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Voice Of The Fans: What Books Have You Stopped Reading?

In light of my abortive attempt at reading The Gone Away World I started thinking back at other books that I gave up on before finishing. I can’t remember any book in the recent past, other than what sparked this post, that I quit on. For the most, if I read a book I’m not keen on, I can still find some way to plow through until the end.

The only other book that springs to mind is Dhalgren by Delaney. That one I started and stopped several times before I managed to force myself to finish it, and I didn’t like it one bit. I should have left it alone but it’s a classic so I there you go.

But what about you? What books have you stopped reading and why?

About JP Frantz (2323 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

44 Comments on Voice Of The Fans: What Books Have You Stopped Reading?

  1. Coincidentally, I also gave up on The Gone-away World. But I’ve read Dhalgren four or five times, and it remains a favourite sf novel.

  2. Paul NYC // March 19, 2010 at 5:40 am //

    There was a long time in my life when I forced myself to get through books for that feeling of accomplishment. Well, my work is my work my entertainment should not be. This is the reason my reading habits tend to be pedestrian in nature, I know that I will be able to get through these books without the risk of tossing them on the floor and moving on. Therefore, any award winner that even smells of “experiemental” or just simply “high fallutin'” gets passed by because I know it’s going to be an ordeal to begin with.

  3. The Windup Girl kept being hyped as “da bomb” all over the net, so I really, really tried. Made it a hundred pages in before finally throwing in the towel and deciding it was simply not worth it. I found the book to be full of stereotypes, forced exoticism, terrible science, cardboard caricature characters and above all, simply flat our boring. I could forgive all the former sins (and indeed, frequently do), but not the latter.

  4. My list is too long. I also used to make myself finish whatever I started, but those days are long gone. I read much too slowly now and with the demands of the day it can take me a month to read a book I’m actually enjoying. Don’t laugh. Your day will come. The book has to drag me into it or I have to move on, and much of my fiction reading comes from the library so I have a limit on how long I can give it anyway. All of which is to say that there are lots of books I start and eventually give up on.

    But, books I recently made an extra effort to read and just couldn’t are:

    Accelerando – just didn’t like the style it was written in. too much work to keep up with it.

    Kirinyaga – enjoyed it at first but it then seemed to start droning on and I lost interest.

    The Ghost Brigades – it just wasn’t interesting to me. I had just read OMW and enjoyed it but this one left me cold.

    Bright of the Sky – I feel bad about this one. It was interesting and I wanted to keep reading, I really did, but it just kept going and going and after two months (Yep. Two months) I decided to stop. After reading the series review here I may go back for a second try, though.


  5. It’s not Sci-Fi, but the most recent book I didn’t finish is The Electric Kool-Aid test by Tom Wolfe. I got interested in learning more about the 60s and hippies, and many web resources pointed to this book as the one to read. I gave up about 1/2 through. Apparently, I’m not meant to understand the hippies.


    In genre, The Book of the New Sun. Yeah, I know it’s a classic, which is why I’ve tried to read it several times. I just can’t get through it.

  6. The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester


    The reason is because the protagonists are jerks.

  7. Peter Zalinski // March 19, 2010 at 9:31 am //

    Chung Kuo by David Wingrove — I bought the trilogy in paperback, started reading the first book, and just could NOT finish it. The characters lived lives of quite desperation — zero action, no obvious character development, nothing intriguing about the world mileau he created… All I really recall about the story was that Red China had taken over the world. Eventually I dropped the whole load through the book return at the local library to get rid of it.

  8. Most recently, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (yeah, I know, heresy).  I read it through years before, but found it a difficult read about a year ago and ultimately set it aside.  I almost did the same thing with Asimov’s Foundation when I re-read that (Asimov had a horrid writing style at the time), but ultimately slogged through it once more.


  9. Normally I stubbornly finish books that I find I don’t like, but in the past 4 or 5 years I have changed that tactic and have quit a handful of books.  I guess I’ve gotten to that point in my life where it’s “so many books, so little time”!  ;o)  I don’t want to waste my time on books where I’m forcing myself to finish just on the principle of it.

    Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel is one I can remember quitting very easily and happily… it was sooo boring!

    Another book I quit reading is Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams, but it’s a bit of a mystery as to why I quit reading it.  It wasn’t my favorite (obviously!), but it was entertaining.  This has to be the most descriptive book about the behavior of cats (and I like cats) woven into an epic fantasy, and I had got to almost the very end (maybe around 100 pages left) when I just quit reading it.  It’s not that I didn’t like it — it was quite an involved history/storyline that did take a bit to get into, but very engaging once I did.  Obviously, though, my interest in finding at what happens at the end wasn’t enough to compel me to finish it.  (Although the thought passes through my mind every once in a year to go re-read and finish it…)

  10. Mouldy Squid // March 19, 2010 at 9:56 am //

    Anything by Gene Wolfe (and I have tried)

    Black Trillium by May, MacCaffery and Norton (the only question I have to ask about this book is: why? Why on earth would any of them write such shlock?)

    Coyote Destiny by Steele, (and I liked Coyote)

    Pretty much every anthology edited by J.J. Abrams. I am not sure why everyone thinks he is a great editor. Most of the stories he picks are either dull, incomprehensible, trite or all three.

    Anything by Anne Rice, but most especially those wretched Sleeping Beauty porn books.

    Anything by Kate Elliot. It’s like fantasy for the brain dead.

    I do try to completely read every book I buy, but no matter how many times I try the above authors, editors or books, I put them down in shame at my weakness as well as frustration since they are just so bad.

  11. Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem. I tried two times but I coud’nt.

    I know it’s a good book, so I only could explain this: “it’s me, not the book”. 

    I’m a bit ashamed and I promise, I will try another time (perhaps the next year, or the next…).


  12. Adm Roberts’ Salt

    Hal Duncan’s Vellum

    Yukio Mishima’s Spring Snow

    There are others, but those are the ones that readily spring to mind. I got close enough to the end of Pump Six and Other Stories that I’ll probably finish the last few at some point.

    Keep in mind that I love Gene Wolfe, recently finished Solaris, and have managed to make it through Moby Dick, The Castle of Otranto, and Ralph 124C41+.

    I was having trouble getting into Jonathan Strange and Mr. Niorrel until I got to the line about painting palster to look like wood, and painting wood to look like other types of wood, and I was hooked. 

    For those who have tried to read Gene Wole without success, I would recommend trying Nightside the Long Sun, which is probably his most accesible for a new reader, with a very sympathetic protagonist, a fast moving plot, and all his literary game-playing way in the background.

  13. Dhalgren for me, as well. I tried to read it for the first earlier in the year and I couldn’t connect with it at all.


    death’s daughter by Amber Benson – I had to stop because the protagonist was THE most annoying protagonist I ever encountered.


    The Quiet War by Paul McAuley.  I read such good things about it on the intarwebs and the book didn’t deliver for me.

  14. The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust.  I’m not a huge fantasy reader, and it only took me a few chapters before I put the book down in disgust.  Perhaps the books get better later in the series, or it’s something I needed to read as a kid to enjoy.  The characters are flat and cliche, and the dialogue is like a competition in sounding like a sarcastic/sassy teenager.  Worst of all, the story is so terribly uninspired and boring. I imagine reading the novelization of the Dungeons and Dragons Movie wouldn’t be all that different.

  15. euphrosyne // March 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm //

    I suspect that, for me, most books in this category are quickly forgotten, so my list is not exhastive. A few mentioned here that I’ll chime in on:

    Vellum – Couldn’t finish it. God-awful boring; far too self-consciously ‘literary’.

    The Wind-Up Girl – Bacigalupi’s short stories are (mostly) great. I borrowed this from the library and eagerly started; got about 80 pages in and couldn’t summon the motivation to finish before my 3 weeks were up. I’ll second FKassad’s remark about “forced exoticism”–in the 80 pages I read, there was no story, just a lot of “look how Thai this setting is, and see how authentically Asian the characters are! This is not middle America!!!”

