Before I get too much into the subject of this post, let me say this: read this book! You will most likely enjoy it. This post is about my shortcomings as a reader, and not Mr. Hough’s shortcomings as a writer. In fact, nothing I’m about to say is a critique of Zero World or Jason Hough. I’m mentioning the book because it’s the most recent story I’ve listened to, and I want to encourage other people to read it, too.
In case that wasn’t clear: this post is not a criticism of Zero World, by Jason M. Hough.
Okay. Let’s begin.
I didn’t enjoy Zero World as much as I wanted to. It is the latest in a growing list of books that I’ve listened to that didn’t leave me satisfied. I found the story clever, and Gideon Emery did a fine job reading it. I didn’t hear any inconsistencies, and the descriptions were strong. Jason Hough did a great job of bringing to life the scenes, and he handled action well.
So why didn’t I enjoy it?
It’s me. This sounds like a humble-brag, but as I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve become more difficult to surprise. I recognize when details are included for future plot devices, and I accurately predict how those plots will evolve. I’m no longer surprised. In fact, I haven’t enjoyed the thrill of discovery in a story in a long while.
I can appreciate the cleverness of the plot, the dialog, and the word choices. But it’s like all of my Christmas presents have been wrapped in cellophane instead of paper. I can see what’s coming.
I have to think that all writers go through this. I don’t think I’m special in this regard, or have developed some unique superpower/curse. It must be some natural part of the journey of a writer. Developing the skills necessary to craft a good story, we learn how to see beyond the curtain, and know the mortality of the wizard putting on the grand show.
If all writers go through this, and all writers are typically voracious readers, then it adds a layer of proof to the idea that writers are masochists.
I don’t think it’s quite as simple an idea as developing a craft makes it more difficult to appreciate the work of others in that craft. For example, as I’ve grown as a musician, my appreciation for all music has also grown. I can hear nuance that I never heard before, and know the difficulty involved in making the instruments sound they way they do. My development as a programmer hasn’t diminished my ability to appreciate someone else’s code. As I learned more about baseball as assistant coach for my kids’ Little League, I grew to enjoy a game I previously didn’t care for at all.
I’m going to continue reading and listening to books. Don’t get me wrong. I have no intention of stopping, even if I’m not enjoying books as much as I used to.
But how am I going to give reviews? I make it a point not to give reviews or rate books unless I can be honest, and say something nice. An author has to go out of their way to get a poor review from me. I want to support my fellow writers, but I want to make sure my support is positive and true.
If I’m stingy with reviews, how can I expect other writers to rate my work?
I suppose that’s a problem to unravel later. I’m nearly finished with the second draft. Progress is moving along faster than it had before, and I’m really happy with what I’ve written so far. A third draft will be necessary, but it won’t be nearly as deep or involved. I’ve edited about 54,000 words so far. The first draft ran a little over 60,000 words. That should tell you how far I’ve come.
In conclusion, buy Jason M. Hough’s book. I met him at Worldcon last year, and he’s a fantastic, knowledgeable writer that is excellent at his craft. Zero World is a good book, and deserves to be read.