I’ve never thought of myself as picky or overly difficult to please, although my nearest and dearest might laugh at this. I love to read. Like I LOVE to read, it’s like breathing. The problem here of course is running out of material.
Like the apostle Paul (might have) said ‘there is no end to the making of books’. Actually I think that may be Psalms. The psalmist (I think) also said that there was no end to fools and their quoting of books.
Along the lines of those thoughts, I’ve noticed a number of reoccurring trends that make choosing a new book a real chore. I’ll try to shame at least one book per example.
Ten Five things (I got lazy) I hate about modern science fiction:
1. Way. Too. Much. Cursing.
My twelve year old son wanted to read The Martian by Andy Weir. So I read it first on two planes and at the lovely Denver airport. Besides what I thought of the book (seen the movie, seen read the book), there was so many F words I realized I should’ve been counting because there must have been some kind of record Weir was going for.
I looked at the cover a couple times to remind myself what I was reading. Inner city gang culture? College kids at the bar? Okay not that bad, and hey, you realize you’re stuck on Mars, okay one ^*** when you nearly blow yourself up in a lab, I can understand, but it was just constant.
The character Annie, played by Kristen Wiig, used an exceptionally memorable line I won’t quote here to express her work load that was obscenely unnecessary. Or unnecessarily obscene. Both. Do people actually talk like that?
I briefly thought of taking a black marker through the book just to highlight the ridiculousness, but in the end I donated the book.
People curse. Everyone curses. But it does not make you cool, young, hip, edgy, or more relatable to youthful readers to fill your writing with it. Stop. Just dial it back.
2. Ridiculously graphic sexy stuff.
What brought me to this rant in the first place, I saw at the library today a nice new Sci fi book with a clean attractive cover, called appropriately Luna: New Moon, and the author was lauded right there on the cover as ‘one of the very best science fiction writers in the world’ and on the inside something like, ‘I’d read anything this guy writes’. Flipping through casually I opened the page to an x-rated solo sex scene that was more explicit than any battle scene.
I’ve read the Earth’s Children (Clan of the Cave Bear) series by that over-sexed botany-obsessed geology-nerd Jean M. Auel; and this was…inventive and nasty. This lady was doing things with futuristic robots or doo-dads (I didn’t dare read close enough, there were so many anatomically correct terms) that were downright gory. What if I’d just picked that up to read because I love science fiction? I feel betrayed. Why? Shame on you Ian McDonald, that’s not sci-fi that’s pandering to, to…to sex people!
3. Edgy hipster content.
I’ve read a couple books lately where the plot just fell off a cliff and landed in a sea of weird ethical politics. Some horrible sticky muck of thought that I can’t wade through. Here is a perfect example of what I mean. Horrible neo-fascist-populist-existential-ranting mumbo jumbo. Scroll to the fourth set of italics to save time, and see if that doesn’t turn your head to mush. Shame on you Poul Anderson.
4. Regurgitated romance plot.
This one is easy to describe, and apparently sells well. Picture a house with a picket fence and the beach in the background.
Ahem: ‘Kathy spends every summer looking forward to a tan and a cosmo with her three children and her banker husband Dan, but this summer, things are ugly. Her son Tommy has acne and her daughter Paige is 13 going on 30. With all that going on, the last thing Kathy needs is for Dan to become distant. Is he hiding something or is he just stressed? Before Kathy can come to terms with turning 39, a mysterious figure from her past messages her on Facebook with a Valentine. It’s almost Labor Day weekend and Kathy will face the struggle of her life. Will she abandon her docile life as a soccer mom with a three story house in favor of her high school sweetheart – he’s the one that got away – or reconnect with Dan for one more hot summer, and get Tommy in for a dermatologist appointment?’
I loathe the sight of these books.
5. Overblown cartoon violence.
There’s a good action scene, and there’s excruciatingly detailed ridiculous battles or gore. There’s too much of the latter, I don’t like it, and that’s all I want to say. Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch, you messed up on number one AND number five on this one.
In conclusion, why does everything have to be so overdone? Just tell your story, it shouldn’t need raw shock and awe if you are doing your job properly. No need to tell me I’m a wuss or a Puritan or easily offended (I’m not) because I already know. Am I a dinosaur, the only one who doesn’t like this stuff? Am I actually 85 or are there other people who would like cleaner reading?
So tell me, what are your pet peeves when reading?