    Nymphomation or Automated Alice – I can’t remember which of these books it was, but the experience was unforgettable. It is the only book I have ever bought, read halfway through, quit in disgust, and then physically destroyed so there would be one less copy tainting the earth with its existence. The author’s masturbatory wordplay (and I like wordplay) earned my eternal hatred, and you cannot pay me enough to read another of his books.

    This is actually a big reason I use the public library. If I buy a book, I feel more compelled to finish it, and regret if I don’t. If it’s from the library and it sucks, then it’s easy to toss. The books I really enjoy, I will buy later (usually in trade paperback because I don’t like reading hardbacks as much–my apologies to the authors for shorting their royalties!)

    Dhalgren – This is one of my top 3 SF novels of all time, but I can understand how some people just wouldn’t be able to get into it.





  16. Well, Twilight is a book that I put down pretty quickly.  My wife said that I should read it and after about 40 pages I had to put it down or claw my eyes out.

    I don’t make it through most of Stephen King’s work.  I read The Shining as a teenager and loved it, and liked “The Mist,” but It, Dolores Claiborne, and Cell were just unreadable to me.

    I have never made it through the Foundation Trilogy, seminal as it is.  Just too plodding and poorly written.  I never got past the opening scene of the first Thomas Covenant novel, and have seen no reason to try it again.  And I’ve cherry-picked my share of anthologies.



  17. 1984 is a book that I’ve never really been able to get through. Same with A Game of Thrones, although I’m working my way through that one again now. 

  18. Finally someone else who couldn’t do Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel. I’m also a huge Jeff Noon fan, but Falling out of Cars–unreadable. I guess I have a lot–most Asimov, and Gene Wolfe and Anne Rice too. For me the worst has to be John Crowley’s Little, Big. This was recommended to me once by a bunch of people. But why? So, so so boring and pointless.

    As for the most boring I did finish I’m going to have to say, ahem, Red Mars.


  19. theproffet // March 19, 2010 at 1:29 pm //

    Most books I have issues with getting through I file away, but don’t completely give up on.  Except Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast.  Blech!


    rice – the witching hour  (history section in middle)

    koontz – demon seed  (not like the movie)

    carey – kushiel’s dart (too slow)

    aguirre – grimspace (flaky worldbuilding)

    vinge – rainbow’s end (only care about the poet guy)

    hamilton – narcissus in chains (tired of the violent parts)

    priest – boneshaker (boring beginning)

    mieville – perdido street station (too slow, textual)

    stross – glasshouse (slow middle)

    barnes – the somnambulist (got silly)


  21. Matte Lozenge // March 19, 2010 at 2:49 pm //

    The Quiet War by Paul McAuley. Something very offputting about the delivery. Besides, who needs SF about fanatical ideological warriors and planetary conspiracies when we’ve got that happening in real life right now.


  22. Matte Lozenge // March 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm //

    Oh yeah, Little, Big, by John Crowley. It just drifts and drifts. I eventually gave up waiting for a plot to appear.

  23. Mouldy Squid // March 19, 2010 at 3:03 pm //

    Seeing The Quiet War show up quite a bit. I have finished it, and enjoyed it quite a bit, but it isn’t really successful as a novel. McAuley‘s short stories set in the universe of The Quiet War are much more successful. The novel felt like it was a bunch of shorts stuck together and segued badly. Track down the short stories, though, they are really quite good. “A Spy in Europa” is one of my favourite pieces of S/F.

  24. The Wreck of the River of Stars-Flynn. Hated each and every one of the characters.

    Tawny Man trilogy, Soldier Son trilogy-Robin Hobb. Sorry, but I will never, ever pick up another book by Robin Hobb. So, so very boring and tedious.

    Elom-Drinkwater. Have had it on my nightstand for almost three months and it’s in serious danger of never getting finished. Just not grabbing my attention enough.

    Wheel of Time-Robert Jordan. Lord, let it END already. 900+ pages of nothing happening.


