When a Favorite Author Lets You Down

We (Readers) all have favorite authors, those people who wrote the books which speak to our soul or draw us in until we couldn’t put the book down even if our hair was on fire, or simply kept us entertained for the desired amount of time. Within that subset of authors, most of us have a further subset which could roughly be titled “Beg, Borrow and Read Everything They Publish.” Even if we have books by the authors on that list which we really didn’t care for, we’ll still eagerly await a new book, with the reasonable certainty that it’ll be a new favorite by the last chapter. After all, maybe they let us down once (or even more than that) but the statistics show that we just really click with their writing.

Every once in a while though, a Read Everything Favorite Author doesn’t just put out a book that you didn’t care for. Sometimes they really let you down, and the book is just objectively bad. Poorly written, poorly plotted, disappointing at the end, and generally less than enjoyable. The sort of book that leaves me thinking “I can’t believe I skipped sleep for this” when I put it down. This sort of thing is a risk with any book of course, but with a favorite author it’s usually less of a risk, so it feels like a bigger betrayal when it happens. Of course, because this is an All Time Favorite Author, I can always find an excuse (They’ve been writing that particular series a long time, they’ve had personal difficulties lately, they’re mid-career and not getting as stringent editing now, etc). I will far more easily forgive an unenjoyable reading experience from an author I’m already a fan of than from one I’ve never read before, or only read once or twice.

I recently had this experience. I read a book by a Favorite Author, set in one of the aforementioned Author’s worlds which I generally greatly enjoy. It is one I’d tried to read before (and thought I actually had, but I’m fairly sure I hadn’t, or else I blocked the memory of it because it was so bad). There were so many bad aspects. Plot contradictions within the same chapter. Sloppy editing, such as the use of “actually” twice in the same sentence. But the biggest let-down was the ending, which was definitely rushed and unsatisfactory. But at the end, all I could feel was sad. Sad that something I had looked forward to was such a disappointment. Sad that the book was attached to the name of an author who I love and respect, and someone might judge her entire body of work on said book. Sad that characters I enjoyed were shackled into such a poor frame.

Disappointment is a risk whenever you pick up any book. This uncertainty may be discouraging to some who steer clear of reading unfamiliar books entirely. I’ve certainly felt the pull of the “safe” route. But when we do that, we also miss the chance to be transported and transformed by a great new book. Books are a bit like roads that way. There’s no knowing where they’ll sweep you off to. But for all that, the wise Hobbit steps through the door anyhow.

“A River in the Sky”

This is definitely not a book review.

First the disclaimer. This blog post will almost certainly not be a completely unbiased examination of the book, A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters. Simply put, the author is my personal idol, a woman whose life and work has not only touched me, but in fact changed and guided my life in very profound ways. Therefore, I do not claim to present an unbiased opinion on the book, only that it is my own opinion. The book itself, for those who do not yet know is the latest book in Elizabeth Peters’ wonderful Amelia Peabody Series. Elizabeth Peters is one of the pseudonyms of Barbara Mertz, Egyptologist and Author. This particular volume deviates somewhat from the rest of the series, in that it is set in Palestine (primarily Jerusalem and Samaria) rather than Egypt, and also interestingly, this appears to be only the second time Ms. Peters has written a book out of order*. This one is set during the 1910 excavation season (currently, the latest date of the Peabody books is set during the discovery of Tut’s tomb in 1922) which backtracks it back seven books. At this point, I must put up the obligatory spoiler warning. If you have not read the book and/or do not wish to read spoilers, do NOT read below the cut! Read the rest of this entry »