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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)
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2013 Reads > AJ: How Long Should It Take to Get "Into" A Book?

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terpkristin | 4142 comments I guess this is a general topic, but I'm putting it in the Ancillary Justice sub-forum, since it seems to be a relevant topic. It seems like about half of us reading this book were sucked in by the beginning and the other half found it ridiculously slow. Different strokes for different folks, obviously, but it does raise an interesting question -- how long do you give a book to draw you in?

My rule of thumb used to be100 pages, though I've been forced to re-evaluate that as my "to-read" list has grown and also as the overall length of the books I've read has been anywhere from very short to very long and everything in between. For example, Ancillary Justice is a ~400 page book. 100 pages there is about a quarter way in, which seems like it is too long for me. I've read in the various threads that some people say it doesn't really pick up until the middle...that is ENTIRELY too long for me, generally. Of course, you also want to give a book a fair shake. Lately, I seem to have settled on about 15%. If I'm not drawn in to SOMETHING by then, I usually give up. That said, with Ancillary Justice, I definitely wasn't digging it by the 15% mark. It was moving very slowly and the new language aspects were tough, but having nothing better to do, I've gotten about a third through and it's starting to actually DO something, so I'm still reading..

What about the rest of you? Do infodumps and language issues factor into how long you give a book? How long, on average, do you give a book before you Lem it (or not)? What other factors are involved?


Andreas It got involved around the 60% mark. So why didn't I lem it? Because there were really interesting concepts, it wasn't trivial or ridiculous, and it isn't that long (it says 320 pages on my kindle). And I was already invested too long. If it were a really long novel, I'd give it up.


message 3: by Michele (new)

Michele | 1154 comments I don't have any set limit. I'm a serious read-a-holic so if I find myself - watching a lot of tv, cleaning things, watching cute kitten videos on the web, downloading other books - rather than picking up the book and continuing to read it, then I eventually just give up and start something else.


message 4: by Ben (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ben Rowe (benwickens) ebooks have changed things because you can download a sample of any book before buying it (even if you end up buying the paperback).

For me I will read 2-4 paragraphs and there are lots of books I will dump at that point because they are either not well enough written or they do not look like my type of thing. It might be a case of just putting it down until I am more in the mood for the writing or giving up on entirely.

I do not have a set point beyond that although I would finish a sample before thinking about buying the book.

Beyond that I have no set rules. There are books I have been tempted to abandon because there was an element that was really annoying me only to find this very issue dealt with in the end. It depends on how much reading time and energy I have at any one point how much I will stick with something.

I think with Ancillary Justice there will be many people for whom it is not their cup of tea and they could safely abandon it after 50 pages. It is true that it picks up once you have a better and deeper sense of the world it becomes much easier going but within a few chapters I think some people will realise that it is probably not for them.


Andreas I forgot one important thing: Trusting other's taste. If people that I know really like it, I want to be able to participate discussions and just carry on for the sake of the moment.


message 6: by Rick (last edited Nov 16, 2013 03:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick | 2792 comments 100 pages is fine. That's roughly an hour, hour and a half at a normal reading speed. A bit less is fine too, IMO. It feels silly to me to abandon a book after a page or ten - that's the ADD approach. I will say that if I'm looking at a book that I don't know about I'll read a few pages in the store or online to make sure it's not got something amazingly annoying to me, but if it's an author I know, getting a lot of positive buzz from people I usually trust (both friends but also online) or if it's considered a very good work in the field (Curse of Chalion, the early Vorkosigan books, etc) I'll give it ~100 pages.

Some people seem to dislike any buildup in a book where things develop over time versus starting off with a lot of things happening. To me, asking everything to start with a bang and immediately draw you in limits one's choices in literature and you'll miss a lot of very good books. But then, movie and TV culture...


message 7: by Serendi (last edited Nov 16, 2013 06:08PM) (new)

Serendi | 832 comments An hour, hour and a half for 100 pages is NORMAL??

I'm slower than I thought! (30-50 pages an hour? More like that, anyway.)


Rick | 2792 comments Serendi - plus or minus. I'm assuming people normally read 250-350wpm when they're focused on reading (not being interrupted, etc) and that pages are about 300 words.

People vary of course and some books are easier to read than others. But if you do 50 pages an hour then 100 pages is 2 hours so not really far off.

More than precise timing, my point is that for most people something around 100 pages isn't a huge committment of time. Maybe it's 120 mins vs 90, but the point is that's not a lot of time.

Of course, there's no right answer for everyone or even every book. I can usually tell by the 50 page mark and I've put things down at 20 pages (rarely). But if the objection is 'this is taking some time to get going' then I think giving it 100 pages or so isn't unreasonable. Some books, by their nature, take some time to setup.


Willeyeoney | 20 comments I am also reading The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy at the moment, which makes the 'slow' start of Ancillary Justice seem like a light read. :)


Lindsay | 593 comments I read fairly quickly so I almost never abandon a book because I'm not into it. On rare occasions where I can tell by about half way that I'm not likely to get into the book I'll speed read the remainder. That way it gives me an opportunity to read closer if it gets better.