  25. Jim Shannon // March 19, 2010 at 4:08 pm //

    In the Company of others Julie C Czernada. Was a real effort to read and I didn’t care about the characters.

    The Family Tree Sheri S. Tepper. Confusing story lines, choppy narrative flow.

    @tam I agree with you about Rainbows end.

    @MikeP Accelerando was difficult to read.

  26. MouldySquid,

    “A Spy in Europa” is written by Alastair Reynolds, not Paul Mcauley.

    Ones I didn’t finish. The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. A lot of Pratchett that just didn’t tickle my fancy. Probably more than I can think of because, well, they aren’t very interesting.

  27. Interesting question. In my youth, back when my tastes were broad and my reading time expansive, it was a point of pride with me never to put down a book until I had finished it. Consequently, the time when I put a book down unfinished stick in my mind.

    The first was TITUS GROAN by Mervyn Peake. I picked it up because it was a member of the otherwise splendid and wonderful Ballentine Adult Fantasy imprint edited by Lin Carter. If you recall, or if you can ask your father or grandfathers about those far-off days, there simply were no other fantasy novels available, aside from Tolkien, Ursula K. Leguin’s EARTHSEA, the Narnia of CS Lewis, and Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. The flood of Tolkien clones was still in the time of Things to Come.

    But in reading everything under the Lin Carter imprint, one was from time to time bushwacked by a divergence in taste between oneself and Mr. Carter. Even my eclectic reading breadth was not eclectic enough to make it past the first 100 pages or so. The disgusting characters, their pointless actions, the lack of anything noble, otherworldly, fine or even of mundane decency and attractiveness galled my young mind. There was no magic in either sense of the word in TITUS GROAN. After page after dreary page of reading about vermin, villains, malcontents and madness — I think I was at the scene when the Lord of the Manor is eaten by owls — I realized I would have more fun doing algebra homework.

    Blame my youth, if you will, but to this day I cannot imagine why anyone considers this book a fantasy. It contains nothing fantastical, except for the mere overlarge size of the house in which the toadlike grotesques slump and commit arson or murder, and the world is more dreary, disenchanting, and mundane than our world, not less.

    In recent years, on the other hand, I have become quite hard to please, and even books of great fame and decidedly well-crafted construction such as Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series will fail to hold by attention against competing claims of work, playing with my children, writing books of my own, reading history or philosophy or theology, playing City of Heroes (where, of course, I put all my own hero characters as heroes!) and other clamoring time-absorption unknown to younger and emptier lives.

    In the case of Mr. Jordan, the fault my mine rather than his. I had just finish a scene that I thought was both fascinating from a reader’s point of view, and brilliant from a craftsman’s point of view. The main character had been sent on a spirit vision walk back through time, and had seen the remnants of the previous high-tech civilization, as it collapsed into barbarism, slowly forgetting the meaning of their ceremonies and laws: but the reader of course recognizes the remnants of everything we’ve taken for granted, from sacred trees to spear-wielding nomads, now in their original context. Brilliant! I wish I had written something half so clever. Nonetheless, and unfortunately, I then realized there was not a single character whom I cared whether he lived or died. I did not care about the gleeman’s checkered past, or the gambling kid’s new found magic spear, or the smith’s apprentice, and I certainly did not care about the non-hero kid who was slowly going insane. Why? The characters did not seem any more flat or one-dimensional than those from the pens of other writers, even in books I adored. I just did not feel the sympathy one was supposed to feel after five or six fat volumes are walking the long path of adventure with these guys.

    One drawback of having gray hairs in your beard, is that most of the authors you know and adored in youth, and whose any book, any at all, you would buy as quick as you can say “AMAZON ONE-CLICK!” have passed away.  And some of those still alive turn out to be outspoken partisans of freakish political cults, practitioners of witchcraft, spies for the Kremlin, members of the Supreme Anarchist Council and agents of the Si Fan: and they won’t shut up about how much they hate Tolkien and love Mervyn Peake. I don’t begrudge them their chance to be outspoken (they are frankly less so than am I) but neither can I take the guileless pleasure in their work I did in days of golden innocence. 

