Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Books Not Read 2.0

Here are a couple of more books that I couldn't slog my way through recently.

The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt
A fantasy novel about two teenaged orphans on an adventure. Sounds fun, right? This book was anything but fun. In fact, at a whopping 592 pages, I'm not sure how I ever imagined I'd find the time to get through it in the first place. My general problem with a lot of fantasy novels is that they're over descriptive to the point of tedium. I had the opposite problem with this book - the author introduced many new concepts and creatures without any explanation at all of what they were, exactly, as though I was already supposed to know.

I think I made it maybe 150-200 pages in before I just got irrationally angry. Seriously, it really pissed me off that I never seemed to know what was going on ever. I'd find myself thinking, "Wait, who the hell is this character? What the F is going on?" Now, to be fair to Mr. Hunt, I was trying to read this book while my mother was dying of cancer, so I may have been funneling some unresolved feelings about that into an easy target. But who wants to read a book that makes no sense?

I see that this book has only 3.5 stars on Amazon, which doesn't surprise me. What does surprise me is how many 5-star reviews it got. Were those courtesy of the author's friends?

Prisoner of the State by Bao Pu, Renee Chiang, and Adi Ignatius
One day, maybe a year or so ago, I was passing some time at the library by reading magazines - copies of Newsweek, I believe. I happened to stumble across an article about modern-day influential books that everyone should read. This book was on the list. It is a translation of the secret journal kept by Zhao Ziyang, the former premier of China who was placed under house arrest following the Tiananmen Square massacre.

I really wanted to like this book for a lot of reasons. I love to read about China. I think it would be fascinating to see into the mind of a man who was neck deep in the leadership of the Communist Party. And this book is supposed to be very good. But I just couldn't get into it. For a secret journal, it is shockingly dry, the language painfully formal. I love non-fiction, but the language absolutely has to be readable or I can't do it.

I set it aside with regret. Maybe I could try it at a different time, but I don't really feel like it.

As an aside, so far I've read three other books from that magazine list. I absolutely loved two of them and liked the other pretty well. So I still consider it a good list!