Have you felt it?
A rent in the very fabric of reality…and something has slipped through.
As if millions of people suddenly cried out and….would not be silenced.
A creeping insidiousness invading the covers of our books; our reviews; our tweets…
You see, there’s a trend these days, I’ve noticed.
A trend that is slowly starting to get on my wick. One that is innocent enough really, but none the less is bloody annoying.
What is it?
It is the tendency for book publishers/readers/reviewers/anyone who cares to to tell you all about:
“THAT LAST CHAPTER HAD ME LIKE!”
“THE ENDING THAT YOU WILL NEVER SEE COMING!”
Well I bloody will now though, won’t I?
Sodding great stickers on the cover declaring things like, but not exactly like, “THE TWIST THAT WILL SHAKE YOUR WORLD!”
Not now it won’t *rolls eyes emoji*
Ok, ok, I do understand why publishers, etc, put these things onto their books and into the taglines of the descriptions, but I really wish that they could stop it.
I’m not trying to be all holier-than-thou here; I’m not entirely innocent of this sort of thing myself, but I really do try not to put spoilers into my reviews or tweets, and if I do I flag them up beforehand – or put a cheeky remark in to highlight it. In fact, in some of my reviews I often deliberately leave out important information and sometimes, shhhhhhh don’t tell anyone else, I purposefully mislead or put mistakes in to throw people off the scent. *evil laugh*
I know that in reality I’m being unrealistic here. Of course people will want to talk about that ending, etc, and that is fine; books are meant to be discussed in whatever way people see fit and word of mouth is vitally important in their promotion – I LOVE shouting about my favourite books, authors and publishers – but can’t we just cease and desist flagging it up before we have even picked the book up? For me personally it makes little difference whether I’m likely to read it or not, but it can spoil the ending for me when I turn that final page and I think, yeah, I saw that coming. Would I have done so if I didn’t know that it was there in the first place? Can ignorance really be as blissful as it is claimed?
Twists are common place in every form of storytelling: we probably all remember the buzz about the ending of the movie The Sixth Sense, even if you haven’t seen it. I remember thinking, before I saw it, I bet *spoiler* is *spoiler*, and when I watched it, right from a crucial scene early on in the film I thought, yep, I’m right. Ok, it didn’t spoil the overall film for me, it’s a great piece of cinema, but the ending definitely lost its impact.
It’s the same with books. Knowing that there is a twist coming doesn’t ruin the overall book for me if it is well written, but the impact most certainly is lost. The other side-effect is that I then find myself second guessing the characters and the situation all the way through. It is a natural thing to do this anyway, but for me it tends to go into overdrive when I know there’s something shocking coming at the end.
Ok so, jump ahead a bit to the photo if you wish to remain blissfully unaware of the following point about a couple of recent books. I’m not giving anything away story wise, but given the point of this post it would be strange if I didn’t flag up any twisty spoilers 😉
A recent case in point is Louise Candlish’s “Our House”. This is a superb, brilliantly written domestic, psychological thriller, and one that had me pretty much gripped throughout: I highly recommend it. But right from the off people were saying things about the ending: “Let me know what you think!” “OMG, the ending had me crying, tell me what you think!” “You won’t see the ending coming. It blew me away!” and generally stuff like that. Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not having a go at anybody or anyone. No one was being intentionally spoilerific for the hell of it, it was all well intentioned and part of the buzz for the book, but the hyperbole can surely only set the ending up for disappointment?
It was a great ending, one that totally suited the book and the story, but I just went “Oh, you bloody idiot” to the character in question and that was it. Would I have been more shocked if I hadn’t known about that ending? Of course there is no way of knowing that, but I think it’s likely. I had kinda figured out what was likely to happen, but the book is skilfully written all the way through and my enjoyment of it was in no way lessened. But maybe, just maybe, the ending would have had more impact if I hadn’t been worked up about it in the first place.
The other case in point for me was Ragnar Jónassons’s “The Darkness“. Another wonderfully dark, tense and superbly written Icelandic thriller, and one I most definitely recommend – as I do all of Rangar’s books – but once again the shock ending, though unspecified, was flagged up in the reviews and promotion for the book. I’ll admit that when it came it was shocking and I didn’t see it coming. However I would still like to have remained unaware that there was something coming to be shocked about in the first place. I mention this in my review which you can read here if you so desire, and you do desire, don’t you? Yes, yes you do do. 😉
There are some people who love a good spoiler. My cousin is one. She always turns to the last page or chapter and reads it first. Yes, she is a monster! But that is how she likes to do it. She can’t really stand the tension of knowing how it will all turn out and enjoys the journey to the end, once she knows it, all the more. So she says 😉
I have been known to flick through a book to see if a character name pops up again, just to see if they’re still around later. Even though it’s just a cheeky glance to satisfy my curiosity, that way lies pain and ruin when I accidentally see a line that I really wish I hadn’t and I end up mentally kicking myself hard in my man parts.
It’s a highly subjective topic, one that I imagine many will feel very different about. If I’m honest, reading this post back even I can’t seem agree with myself about how I truly feel about it all, but that is mostly because I am an indecisive twit….or am I? As mentioned earlier, I understand the reasons why publishers/booksellers do it to drive sales, and it helps to create and maintain the buzz, but it just seems to be more and more common nowadays and would it really hurt sales if we all went in blind? Will people only buy the book if they know there’s a twist beforehand? Surely a well written blurb, a few choice quotes and the excitement of other readers should be enough to draw us in? Maybe I’m just being a simple naive beardy fool? 😉
Social media is a great tool for spreading the book love; I’ve discovered so many great authors and publishers through it, but it can also be a curse and can make it very hard to avoid spoilers. Mind you this is true across all forms of entertainment media. The recent TV series The Bodyguard is a case in point. I really can’t be bothered to watch it now because I inadvertently know so much about it. Maybe I’ll tackle it in a few months time when I’ve forgotten what I know 😉
Basically what all of this rambling guffery boils down to is this: You see, I do love a good twist; a dramatic rug pull that makes me gasp or go “Nooooo waaaay“, but I really don’t want to know it’s coming.
Well, that could’ve saved a lot of time if I had said that 1518 words ago, right back at the top there 😉
In fact, in a slight twist in itself, I am finding that the more I read a certain genre – in my case crime for the most part – the easier it is becoming to spot certain tropes and signals that make it harder and harder to remain ignorant to, and surprised by, the approaching denouement anyway. I guess this may be a symptom of over familiarity with a genre or style of writing? Maybe I should mix things up more? Should knowing if there’s a “shocking climax” – ooer missus – even matter in that case? Am I just being a fussy bugger and should get out more? Should I give up reading and stick my head in the ground and count the worms going past? Even then they would probably say, “hey, you won’t believe what’s coming up behind me! It’s the worm to end all worms, you won’t believe it”. Slimy, segmented spoilery fuckers *pouts*.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you agree, disagree, or couldn’t give a rat’s ass either way? Do you find that you become over-familiar with an author style, or genre, and nothing really surprises you anymore? I mentioned somewhere above that, for me at least, if a book is well written knowing or figuring out the twist doesn’t really spoil the overall feeling of the whole book, so could an average book, even a duff one, actually be lifted by a shocking twist? Can a book’s buzz be transformed by the ending making you forget the mediocrity of the preceding 300 or whatever pages?
Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter where you’ll find me at @LaughingGravy71.
Until next time,
Peace and Book Love, TBBB. X