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Sunday, 27 January 2013

What makes a good read in one word; compelling!

I've recently finished reading Ender's Game. A book I had already heard a lot about. I even knew most of the plot, including the twist at the end. People have very mixed reactions to Ender's Game. Some praise it as one of the all time classics of SciFi, others totally trash it a rubbish, with very few taking a more moderate position either way. I was really curious as to how I would feel about it, what would be my response.

Even though I knew how it ended, even though I saw, and mostly agreed with, the faults other people had noted, I found Ender's Game compelling. It was compelling in the sense that I just didn't want to stop reading. It was like, just finish the chapter, just read a bit more, may as well finish this chapter now, one more page, etc. I think that there was only two times when I was happy to stop and take a break.

This got me thinking about what makes a good book, and I realised that for me it was how much I wanted to keep reading, how compelling it is. This has lead me to try and create a compelling rating system. I goes something light this:

Not Compelling: A book I just don't finish, or only finish because I have to. There have been a small number of SciFi/fantasy books that have fallen into this rating for me over the years. These may not have been bad books, they are just books that didn't hold my interest. The most recent case was a book my wife brought for me a a garage sale (I've gotten a lot of great books from garage sales). It had fully fleshed out characters, a well built universe and what seemed like a well throughout plot. Despite all this, I got to the point where I just could not be bothered, and started reading something else.

Sometimes Compelling: Duncan Lay's "The Dragon Sword Histories" fell into this rating for me. I think Duncan writes good books, but I only sometimes found myself desperate to read that one more page. I was most during his battle sense, or the tension he created in their lead up.

Often Compelling: Basically everything I've read by Jennifer Fallon falls into this rating. I've read three of her series, The Demon Child Trilogy, The Second Sons Trilogy and The Tide Lords, and she is very consistent in her quality. Although I found the end of Tide Lords a big let down.

Mostly Compelling: Karen Miller's Godspeaker trilogy fell into this rating for me. Also, Richard Harland's Worldshaker fits here. There was just a few bits where I was thinking, 'skip a bit'.

Compelling: This is where Ender's Game belongs for me, just could not put it down.

Totally Compelling: Because I've only just read A Game of Thrones, the first book in the A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. R. Martin late last year. Not only was it a mammoth struggle to put down, but when I finally did, I dreamed it.

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