  28. Lindalee Stahlman Volmert // March 19, 2010 at 5:19 pm //

    When I was younger, I felt I had to finish books.  Now that I’m older, I know there are better ways to spend time then to keep reading a book you don’t like. 

    I agree on Dhalgren-I couldn’t get into it.  Currently, I can’t think of other sf books I haven’t been able to finish-though I’m sure there were some.  There are several non sf-most recently Great Plains by a New Yorker writer-there’s a discussion of this at my local library next week but I did not like it-read the first chapter, skimmed  a little and put it down.  Am wondering if I should go to discussion and say why I didn’t like it.

    On another friends page, she mentioned she couldn’t finish Master and Commander-I couldn’t either as well as several others.

  29. Mouldy Squid // March 19, 2010 at 5:24 pm //

    Quite right, Trey, quite right. I knew I had made a mistake about 2 seconds after hitting the post button. For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the McAuley story set on Europa. It is going to bug me until I get home to my library.

    Reynolds, however, is one of those authors whose books I buy compusively. Revelation Space universe is magnificient.

  30. I second dhalgren.  I’ve tried 3 times, and haven’t gotten further than a few dozen pages.

  31. Have to admit to never finishing, actually barely starting Dhalgren.  Have read and loved every other SF novel written by Delany (including Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand) but Dhalgren has always been insurmountable.

    Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell defeated me after about the first 200 pages.  Still beside my bed awaiting another attempt though.

    Gormenghast Trilogy has also been abandoned.

    That said I read and loved Little, Big. Held spellbound and charmed by the language.


  32. George Orwell, 1984:  Lost the book a third of the way through and never bothered to get another copy.

    J R R Tolkien, Lord of the Rings:  Read The Hobbit, and liked it.  Read v1; seemed to me that everyone acted out of character.  My friends raved about LotR, so I read v2.  Found it extremely repetitious.  Same fight scene over and over and over.  Characters chewing the scenery and doing things consonant with the plot but NOT with their character.  Friends promised v3 was better.  Got 2/3 of the way through that volume before I literally tossed the book into the gutter.  Orson Scott Card wrote that LotR is all about Middle Earth (the milieu) and not about the characters.  He is right.  Loved National Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings.  Viewed a cartoon satire that shows the characters flying Rocs over Mount Doom (or whatever it is called) and tossing the ring into its depths.  The satire got the characters right, something Tolkien never did.  (The mess that is LotR is the major reason I hate fantasy.  If the best fantasy is this bad, I don’t want to read the rest.)

    James Michener, The Source:  In truth, I finished The Source.  I got the book through the Book of the Month Club.  Read 400 excrutiating pages and boxed the book.  15 years later, I moved.  While waiting for my library card to come through and lacking any other book that I had not read, I began The Source again where I had left off (my bookmark was still in it).  After 800 pages, the story picked up and stayed up to the end (2000+ pages).  If you want to read The Source, I recommend you begin reading at “The Fires of Ma Couer”.

  33. I usually give a book about 40 pages to peak my interest.  After that if I haven’t been drawn in it’s bye  bye.  I guess I should have figured that finding Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel in the discount bin would have been a dead give away.  I tried and tried to no avail letting my normal rules go by the wayside as I pushed through to page 150.  I am still disappointed that I gave up that much of my life for something that was supposed to be great.

  34. The most recent example for me would be John Dies at the End by David Wong.  It was just too all over the place for my tastes.  I do hate giving up though.  I’ll probably attempt to finish it at some point, but right now there are just too many other books on my shelf to read!

  35. Like some other commenters, I used to refuse to not finish a book, meaning that I bottlenecked my reading list with some real stinkers before I grew up and realized there’s more good literature than I have life left in me and set some standards for my reading.

