Home > Thoughts > Throwing in the towel on one of my favorite authors’ novels

Throwing in the towel on one of my favorite authors’ novels

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, and it pains me to do so, but…I just threw in the towel on a novel by one of my favorite science fiction authors, maybe even THE favorite: David Weber.

I picked up the latest in the Honor Harrington series, Mission of Honor, a few weeks back and finally had the chance to dig into it around the Thanksgiving holiday weekend (you know, with all of my free time…) And just last night, reading in bed, I closed it, and I don’t think I can go back. Why? If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was reading the minutes of a political meeting, or maybe a House floor filibuster transcript.

Weber has always had a knack for incorporating political maneuvering into his works very well, and I’ve found that my writing picked up some of that. (A friend remarked to me about my first book, Gabriel’s Redemption, having more politics that they thought I was in to – my reply was yes, but they’re all bad guys). And the Honor Harrington series is one of my all time faves because of the excellent action, technology, and characters. But after hitting page 310 last night (of 880), absolutely nothing had happened. The only battle that took place was before the book started, told in a past tense report. The other 298 pages were so terribly mind-numbing I had to stop – which kills me.

I really love Weber’s writing, and this might just be me as I age (not very gracefully, as my wife would say), but his last few books have really bogged down with narrative, and all of the action has almost completely disappeared. The first book in the Safehold series, which was a big departure for him away from the space settings, blew me away. The next two? Glacial pace. I have the fourth one (A Mighty Fortress) but I don’t know if I’m going to start it any time soon.

In any case, I jumped into Michael Hicks’s In Her Name: Confederation, the second in his INH series. I loved the first one (Empire), some of the best scifi I’ve read, and book 2 starts off with the same great style and action. So Mr. Weber, if you’re listening, please get back to towed missile pods, hyperspace bands, and planetary invasions…

I can’t figure it out. Is this just me? Anyone else finding the same thing with Weber, or others? I took a look at some online reviews and I don’t think I’m alone, but I’m also hoping I’m not picking up some late-blooming ADHD!

Any favorite authors of yours that caused you to pick up the towel and consider tossing?

 

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  1. December 13, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Steve, I think we have all had this happen. It’s why we as writers just need to keep writing. Steven Spielberg has made some great movies and some bad movies. Same goes for anyone in any creative field. Art is subjective to opinion. There will be things a lot of people like and some dislike and there will be things a lot of people dislike and some like.

    It’s perfectly natural to not like something by someone you’re a fan of and it probably won’t be the last time. It’s what keeps me going. Even if someone doesn’t like my stuff, I know someone will. And vice versa.

    Even Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run every time he came up to bat.

    • December 13, 2011 at 10:00 am

      I completely understand the hit or miss nature; what concerned me about Weber is the progression from a certain type of writing to another, in two different series. I love the guy (in a professional way of course) but watching firsthand as his novels slow to a snail’s pace pains me…

  2. December 13, 2011 at 10:09 am

    I’ve found that this happens more as I get older. Less patience for bad books. Orson Scott Card is one of my favorites and I could never make it through his Homecoming series. I decided to try again and when I found all five books at a library sale. I read 4 1/2 books of the series just hoping it would get better. I couldn’t finish the last one.

  3. December 13, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I agree with all of the above. As a writer, I don’t have time to force myself through a book I’m not loving, even if it is a favorite author. I find that many writer’s who achieve the big-time, begin to write self-indulgently, rather than for their readers. Sadly, many buy their books anyway.

    • December 13, 2011 at 10:21 am

      I sort of felt the same way with Weber, like he was writing this book to hear himself talk and show how savvy he was with words and politics. I hated feeling that way because he has written some truly incredible and ground-breaking science fiction, but I came away from Mission of Honor (or at least the first 35% of it) with a bad taste.

  4. December 13, 2011 at 10:30 am

    With George RR Martin’s latest book, Dance With Dragons, I found myself skipping pages upon pages of boring narrative and mindless POV stuff. I swear that book could have been broken down into 100 pages of stuff that actually happened to further the story. I doubt I’ll be waiting in line to buy the latest installment of the Song of Ice and Fire series…

  5. December 13, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I loved the Honor Harrington series, too, and David Weber in general. But I gave up on Harrington after Echoes of Honor. I loved the series up to that point, but with that book it just seemed to peter out for me.

