We all have them – some of us more than others – and there comes a point when we give up on books that everybody seems to love that we can’t understand what the fuss was all about. We also continue in more than moderate bemusement for precisely why anybody loved them in the first place. Here’s my list.
1. Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
I am certain I gave up on books before this, but it’s the first one that bitterly disappointed me that I did so. I have been a fan of King for many years and it hadn’t been long since I read The Stand and loved it. I also enjoyed the film and think now I would find a better appreciation for it. So what was wrong with this? In my opinion, it was too long, took too long to get going and I didn’t care about the characters. The “Shit Weasel” was too absurd to be taken seriously and not at all scary because of the name and how they were presented.
2. Black Swan by Naseem Nicholas Taleb
Read my review here, but in summary it was written in a condescending and arrogant tone, thinking it was saying something very clever when it wasn’t. I’m not even sure what it was about – it was never made clear even despite make it to the heady depths of chapter 2. Looking back on my review, key phrases stick in my mind “swallowed a dictionary” and “a nicely worded book of conspiracies”. We’ve seen them all before, books that challenge received wisdom by telling us that they have The Truth based on little more than supposition and a lack of understanding. It also felt drawn out for the sake of it to entice the reader. I was not fooled.
3. Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert
I love the original Dune series, they got me into sci-fi when I was a teenager. I am quite fond of the (flawed but interesting) Legends of Dune and Prelude to Dune but this wasn’t even a patch on any of those. Reportedly a two-part book based on the notes of Frank Herbert, I struggled through to about chapter 3 which wasn’t very far into this nearly 600-page book. I couldn’t take the flat prose- there was no passion, no desire to keep reading as there was with the original books and I found it hard to care how it would go. Apparently, more will follow on from this two-parter. I’ve stopped, I’m no longer interested in this series beyond re-reading those I have already read.
4. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
I keep asking myself why I even bothered when I was so ambivalent about LOTR. Completely impenetrable.
5. Hot Sky at Midnight by Robert Silverberg
I loved The Alien Years so when I saw this in a second-hand shop, I grabbed it. The premise is eco-disaster territory; I expected something enlightening and thoughtful just like the other book I read. It wasn’t. It almost felt like a satire, but that element did not work for me. We have given up trying to correct the environment and have chosen to focus on changing our genome to cope with ecological disaster. Not much happens, nobody seems to care (which is the only social commentary element that worked for me), but nothing really happened. The characters were unlikeable. This one stands unique in that I made it over halfway before giving up. Typically, I give up before the halfway mark.