Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

Discuss SFF books and authors here.
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By Magnus
This doesn't quite suit the "currently reading" topic, so this topic is for the DNF pile.

Life is too short to read books that don't draw or hold our interest. It took me way too long to learn this, and I still give a lot of books many more chances than they deserve. I also feel a little guilty for putting a book away. I know the author has worked hard on it, and it feels like I'm betraying their efforts. But in the end, I shouldn't force myself to read something I'm not enjoying.

So, I just decided to DNF A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark. I am halfway through and it's taken me ages to get thus far because I'm not excited to pick it up in the evening. I like the alternate history fantasy setting with magic and folklore come back to life. It's pretty much a trope by now, but one I am happy to read more of, but there are too many other things that bother me.

Let me try to put a finger on why I'm putting it down. Like @cupiscent mentioned, there's an inordinate amount of description of people's clothes. I suppose it's part of the voice of the POV char, who is very interested in clothes—but that doesn't mean I am. It feels more like the author's interest bleeding through. I think the main problem is that it has zero impact on the story. It's there for its own sake. Something that I keep arguing is that any element you put into fiction should be there for the sake of the story first—only after it serves the story can it serve other purposes (and elements that serve more than one purpose are very powerful tools). This leads me to the many interruptions, often mid-scene, to insert exposition in a way that I find quite clumsy. As far as possible, please show me how the world works. And if you have to tell me about it, at least don't do it in the middle of a conversation.

And as much as I like the concept, half-way through the book the plot hasn't developed.
The whole thing starts with a crime being committed, and then the MC runs around town and ends up knowing about as much as she did from the start. She's one of the top detectives from a supernatural police-type agency, and she can't figure out squat. What little information she gets is handed to her. I won't finish it, but I smell a deus ex machina ending.
I was enjoying the non-Eurocentric take on alternate history and the potential for political play between the various factions. But I just can't bring myself to read more. Sorry. :(
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By ScarletBea
I just noticed I hadn't replied, and I wanted to!

I'm much better at DNF-ing books now, but it's still mostly library books, as I tend to buy only those I'm pretty sure I'm going to enjoy.
Of course, sometimes that doesn't happen, but I still end up reading them all and then giving them to the charity shop - probably just to get my money's worth, I'm so cheap :amused:

Also, anyone does that thing where if you're not fully enjoying the book, instead of DNF-ing it, you just read in chunks, jumping bits and pieces just to get the general idea of the story?
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By Magnus
ScarletBea wrote:Also, anyone does that thing where if you're not fully enjoying the book, instead of DNF-ing it, you just read in chunks, jumping bits and pieces just to get the general idea of the story?
Sometimes I skim a book, but the part of me that strives for everything to be neat and orderly doesn't allow me to skip around like that. It took me a long time to teach myself to DNF books at all. But I'm very I happy I did it with the above book because now I'm reading one that I'm actually looking forwards to going on with. :) There are so many good books out there, there is absolutely no reason to be reading one that feels like a chore.
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By cupiscent
Thanks for the reminder, Bea, because I nodded along to a lot of Magnus's original post (especially the bit where he's referencing me :beaming: ) but didn't actually comment.

It took me a while to learn to DNF as well, but I heartily recommend it. There really are so many books being published right now, in such a variety of styles and subgenres and voices. There's no need to slog through something we're not enjoying - and it's not necessarily a sign that it's a "bad" book, just one that's not for me! Sometimes I DNF a book so quickly - inside the first 5 pages - that I don't even list it on goodreads, just quietly delete it from my books, because it's so very apparent that I'm not the target audience, so there's no point aggravating myself by pushing forward, nor in recording my thoughts and reasons.
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By Peat
Oddly enough, I formally DNF a lot less than I did.

Partly that is a result of me not finding a great deal that catches my attention right now, and knowing I sometimes have to be a little stubborn to find books I like.

But part of it is a result of having to slog through a few books for various reasons - often podcast related - and finding that ultimately, I was happy to have done so even if some books had annoyed the living daylights out of me while during reading. If you'd caught me at the right moment you'd have heard some very caustic things about Titus Groan, Uprooted, The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, Titus Groan, Tehanu, Titus Groan, The Dragonbone Chair, Titus Groan... fine, I still have rather caustic things to say about a lot of those books but I'm happy I did it.

I think ultimately my priorities have changed. I'm not in so much of a rush to try lots of books and I don't need to love every book because I have tons I do love. I do however want to build up my resilience and experience more things deeply. Struggling through books is far more palatable to me now.

At some point I will have to DNF a lot of books simply because I start too many and it irks me to have them hanging over me. Just not today. Today I do really want to finish all of them.

This all said, Jonathan Nevair's To Spy A Star is now getting DNFed. The prose doesn't sit right with old fussybritches and the focus on tech over the people makes it hard for me to get into it. Probably great for people who slick spy sci-fi, but that's not so much me.
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By Magnus
Unless the prose is terrible or there's some other blatant reason to drop it, I won't DNF until I've given a book a chance, even if it doesn't sweep me off my feet. I've certainly been pleasantly surprised a few times as a result. But I don't push on when I'm halfway through and I realise I'm dragging my feet to open the book because there's nothing keeping me there. Even after a quarter of the book, I should care what happens to the characters and how it's going to end.
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By Hedin
I'm not sure I have ever completely DNF'd something, according to my Goodreads I only have 1 book listed as a DNF and actually I finished that and just never updated it. I am sure there were ones that I just didn't record that I am not thinking of but most of the time I commit to the sunk cost fallacy and just power on through. Now the worst part is where I go "well I didn't like that book at all but I see the next book from that series is available and there were a few things that I did like and maybe it got better" and then suck myself into another book I should DNF.