    I think series that go on for a long time and focus on a single character or characters always run the risk of going stale. Mysteries tend to avoid this because each book usually pits the main character against a specific problem or puzzle the hero(ine) need to solve, which can keep them fresh for a very long time.

    But story lines like Honor Harrington start running out of plausible obstacles for the character to overcome after a while, or the plots become very formulaic. Some may enjoy that, but for me it gets tedious very quickly past a certain point.

  6. December 13, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I love the Harrington series, and I understand exactly the point you’re trying to make. After Echoes of Honor I started just skipping huge chunks of epic space battles because 1) I can’t follow his math and 2) I don’t care. Just tell me where the ships are and let them blast away at each other.

    With the George R.R. Martin series I loved the first two books, and then it just got so big I started skipping to my favorite four or five characters and ignoring all the others. I know I’ve missed large portions of the stories, but I just can’t follow all the different political intrigues.

    It doesn’t count as putting it down, but it’s almost the same thing.

  7. December 13, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Michael, great point – almost like the Friday the 13th movies. Only so many hot looking young adults that can be killed. Eventually the storyline runs out. Which is why I was excited to read Safehold, and the first one was fantastic. But the next two bogged down again, and my eyes glazed over. Shame…

    Shauna: “Just tell me where the ships are and let them blast away at each other.” – LOVE IT!

  8. December 13, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Jim Butcher. A friend recommended the Harry Dresden series last spring and I tore through the first 12 of the series over the summer. I finished the 12th, Changes, just in time for the release of his latest, Ghost Story.

    I got about nine chapters in when I decided that there were other titles sitting on my kindle I’d much rather be reading..

    I’m not sure whether I’m just suffering from burnout with the whole series (something that doesn’t generally happen when I read) or it’s really that uninteresting compared to Butcher’s previous titles. Granted, his style is rarely insanely fast paced, but it usually moves quicker than this. I probably will eventually go back to it, but not too soon

  9. December 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I found the same problem with Harry Sidebottom and his Warrior of Rome series. First three books were page turners difficult to put down, much like IHN, but found myself writing a crtical review half way through. I did persevere with it and completed a full review.

    Problem I found was that the good Dr Sidebottom I think set out with his academic credentials to write a series of historical novels about the Roman Empire and it’s warriors and did it armed with the knowledge gained as a university lecturer, without lecturing. In No 4 he forgot to take his college Dons robes off and just about killed it off for me, at least.

  10. December 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I don’t think I threw in the towel on the author, but I definitely stopped about halfway through Brian Lumley’s Bloodwars, the last part of the Source World novels before the Lost Years and after the first five original Necroscope novels. Its one of my favorite series, and I’ve finished the other two halves, but I can’t bring myself back to Bloodwars. To my mind there was entirely too much political maneuvering, and it was almost 900 pages long, as were the novels that preceded it. I’d read over 1800 pages of a single author in about two months and had been neglecting my schoolwork. That was almost three years ago, and I never finished the book. I don’t know if I ever will, seeing as how I have read almost everything else by Lumley.

    I did sort of the same thing with R.A. Salvatore, only my problem with that was I started the series in the middle, then started over, reading some stuff more than once, which sort of irritated me in a way that was not Salvatore’s fault. Same thing with Feist, which is why I have determined never to start a series in the middle ever again, no matter what anyone says.

    I rarely throw in the towel on authors I like, though there are a bunch out there that, had I not been stuck on jury duty, I would not have bought, and so would have spared myself the unhappy guilt of putting a book down. I force myself through more bad books than I should. I speak of Richard A. Knaack and whoever wrote the book adaptation to Cowboys and Aliens.

  11. December 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    To amend my last comment to be more on-point, the final books of Saberhagen’s Dracula series were a complete waste of time, as I think that its one of the series that should have ended far earlier than it did. Dracula had always been a main character, and the plot centered around his experiences and his freely-given opinion. Eventually, Dracula was doing little more than clever cameos, still giving his opinion, but was less involved in the plot. Earlier, Saberhagen tried to give us the impression that there were certain things Dracula was powerless to stop, but that evolved into an essentially useless Dracula, who wandered in, said something clever, and was left out for entire chapters. Dominion was probably the worst example of this. I finished it, but it hurt my soul a little. I did it for Dracula.

