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.
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.