Nicky's Blog

did not finish

It's very rare that I give up on a book, and when I do, it's usually not a permanent state of affairs.

More often than not, I'll pause it. Maybe I'm burnt out on the author, having burned through a lot of their stuff in a short period of time, like when I went on a Richard Laymon binge many moons ago. Maybe it's a non-fiction book wit a message I can't grasp at the time, or feel too strongly against. Brain Energy by Chris Palmer for example was one I started this year but had to put down as my head became too foggy.

Or maybe it's suffering from me thinking I can listen to audiobooks after all despite not having a great deal of time for them and I go back to giving up on them and usually end up buying the written version.

In these instances, I don't blame the book or author, but rather I blame myself or my current situation and leave it open for me to come back to it later. A more recent example would be Acid for the Children, the memoirs of the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea. I started it back in May and pressed pause on the audiobook version read by the man himself because I just couldn't find time to both listen to and concentrate on it. Finally had a few hours of quiet time at work to just blast through the last three hours.

I make it a point of pride (or spite) to try and finish every book I start, whether I pause it for a while or not, even if for no other reason than to moan about it with specific detail. Holding by Graham Norton was one from this years list, which was both inferior to his other work that I've read and vastly inferior to the TV show based on it in almost every way including plot and character development.

There have, however, been two books that have been firmly put on my 'did not finish' list that will take some real convincing to give another try, and I'm contemplating a third.

First, there was the widely renowned One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Marquez. Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda called it "the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since Don Quixote of Cervantes". John Green called it a "masterpiece of experimental fiction". I just found it boring. Profoundly, mindnumpingly boring.

I'm not sure how much of that was down to how the book was sold to me, which was by an elderly member of my call centre team way back challenging me to try and finish it because he could never get past page 20. Or it could be something lost somewhere in translation for me. Last time though I gave it a real solid try and got maybe a third of the way through before realising I simply didn't give a shit about any of the characters, settings, or plot, and I had many better candidates for my time.,

Similarly, there's Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. I loved 1Q84. Part 3 was one of the few books in my life I managed to just power through in better part of a day (Graham Norton's book, A Keeper, being another and far superior and weirder than Holding). With that in mind, I thought I'd give Kafka a go, called one of the top 10 books of 2005 by the New York Times, and it was just weird, and not in a good way.

It's been nearly two years since I last picked it up, but what I mostly remember was a storyline interspersed with sections of a dude walking around somewhere on the spectrum and making it rain fish. I believe he also talked to cats, and they may have talked back to him, and may have been spirits or something? Either way, this was not bed time reading. Or daytime reading. It was just too weird for me at the time, and I've read Dianetics.

And now I'm considering adding a third: Heretics of Dune, the fifth book in the series by Frank Herbert.

I loved Dune. I read it as a challenge to start with, then loved it so much I immediately bought the next two in the series, then the final three (not counting the other 20-something books his son did, posthumously). Dune Messiah and Children of Dune were brilliant, and I finished those in days. God-Emperor of Dune was where it falls off a bit for me, becoming a bit stale and one-dimensional, but that is nothing compared to the slog that is Heretics of Dune.

I think the biggest cause might be the time skips. God-Emperor is set a few thousand years ahead of Children of Dune, and Heretics set about fifteen hundred after that, so gone are the characters, relationships, and dynamics of the first three books. But whereas God-Emperor had at least something to hold on to, I'm 200 pages into Heretics and am yet to find anything or anyone to care about.

The drama and plot points I have got all come around a bit ham fistedly, like they're meant to be shocks or tension filled moments and just sort of happen. None of the characters have anything unique or interesting about them; rather they seem rehashed from earlier works. I just don't really care about anything that's going on.

Burn out is another consideration for cause; this is the fifth in the series and I've been powering through all of them through the better part of six months. Maybe I'm just Dune'd out. But I am getting closer and closer to putting this back on the shelf and moving on.

It's just my sadness stopping me at the moment. Getting into Dune has been one of my highlights for the year. I’d loved every minute of reading the first three, and while I enjoyed it less I still love the fourth. Maybe if I push on, I’ll find that nugget with Heretics.

I just don’t really want to let this one go.

If you enjoyed this post and want to read more of the same you can subscribe via email or RSS. Mailing list subscribers get a bonus post every week.