A Book, Abandoned – #3/2016 – Simmons, Dan – Muse of Fire

What does it mean to be an abandoned book?  Or, at least, a book abandoned by me?  Not a lot.  I have two real criteria I use to evaluate whether I am ‘allowed’ to abandon a book.

The first is that I need to have read 15% or more of the book.  Any less and it’s probably not fair to the book to make such a judgement.  Of course, there are books I know I will never read even 1 page from, but that’s different to considering a book worth reading at all.

The second is that the book needs to have been identified by me as being a work that is either true to my sensibilities, or isn’t.  That is, I know I don’t really like Naturalism in literature, but that doesn’t stop me from liking some Zola.  It just means I allow myself the permission to abandon something of his earlier than, say, an existentialist work.

Science fiction is tricky.  It’s a genre I want to like, so I think I allow it more of my brain space than another type of literature that I dislike (say: Romantic literature).  So, every now and again I try yet another science fiction book, and almost always I am disappointed.  I don’t like space operas, and I generally dislike the ideas part of an idea-driven science fiction work.  Honestly this doesn’t leave me much room to manoeuvre and that is, without a doubt, my problem and my fault.

All this leads me to say that when I opened Dan Simmons’ novella, Muse of Fire, and discovered that it was very much an ideas science fiction work I was, well.  I was stuck.  It wasn’t very long (90 – 120 pages?  I don’t have it to hand), so I could easily hit 15%.  But that didn’t seem fair.  In the end I read 25 pages, and most of the time I knew – I knew – I knew – it wasn’t for me.  I felt it in my bones.  That isn’t a particularly intellectual reason to drop a book, but when a work resonates with me my heart quickens, my mind engages, and I participate in the work as fully as possible.  And when it doesn’t resonate, nothing happens.  I am bored, I put the book away, I browse YouTube or something.  And to do that at 25 pages says a lot.

About me.

So I can’t fairly say much about Muse of Fire.  I’m sure it’s a fine novella for someone who isn’t me.  And I don’t write that to be slighting.  But I also can’t honestly provide a critique of it at all.  I read 25 pages.  It didn’t feel like my kind of book.  And so I dropped it.

Sorry, Dan.  But I haven’t judged you and will try something else one day.  It just didn’t work for me.  That’s my fault.

The Books, Read page contains a list of all of the books I have read over the years.


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