Having just read the enormous (and awesome) Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton, I’m amazed that the sheer size of the book did not suffer from any significant amount of writer bloat. You know what I mean – when authors pad an otherwise perfectly good story to beef up the page count while not adding anything to the reading experience.

While I did think the portions of the Pandora’s Star could have been omitted without harm to the core story, I’m quite pleased that they were left in. Those extra passages added much to the overall sense of wonder to the book via world building – and sense of wonder is the main reason I read science fiction, after all.

I got to thinking (as I am likely to do once in a while, but mostly by accident) that maybe one reader’s bloat is another reader’s padding. Another reader could read that book, or any other for that matter, and have a totally different take on the “extra” material.

So when does a book become bloated?

For myself, the material must do one or more of these things: world-building; character development; plot advancement. Anything else is just padding, methinks. For example (and not to pick on or compare a new author like Christopher Paolini with seasoned veteran Hamilton), I found many, many parts of Eldest to be simply unnecessary. So much of the verbiage described setting (how many ways can you describe a forest?) that I grew bored.

In the age of booksplitting, I find padding even more annoying than usual. Why unnecessarily bulk it up so the publisher can split it into multiple volumes anyway? Bah! As I mentioned in the review, Pandora’s Star could have easily been split into two books, just like Hamilton’s Night Dawn Trilogy (six mass-market paperbacks – though that happened mainly due to format restrictions). Thankfully, it wasn’t.

So when does a book become bloated for you? What’s the entertainment killer?

Discuss… And I want book titles , people!

Filed under: Books

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