Well, I find myself in the position once again of wanting to finish a book on My List but also being totally bored by it and with no will to do so.
Robert Heinlein’s Space Cadet is just taking too damn long to get going and I’ve run out of patience. According to my Kindle I’m 24% into the book and all that has happened so far is a description of the main character, Matt Dodson, going through the Patrol Academy. Everything is described in far too much detail and it’s just really dragging out what would otherwise be an exciting story about a young boy having adventures in space.
This is the second time now I’ve had to put down on a book on my list, but there’s only so much I can take. I have more Heinlein on my list as well, classics like Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t be compelled to put those down too.
I can totally understand why Heinlein is such a classic. I think it’s for the very reason that I mentioned above. He describes everything. His world-building is clearly excellent, and he was writing during the Golden Age of science fiction. But once again the exposition comes at the cost of pacing and story.
And I’m not saying that every novel has to be action-packed and fast-paced. But I think there’s an important balance between exposition and pacing, taking the time to describe things, and moving the story forward. Ideally, everything in a story moves it forward: the characters, the dialogue, the setting. Everything must be in service of the story. Exposition is important for grounding the readers in the story, for allowing them to imagine what’s happening, for allowing them to suspend their disbelief.
But too much and you risk boring the reader simply because they have nothing to work for. Half the fun of reading is using one’s imagination. Give too much away and you not only take the fun away from the reader, but you also stagnate your story. Heinlein did a good job of setting up the Academy and creating sympathy for Dodson. I want to see him on patrol already!
So that’s my two cents.
Anyhoo, next up on my list is I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, for which I’m really excited!