid book.

Anonymous said...

The book you mention couldn't have been written by Matthew Reilly as his story lines are so incredulous and ridiculous that one never bothers to finish the book.

Anonymous said...

May be you have read the first in a Duology, or even a trilogy, or maybe even a Quadrilogy.

dozycow said...

That is so frustrating - I hate it when the story 'stops' without a proper ending....