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PACING

July 16, 2014

I just finished an icky bug by one of my past favorite masters of the genre. He’s been off the rails for a long time, in my book, writing in first-person, not my personal taste. Whenever he takes a diversion back to third-person, I usually pick the book up, eventually. This hardback came from the discount shelf.

Maybe I’ve changed since I first became a fan of this author three decades ago. Maybe he hasn’t changed styles significantly. Maybe my reading preferences have evolved over the years. I’d have to go back and re-read some of his older work to judge the differences. I’m not going to, simply because I have too many other great books I want to get to. For their time and place, I loved his, but I’m here and now.

Do I hate what I’m reading? Of course not. I AM enjoying the novel, somewhat. However, this book drags because the pacing is off.

TOO MUCH NARRATION

The author has always been a bit wordy. He also likes to throw the dictionary at his readers. Those are his trademarks. I don’t remember any of his novels with so little dialogue. There was almost no dialogue. The book was a solid mass of narration and exposition, paragraph after paragraph of solid words covering every page. There were a few instances with whole-page paragraphs. I don’t remember his books being this tedious in the past.

PLENTY OF SCENE BREAKS

While there were few chapters, at least he broke things into relative bite-sized chunks with a lot of scene breaks. However, he made me work for it. Almost every bite-sized chunk was that solid mass of narration, most of it character ruminations with once in a while, a smattering of dialogue thrown in. If this were a movie, the actors would be almost silent.

The usual pattern was character internal thoughts, character or the icky bug did something, character described (internally) the icky bug, then thought about the icky bug, then reacted to the icky bug, then thought about it some more, then the scene closed on a cliff-hanger.

OBSCURE REFERENCES

Besides throwing the dictionary at the reader, the author likes to have characters add in references to classic literature that he assumes everyone has read. So far, since I started reading him back in the eighties, I have never read a single book he’s referenced. Never will, either. Call me a hack, but I just have no interest in classical literature. It makes my skin crawl and puts me to sleep just thinking of the titles.

SUFFERING TO GET THERE

The first three quarters of the novel dragged. I almost put it down numerous times but there was just enough icky bug that I wanted to find out what ultimately happened. The only decent reading was a pair of characters who were outside the main action and were having a conversation. I was able to whip through their scenes with pleasure. Then it was back to the grind with the other characters. While intriguing, the rest of the story dragged on and on until finally, toward the end, things picked up. The pacing moved for a change. The scenes were shorter, the character ruminations shorter and the action longer. Things accelerated.

My big beef is it took so long to get to that point. The book was only 451 pages yet I’ve breezed through plenty of novels with that and more in a few days. This one took me all of a week and it seems like a month. In the end, it was just worth it because the payoff went down well. That was what saved the book from being a complete dud.

An author with his experience and expertise should be able to do better. Then again, he can pretty much do what he wants and get away with it.

REVIEWS SAY IT ALL

With an average 3-star review on Amazon, his audience has let him know what they think. The lack of dialogue and pacing, very slow first half and too many characters killed it.

Pacing is the key here. If he’d had more dialogue, the pacing would’ve fallen in line. I rest my case.

Happy writing!

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