Friday, December 2, 2011

Follow Friday - The Thirty-Nine Steps Was a Book by John Buchan and a Movie by Alfred Hitchcock

It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - Lauren Gets Literal and Fic Book Reviews.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to books? Maybe you don’t like love triangles or thin plots? Tell us about it!

Continuity errors. I hate them. Some are laughably bad, such as the sequence in Pureheart (read review) in which some events take place on a Friday, and then two days later it is Friday again. Others are more subtle - since I read a lot of speculative fiction, the most common gaffe of this sort is the result of characters inexplicably forgetting previously established supernatural powers or technological devices that would easily solve a conundrum they face later in the book. I have heard this called the "Superman syndrome", since in many of his stories Superman has to "forget" some of his powers in order to make the villain of the story an even remotely credible problem. But it applies equally well to characters who "forget" that they have a star ship that can travel faster than light that would be able to get the message to the colony in time, or "forget" that they can read minds when interrogating a captured bad guy for critical information, and so on. And it is truly annoying.

Another thing I hate in books are sequences in which characters act improbably out of character in order to make a particular story element work. As an example, I point to a scene in Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles series - which is a retelling of the myth of King Arthur as it might have actually happened, with Arthur being portrayed as a post-Roman British warlord fighting the encroaching Saxons. Through most of the series Arthur is something of a maverick, frequently flouting both established law and social convention. But when Cornwell tried to weave in the story of Tristan and Isoulde into the story, it becomes necessary for Arthur to become a stickler for following the rules in order to make the story work. So for about a chapter of the book, Arthur becomes a by-the-book stick-in-the-mud, because the story required him to be so. And then, once Tristan and Isoulde are tragically dealt with by King Mark, Arthur goes back to being the unconventional rebel that he was through the rest of the book. This isn't me griping about characters changing and developing through the course of a book or a series. But when the character makes a rapid about face and it is clearly solely for the sake of making a plot point work, that irks me.

And the final pet peeve of mine is when authors don't think through the implications of their fictional worlds. This is probably a pet peeve that is mostly applicable to science fiction and fantasy, but it can crop up in almost any genre. The problem occurs when an author comes up with some interesting technological advance, societal arrangement, magical power, or something else of that ilk, and then proceeds with his story as if everything else in the world is exactly the same as in our world, and having the inhabitants of his fictional world act surprised when the new element shakes things up. A classic example would be a fantasy world in which flying beasts are ridden like horses, and when the hero uses his cadre of griffon-mounted warriors to fly over the castle walls, everyone is stunned by his brilliant innovation in military tactics. Another example is in the novel Dancing With Eternity (read review), in which a war is described that took place between militant feminists and the rest of humanity. But the author had earlier established that radical genetic engineering of people was a commonplace practice (a procedure the protagonist had undergone himself earlier in the book to remove the pangolin-like scales he had earlier had engineered onto himself), and one relatively easy engineering change described is changing the gender of the subject. The question one has to ask is how gender identity could loom so large in a world in which the gender of individuals was so easily malleable. The author simply didn't think through the implications of his own imagined future, and as a result, inserted a plot element that just didn't make sense.

Go to subsequent Follow Friday: Ali Baba Faced Off Against Forty Thieves

Follow Friday     Home


  1. Hmmm. I wish I had read the Warlord Chronicles so I could really talk about this, but I feel like the author *could* have made that work--you know, Arthur's involved in his own little love triangle, so it might be understandable for him to be uncharacteristically sensitive about marriage/adultery...

    But yes, it is quite infuriating when characters do something that's not like them. Especially when you can tell the author's using it to get him/herself out of a corner.

    New follower, btw. Here's my FF:

  2. Great post! I get what you mean about Pureheart! That makes me cringe so badly. When my friends are watching it I always point it out but they always tell me to shut up :D

    New follower!

    Check out my FF post here


    Reading is my cup of tea

  3. I have to agree, not with the books, because I haven't read them. Although I have read a few books where characters change personalities for the plot that leave you wondering. So I give you major wootness on this!

    New Follower
    Beth ^_^

  4. @Susan Francino: That's very true, and that's a large part of why these sorts of character about-faces are so annoying. The author could have made his story work and kept the characters from behaving in wildly erratic ways, but chose to take the lazy option instead. When this happens, it pulls me out of the story and makes me wonder about the much better story the author could have written instead. And my immersion is destroyed.

  5. @Molly Gibson-Mee: I am frequently told to shut up by those around me when watching movies and television, since these sorts of things always trigger my analysis impulse.

  6. @Beth D: Few things destroy my ability to immerse myself in a story more than when characters start behaving more like props than characters.

  7. Good answer! I absolutely can't STAND stuff like that, especially with the time weirdness!

    New follower

  8. Great and interesting pet peeves. I also hate laughable errors in books. BTW I love the name of your blog. New Follower. =]
    Here is My FF

  9. @Eileen: When elements like time weirdness crop up in a book, it always signals to me that the author just didn't care enough to bother proofreading their own work. And when an author doesn't care, it makes it hard for me to care.

  10. @Michael/Bookshelf Reviewer: Laughable errors break a book. And thank you, I put a fair amount of thought into the name, and it is nice to see someone notice and appreciate it.

  11. Ooh I agree with the change of personality it always makes me cringe!

    Xpresso Reads

  12. @Giselle: Yes, especially when it is obviously done in an artificial way so that the writer can cram a storyline or plot point into his book.