I did something last night I’ve never done before: I asked for a refund of a Kindle book. I’m still a little stunned I did it.
The formatting was great.
The author was one of my favorites.
The book was an expensive Kindle book published by Penguin and one I’d been anticipating for months.
Two things happened after ten pages.
As I was getting into the book I had to re-read a couple of paragraphs to understand them. More than once I had to read them aloud in order to figure out what the author was trying to say. I was tired, so I thought at first it was me. After the third time I realized it wasn’t.
Maybe I was still in editing mode.
Normally, I’m able to take off my writer’s hat and put on my reader’s hat with no problem. I don’t try to re-write the book I’m reading. It’s entirely possible that, because the last round of edits on my own book had been grueling, I just hadn’t stopped being a writer. Or the mistakes were so egregious they just slapped me upside the head. Either one or both could have occurred.
Whatever the reason I found myself skimming the words, not really getting into the story. All of a sudden I realized I didn’t care about the characters, which is the kiss of death for me.
I knew what was going to happen.
The book was an Urban Fantasy and part of a series. I enjoyed most of the books in the series except for the last one. I realized I’ve read this book before, about seven times before (the number of books in the series):
- Heroine proves she’s a badass on the martial arts mat. Check.
- Heroine and hero engage in torrid, sweaty, physical sex. (Amply described.) Check.
- Fairies appear. Check.
- Werewolves snarl. Check.
- Humans interfere or become food. Check.
I realized my problem. I knew exactly what was going to happen. I was bored. The heroine had already proved she could escape anything, heal from anything, and handle anything. Regardless of the mayhem she was going to be okay.
The MacGyver Effect
If a heroine endlessly survives everything thrown at her in the course of a book, then it’s almost like an adventure TV series. You KNOW MacGyver is going to triumph regardless of what he has to go through. The suspense is removed. Consequently, the writers have to come up with more and more adventure, more car crashes, more dangerous scenarios in order to get the viewer involved.
After awhile, nothing works, the show loses market share and is eventually canceled.
Where’s the conflict?
To me, conflict is the fuel that keeping a book moving. If you know the heroine is going to be injured, bruised, sore but okay, where is the suspense? You have to believe she’s imperiled or her happiness is in jeopardy. I didn’t.
I’m not a fan of series that go on endlessly. Probably the reason I never continued with the Sookie Stackhouse or the J.D. Robb series. To me they’re the MacGyver of books.
Maybe this series has just run its course for me. Maybe enough’s enough.
Which one – or both?
I realized there were two things at play here, each of which could have damaged my enjoyment of this book I’d anticipated for so long. One was the weird wording. I could have ignored that, I think, but the second problem kept rearing its head. The heroine was SuperWoman and I didn’t care. When you don’t care about the characters, you might as well close the covers of the book and walk away.
Now here’s the strange thing. Thinking about this series made me think of another Urban Fantasy series I’m reading. In this one, I haven’t a clue what’s going to happen. The author has led me down places I’ve never been. There might be vampires and werewolves (oh my!) but there’s also a human vulnerability to the heroine. I care about her. I’m not at all sure she’ll escape what problems face her. Everything she’s gone through has changed her subtly, unlike the MacGyver book. And that might be the clue to my dislike of long series.
Has the character changed? Has she been affected by the trauma she’s had to endure?
How about you? Do you ever abruptly decide you don’t want to continue a book? What are your triggers? Have you ever experienced the MacGyver Effect?