Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Giving up

I had to stop reading a book this week, and I hate not finishing something I've started. We're midway through the year, and looking back I see that there are already a couple of abandoned books on my shelf. The latest one?

The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee.

Which is a shame because I have absolutely loved everything else I've read by her. This was her first published novel, firestarting her career back in the late 1970s, and it's just not that great. Granted, I think novels have evolved into much more complex beasts with each passing decade, but there's just something so completely unbalanced in The Birthgrave that it can both hold my attention and quickly turn me away. I'll do my best to talk about a book that I only got 115 pages into before removing my placeholder, staring quizzically at its cover, and then, without a second look, placing it back on my shelf.

So, the sword-and-sorcery story goes like so: a nameless woman wakes up inside a volcano, escapes to be thought of as both a cruel and kind goddess, and then is off on a quest with an entourage of brutes and beasts to discover who she exactly is. Everything is told from her perspective, us being her, us being lost and confused and wide-eyed to those asking for things, begging for babies, screaming out of rage. While the opening chapter is quite engaging and gets things rolling, it isn't long before a tepid pace is set with little to no direction ahead. Things happen, she reacts, more things happen, she reacts. It just felt unfocused, and with no one else to really care about it began to grow frustrating. Lee writes extremely well, but it's clear that her earlier work suffered from overtly boring descriptions of the same things. I can only read about the weather and mountains so many times before I go stir-crazy.

I was looking for what I enjoyed so much about Don't Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine in The Birthgrave. A strong, likeable main character, a fast-paced plot, and a host of thought-provoking ideas. Maybe this take on female stereotypes was fresh and exhilirating back when S&S was uber popular, but now I just didn't enjoy it.

And with so many other books calling my name, pleading with me to break their spines and sift through their pages, I am no longer interested in finishing books that I do not enjoy. Life is too short. And I own too many [insert curse word]ing books. But here's an interesting tidbit. It took me close to three weeks to read 115 pages of The Birthgrave, but since putting it down and picking up Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman I've blown through half the book in two days' time.

Also, maybe later on, I'll take a quick look at some of the other books I've given up on in 2007 and why I did so.

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