    One series that I started with great anticipation was Terry Goodkind’s “Sword of Truth” series.  “Wizards First Rule” hooked me, and I plowed through the next four books like I was starved for words.  However, when he started rewording Ayn Rand and disguising it as fiction, I had just about had enough.  Ayn Rand is one of my favorite authors, but if I want to read Rand, I will read Rand, not Terry Goodkind presents Ayn Rand.  I tried to soldier on, since “Pillars of Creation” was a good novel, but by the middle of “Chainfire” I had my limit.  I put down the book about a third of the way through and have not looked at the series since. 

    Another I gave up on was William Gibson’s “Spook Country”.  I like his work, but sometimes find his plots a little difficult to follow.  “Spook Country” was, for me, impenetrable.

  36. missjulied // March 20, 2010 at 10:56 am //

    I gave up on Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver in section two (“King of the Vagabonds”). Completely pointless, and really boring. The first section (“Quicksilver”) was great, but he lost my interest after that.

    I was quite disappointed as I’d read Anathem the previous year and just loved it.


  37. As someone said further up in the thread, life’s too short to finish crummy books.  So I never bothered with scads of offerings, represented by but not restricted to: Jordan, Meyer, Rowland, military SF (which includes most of Heinlein and all of Pournelle), all Tolkienesque clones, nearly all of the so-called Golden Age (which should really be called the Age of Lead).

    Anything that suffers from terminal bloating, which is a common aftereffect of sequelitis: Gentle’s Ancient Light, Cherryh’s later Chanur offshoots (whereas I love the Union/Alliance linked novels); anything past the first volume of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy (clunk!), McCaffery’s Pern books, Herbert’s Dune, Zelazny’s Amber and Martin’s Fire and Ice; most of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion rehashes; Banks’ and Robinson’s recent books (would have been much better if about 1/3 their final size); almost all of Brin (clunk!).

    Most recent fling-across-room: Brotherton’s Star Dragon.  Unreadable even with dogged, sincere effort — and I like both hard SF and space opera.

  38. I agre with a lot of these, not the least of which: Chung Kuo.

    No flames, but so much of Ayn Rand… Atlas Shrugged – so boring and contrived.  So, thought I’d give the more normal sized Anthem a try, no difference.

  39. Best Served Cold – I tried, just didn’t get it. Boring.

    The City and the City – So hyped, incredibly boring.

  40. The Stand by Stephen King. Hated all the characters but maybe one. I know this is supposed to be one of his best, but I do not agree. I really liked The Gunslinger though.

  41. I seem to have trouble finishing Orson Scott Card’s series. I never got more than about 100 pages into Earthborn, the sudden drastic change ruined it for me. Also never finished The Tales of Alvin Maker, I think I made it to Heartfire. I don’t really remember why I never finished it, it’s been something like 10 years since I gave up on the series.

  42. I usually give it several tries, and even if the characters don’t grab me, the story may hold my attention for long enough to reach those two words “The End”. But the following are the black marks in my library:

    Arthur C. Clarke’s RAMA sequels with Gentry Lee co-authorship… Great concept, bad implementation. Managed to slog through Rama II just to find more about the Rama object, but Garden of Rama? Too much preaching on human self-destructiveness, just end it already! In Rama Revealed I gave up on the first chapter, just couldn’t bother with the characters, especially geriatric (sp?) sex.

    David Weber’s Crusade. Started it after reading Insurrection, but something just didn’t grab me, just more of the same…

    Issac Asimov’s Foundation Edge. Lost interest on the whole Mule thing, and Asimov’s writing… He had grand visions, but the way he built the stories aorund these visions… Ugh!


  43. Recently, The Unincorporated Man by the Kollin brothers. Clichéd and predictable. Characters were very one-dimensional. Also, Kiln People by David Brin. Love David Brin; couldn’t get into Kiln People. Possibly because it was too close after seeing that so-so Bruce Willis movie (Surrogates, I think) that borrowed heavily from Brin. I’ll probably go back to Brin someday. Not so much with the Kollin bros.

  44. Dan Geiser // March 23, 2010 at 1:52 pm //


    “military SF (which includes most of Heinlein and all of Pournelle”

    Most Heinlein is miltary SF?  That’s big news to me.

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