For example, when you saw the first Ghostbusters movie, was your favorite part the initial half or the final half? In the first half we met the characters, followed them through an ordinary day of ghost hunting/library going–basically learned the ground rules of this world. In the second half the plot takes over and we get all the big scenes, car crashes, giant Mr. Stay Puff monsters, etc.
Typically, I prefer the world building section of a movie. Once the plot gets going, I find it’s all car crash–clever line–car crash until the hero wins and the credits roll and I can go on with my life.
It’s the opposite with books. Most of the world building stuff bores me to tears which only damages the pages so badly I have to dump the book in recycling.
This is typically a problem with fantasy and science fiction, for me at least. There’s just something about being an author of fantasy and science fiction that makes writers want to go on an on about how their imagined worlds work. Never will you encounter more back story than in a trilogy. After a few pages, I’m usually desperate for a plot to hang my interest on or characters developed enough for me to care whether or not they live or die.
But I keep buying them and I keep reading them because the covers always look like so much fun and when I find one that works for me I have such a good time. Thank you Ursula K. LeGuin.
Yes, I do realize that this has all been the critical equivalent of back story/world building just to set up what’s going to be a fairly brief review, one without car crashes at that, but it does help me explain my reaction to Wool by Hugh Howey, the first book in his Silo series of novels, which were originally a self-published series of novellas.
Maybe because the five sections of Wool started out as novellas, the world building is spread throughout the novel as a way to set up a series of shorter plot lines that basically build on each other towards a decent climax in the end. World building happened as the book went along instead of all at once, letting the reader know just what is needed to understand each story.
But this may also be why it took so long for me to read Wool. Weeks. It’s a long book granted, but it’s not a hard read at all. Lacking a strong central plot and strong central characters, I found it pretty easy to put down so it ended up taking several weeks for me to read it all. While I offer this lack of a central plot and central characters as a critique, it’s been an accepted way to write science fiction since Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. It’s only recently that folks like Jennifer Egan and Elizabeth Strout joined the party.
In spite of all this rambling commentary, I think I will read more of Hugh Howey’s Silo series. I liked the setting and I enjoyed the story.
Mr. Howey’s world is in our future, far into our future. What’s left of the human race lives in a large underground silo divided into levels according to function, think a vertical Snowpiercer. Those who break the law or those who can no longer stand life inside the silo are sent outside to “clean”. Put into protective suits they leave through an airlock into the poisoned world beyond. Once outside, each person turns back to face the windows of the silo’s upper level which they clean giving those inside a better view of the devastation beyond the protective glass.
No one knows why they clean, but every single one does.
Until Juliette, a mechanic from the lower levels is sent outside. Instead of turning back to clean she simply walks off farther than anyone has ever done not to be seen again. Several weeks later her voice is heard on an illegal radio. Where did she go? How did she survive? Are there other people hiding in other silos somewhere else?
Wool does have an ending final enough not to leave the reader hanging; I can stop now or keep reading to find out what happens next.
I am curious about what happens next, but not exactly driven to find out, which was my main problem with Wool all along.