Monday, December 5, 2011

When a Reader Loves a Book

I've got a fun tale to tell. A family member of mine right now is reading a well-known series: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. He loves sci-fiction and fantasy. When he finds a book he enjoys, he reads it voraciously. I bought him the first book and kept my fingers crossed that he'd like it. I've watched the series on HBO and enjoyed the plot and the characters. I hoped he'd have the same excited feeling. Things were going great as he plowed through the first book. He actually asked me to buy him the second one when I made another trip to the book store.

That happy feeling though came to a halt when he got close to the end... I'm not giving out spoilers! For those of you who haven't read the book or watched the HBO series--well some bad things happen to good people. (And some bad people get what they deserve too!) After getting close to end, my family member tersely informed me that the author was mean (he had much less polite words) for doing those things to the characters he really liked. All I could do was sigh and say, "Some things are tragic. It's just a book."

Naturally, for a reader who's deep into a story/series, that's not enough. As we invest our time in a story, we want conflict to keep us reading, but we also don't want our characters to fall on really, really hard times. There's nothing wrong with the harsh realities of life--it's what gives me those, "Holy moly, they really went there and did that" moments. It's those gotcha moments that make a book memorable and shakes you awake from the mundane ones. But I'll be the first to say it would be really hard for me to see my favorite character maimed, killed, or harmed in a way that affects my reading experience. I want to stay on the journey with them and not wonder if I'll need chocolate ice cream to pick me back up after each chapter. (Although that doesn't sound half bad per chapter for even a good book...)

A Game of Thrones is a little over 800 pages. That is a lot of time to invest in a universe and I wouldn't be surprised if I got a little miffed if something bad happened. But the series is selling well and there's one thing I do know: finding out what happened to the characters we like in the next book is a temptation that cannot be denied. :D

And even though I was told that he didn't want to read the second book--A Clash of Kings--I noticed the book I bought had been taken out of the bag and has somehow disappeared... I guess a reader can forgive in the end when they love a book. ;)


Lexi said...

What a great post! I have felt that way before too, got mad at what the author did to some favorite characters....but at the same time kept me hooked on the what happened next so I had to read the next book. It shows talent as an author to make you feel so strongly but keep you reading, even if in the end you are not completley happy with the ending.

Sharon said...

I use to get upset when the book didn't go the way I wanted it too . I read Outlander (the romance) and I was so invested in the characters that when I realized they were going to be torn apart in the next book I refused to read it. In my mind they got to stay together.
I felt that way about the characters in Stephen King's Dark Tower series.

Kristi said...

I got annoyed with George R R Martin also. I haven't read the newest book. I guess I looked at that first book as setting the stage for what was going to happen over the whole series. But the people he starts that first book with...well, there's no way that many of them can ever see the end of the series now.

It made me kind of think that he has no clue what is going to happen and that the series isn't driving towards anything. He's just writing random scenes with random people who happen to live in the same general world. It kind of killed the suspense. Well, that, and there are lots of bad things happening everywhere so you don't know what to worry about, and stop worrying about anything at all. At that point, you just want to slap half the characters. That's when I stopped reading.

Come on, Martin, get to the plot and quit with all this silly backstory :)