24 January 2016

"Ancillary Justice" Or How I Stopped Worrying And Loved to DNF

"Don't panic!" I said to myself. "It's okay to DNF. Occasionally."

"But what about perseverance?" said my other self, the perfectionist, the one who always has the most unrealistic expectations. "If a book is too boring and slow you're just gonna stop reading it? You're one hundred pages in, there's only under three hundred left, you'll endure!"

This is an illustration of the inner turmoil I was experiencing yesterday. The realist vs the perfectionist. I had this same conversation with myself way too many times, about books, about work, school etc. "You'll endure" is never a good argument when you're contemplating throwing a boring book in the wall. Okay, I do not actually promote violence against books (even bad ones). I'm speaking figuratively here.

The book in question was Ancillary Justice, by author Ann Leckie. The first book in an epic space opera trilogy. The only reason I even picked it up was because my library started a science fiction book club, and this is the first book on their agenda. I'm always pro trying new things, especially if they involve sci fi and books, so I took the only available volume left from the library, and headed home, ready to tackle almost four hundred pages in just one week, pushing back all the other books on my TBR.

Sometimes, a book can start out slow but after two or three chapters the story picks up pace and pretty soon you can barely put it down. You've got to give the book a chance to grab you. But what do you do when you've ploughed through over one hundred pages, and it's just so slow? What do you do when you have zero interest in the story and the characters?

The answer is simple enough. You stop reading. You close the book and you relax. Because time is valuable, and there is no point spending it on something that you know is a waste, be it a book, a relationship or a college course. It's okay to DNF. In fact, I've heard some people say that sometimes they stop reading a book, just because they feel like it, even if they like the book. Crazy, huh?

Just as I made the seemingly easy decision to put the book down, that annoying nagging voice in my head started yelling things like "you made a commitment", "you're a professional reader now", "think about your blog and the book circle next week!" And I think it's time to silence that voice. To silence it forever. Shut up, annoying inner voice! I don't need you.


My biggest problem with Ancillary Justice is that it doesn't seem to have a plot. The story is so tangled up in world-building and awkward characterisation, that the plot gets lost in this word-jungle. I think it's one of those books where you either buy the complicated and overly ambitious world-building or you don't. You either find the social structure of the Radchaai and their ancillaries fascinating or you find it pretentious. You either think that their ideas about gender are revolutionary or just confusing.

I can't rate this book, because I didn't finish it, so whatever impression I got from those 100+ pages is not enough to rate the whole book. That's why I'm going to give it the only rating my conscience will allow: a big fat DNF.

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