  12. December 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I gave up on the Honor Harrington series myself. I don’t remember which book it was, but the last one I finished was the one after she comes back from the prison planet. I think my psyche took too much of a beating along with Honor and her tree cat.

    I gave up on Robert Jordan on book ten, which was originally supposed to be the last in the series. I was so sick of the endless repetition of angst and unrealistically dumb decisions that I never got further.

    There’s just too much good stuff out there, particularly now that there is so much indie work coming out, to waste time on a book or series you aren’t enjoying.

  13. December 13, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I’m sensing a theme here…one that makes me know for sure I’ll be ending my series at 3 and moving on before I bore people to tears!

    • December 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      My plan is to do multiple trilogies. I may reuse the world and the characters for a dozen books, but each series arc won’t be longer than 3 books. I have two trilogies planned for the story world in which my first novel is set. I’m hoping that will keep things fresher for my readers and for me. It will certainly be easier to abandon the story world if the readers seem to lose interest.

  14. December 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I still read every new HH novel. I don’t mind the politics and schemes that have risen to more prevalence in the series.

    I have given up on a series before. Twice. As a young teenager reading the Lord of the Rings, in the Middle of the Two Towers when he’s going on and on about Mordor sucking . . . (I went back and re-read of course, years later, and managed it.) Then as a young adult reading Jordan’s WoT, I made it to the middle of book 5 or 6 and got bored.

    I do still intend to go back and re-read WoT eventually. 🙂

    As an aside, I’m working my way through IHN: Empire right now. Chapter one down and I’m feeling a tiny bit of “this feels forced” and wondering if looking back at the event’s of the protagonist’s childhood might have worked better than describing them, then jumping 5 years. This is of course by far not the worse offense of the “let’s look at old news and show why our protagonist is the way he is” I’ve ever seen, but it stood out, given how highly rated the book is by readers. I had expected a more organic introduction to the protagonist. To tie back in, it took many, many novels to uncover the layers and layers of Honor Harrington’s background. Each time, you’d realize that she had experiences which had shaped her, and those experiences had been in play since On Basilisk Station, we’re just not told why. I’m looking at getting deeper into Empire soon, and I’m hoping (assuming, really, given how enthusiastic people seem to be about the series) that the opening is just a minor stutter-step on the way to something compelling. 🙂

    Regardless, if nothing else, I loved Hicks’ self pubbing book and can heartily recommend it.

    Final verdict on Weber though? Love him, but he is slow a lot of the time in his novels, and if you can’t handle the slow pace, you won’t enjoy the later novels. (The first six or so should be good for anyone who loves action, however.)

  15. December 13, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Iain M Banks for me…and he writes standalone novels (so take heart, Steve!). He still writes nice prose but, for dog’s sake, someone PLEASE EDIT HIS WORK!!!!!! Admittedly, he always rambled (ref. the lard in “Consider Phlebas”), seemed to pull it together for “Player of Games”, let it out a little in “Use of Weapons”, then completely let go and never looked back from “The Algebraist” onwards, although hubby still has issues with page upon page of distraction in “Look to Windward”.

    Ashley, you mentioned Brian Lumley. I have his Necroscope series, which I adored and am now recommending to my son. Started to re-read and can’t believe how s-l-o-w I now consider it. I couldn’t get past the first book with HH and I adore (and write) political space opera myself. Just goes to show.

  16. December 14, 2011 at 4:12 am

    I think I have more patiences with age– as far as writers are concerned. It may be my involvement with self published writers too. Benefit of the fact they don’t have hordes of editors and readers to make the book perfect, I try hard to look at their efforts.

    At the same time there has to be some meat with the potatoes. I think for a lot of good writers; staying in the same genre weakens their words and they start to get a big head about their writing. I’ve followed many series– I’m a fan of Fantasy– and the power seems to drain out of the writers as they continue. Some of Terry Brooks books just fell flat.

    Maybe a few biggies will read your post and feel the hot iron of a reader as he pokes them.

    Great post, Steve!

  17. Kev
    February 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    I completely agree. I tend to skim A LOT when I’m reading the Honor Harrington series, just to get to the “main” characters.

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