awful book

I’m reading (not at this red-hot moment in time) this book, THE SHADOW OF ARARAT, by Thomas Harlan. I’m about fifty pages in, and I’m bored out of my mind. I just asked on Too if anybody’d read it, because I don’t think I want to continue if it doesn’t get better. Nobody has read it, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get better, because the problem is in the writing, which goes something like this:

“She braced herself against the spear as she kicked with her right foot. It connected, and she spun, still braced on the spear. She swept a wicker basket up as the kick ended, again using her right foot. The basket flew across the square to hit the second bad guy on the left in the small of the back. He fell, first to his knees, then to his face, mud splashing through the strands of his dark brown hair.”

(This is not a direct quote. It’s just what it reads like.)

Nobody’s read it, so I checked Amazon’s reviews. The publisher reviews are glowing. The customer reviews read like this:

“Ambitious, sweeping and boring…. though I tried very hard, I felt no identification with the protagonists. The author does a wonderful job of describing what they wear, what they look like and the landscapes through which they pass. But as for what makes the people tick–nothing. …Two stars for technical excellence.”


“Mr. Harlan’s gift for verbosity is not matched by a gift for clarity, so often you will not really be sure what happened at all–but, what the heck, just shrug and go on to the next hundred pages, I mean, what difference does it make? …And, if you are like me, you will find yourself caring less and less, and skimming, and skipping, and then, at the end of volume II, going to the nearest large trash container, tossing both volumes into it, and thanking heaven you didn’t buy all four.”

There are, of course, also positive reviews from readers, but these sorts weigh more heavily. I think I’ll spare myself the joy.

4 thoughts on “awful book

  1. Hmmm… I have that feeling with “The Ill-Made Mute” by Cecilia Dart-Thornton. It’s well written, perhaps over descriptive, but nothing is drawing me in. There are absolutely glowing reviews, however. Even with the Glasswright series, as irritating as I find Rani, I still want more.

    Just goes to show you that you’re not really writing for all readers!

  2. I believe Mel (melimus on lj) is a friend of the author, and was one of the readers for his first drafts. I’m not trying to quote out of context, but I believe she says she didn’t much like the first three of his books, though the new series is much better. For what it is worth.

  3. Maybe I’ll look at one of the new series at the bookstore. I think there’s a *story* in there somewhere, in the Oath of the Empire books, but it’s not a story worth getting to through all of the mind-numbing detail. Thanks! :)

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