So, back when I was purchasing books for airline travel, I picked up John Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars, the first novel he put out as shareware that later got picked up as a boutique collector’s thing for his Internetty Campbell fans and then even later as a Tor trade paperback. That’s the one I bought. Now I’ve read five of this guy’s novels, and bought two of them. What’s up with that?
I started reading the guy’s blog a billion years ago, after Agent was up and before Old Man’s War was published, mostly because a Gentle Reader had recommended it to me as an interesting blog by a good writer who was also primary parent of a girl just a trifle older than my Perfect Non-Reader. Which it is, although now that Athena is in school, he doesn’t have that primary parent thing so much, and now that I work, I don’t have that primary parent thing so much. But he still writes well, and although I find his politics frustrating and his snark a little tiring in large doses, I keep him on on the aggregator. And, you know, pick up his books at the library when I see them.
Which, still, what’s up with that? I think the only one of the books that I really liked was The Android’s Dream; the others were perfectly good, and well-written, and surpassingly competent, but not really that great. On the other hand, each time I’ve read one of his books, I’ve been made aware again of just how much I value competent writing. I mean, seriously. A couple of chapters into his stuff and you know what you are going to get, and you get it. Not the plot twists, I mean, which, you know, fine, but you know you’re going to be able to differentiate the characters, you know you aren’t going to have to suffer through seventy-five pages where the plot goes nowhere while the characters develop like negatives in a dark room, you know that although there may be plot devices that make no sense, they will be presented quickly and cogently, and they will seem to make sense to the characters, and it will be easy to pretend to yourself that they do make sense.
If you go with the Sources of Reader Pleasure and Annoyance analysis, what is amazing is how few Sources of Annoyance there are in his books, and how few Sources of Pleasure I then need to not only enjoy the book as a whole but want to read more books by the author. Which is a good thing, I think.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,