Where I do end up abandoning books it's because of consistent poor grammar, spelling and/or editing, all of which are becoming more common in the golden age of self-publishing.


Kristina | 588 comments I dont' have a limit or magic number of pages... I hate to give up on a book, but there is definately a point where I'll just say ok, i'm done. To many other good looking options on my to read list to slog my way through something.


message 12: by Mike (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike If I am reading a book on my Kindle, I will usually give it until the end of the sample. If it hasn't intrigued me enough by then, I give up on it. However, once I have paid for a book (or gone to the trouble of checking it out of the library) I will almost always finish it.

There's been a few times where I might regret slogging through an awful book, but I have only rarely had that happen.


message 13: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 832 comments Thinking again about the pages per hour thing, I was just impressed with "Am I THAT slow??"

I have no problem whatever quitting a book at any stage of the game. Like Kristina, I just reach a point where I know I'm done. It could be at any point (the exception being reading a book for an in-person book club, I'll usually push through no matter what).


message 14: by Phil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Phil | 1140 comments What do you mean by slow? There's been complaints about at least 3 recent club picks being slow. Is every SF&F story supposed to start with a fight or chase and immediately lead to a quest? Or do you mean it's slow to pique your interest because of poor writing or characterization or setting?


message 15: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 832 comments I mean I read slowly.


message 16: by Phil (last edited Nov 18, 2013 12:07AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Phil | 1140 comments Sorry Serendi, I wasn't commenting on your post. I meant in general when people say a book is "slow".
The OP said this book was "ridiculously slow".
It was also said of The Curse of Chalion and Boneshaker so I was just wondering what they would prefer.
I know a lot of "how to write" books say you should start your story with an action scene or in the middle of the plot (in medias res) in order to hook the reader but I think that can be overdone.


message 17: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 832 comments Ah, gotcha! Guess it was that your question immediately followed my post.


Mohrravvian | 99 comments Yeah, I don't have a set point where I stop. I also rarely stop reading a book. For me, it's got to be pretty bad. I think I have a strong aversion to leaving something unfinished! I can think of a few books I've lemmed mid way through, but it's pretty rare for me. One I really tried to get through was The Gormenghast Novels, but I couldn't make it. It seemed like 100s of pages of nonsense with no apparent plot... but I do at times wish I understood what was supposedly so appealing about that story.


terpkristin | 4142 comments Phil wrote: "What do you mean by slow? There's been complaints about at least 3 recent club picks being slow. Is every SF&F story supposed to start with a fight or chase and immediately lead to a quest? Or do you mean it's slow to pique your interest because of poor writing or characterization or setting?"...
"It was also said of The Curse of Chalion and Boneshaker so I was just wondering what they would prefer.
I know a lot of "how to write" books say you should start your story with an action scene or in the middle of the plot (in medias res) in order to hook the reader but I think that can be overdone."


Well, I was quoting other threads that said it was slow, but for me, this book has been too much character-building and not enough of an actual plot. I know it's the first in a series, but that doesn't mean a book should be all character- and world-building. I'm finally a third in (and put it down again) and finally I START see why some of this matters. Sometimes that works for people. It doesn't for me. Which is why I'm interested in how long other people give things. I've stopped forcing myself to read books I don't like, though I don't have a fixed stopping point...it tends to be at around 15% (as I said in the OP). 100 pages used to be my rule of thumb but I used to read "only" much longer books. 100 pages in a 200 page book is too long if a book isn't gripping me.

Chalion (for me) was a great book, because I was more interested in the characters and the world (also, it still picked up about 20% in). This one is info-dumping and using a made-up language, plus the confusing POVs for some things, which makes it harder. While I like some of the ideas presented (which is why I haven't Lem'd it entirely, though I keep taking multi-day breaks), without caring about the characters, personally I need something to drive a plot. Boneshaker I didn't think was as slow as other people did, but I also didn't like it (again, it was less actual "plot" and more character and world building with people doing things every now and then).


message 20: by Rick (last edited Nov 18, 2013 07:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick | 2792 comments AJ most definitely has a plot. Breq is searching for something that's vital to her goal and that's apparent early on. The action in the first half or so is driven by that search. We aren't told what it is which is fine - show, not tell. Show not tell is also the reason for the flashbacks. It's one thing to hear that JoT is a ship AI spread among ancillaries, it's another to be shown that. Similarly it's one thing to be told JoT was destroyed and Breq is all that's left but it's another thing to explore the events leading to that (and no, that's not a spoiler, it's on the description of the book).

Also, if you're 1/3 in after multiple reading sessions you either read VERY slowly or you're stopping after 10-20 pages. Of course you don't get immersed into the flow of the novel if it's the latter.

I don't mean to be critical of anyone since we like what we like, but honestly, if someone can't or won't give a book an hour or two of undivided attention it's a little hard to take any 'I can't get into it' comments too seriously. This is, btw, one of the things I've always wondered about audiobooks - so many times I read posts that imply or state that the person is doing something else and, well, of course you can't focus on a book if you're housecleaning, driving, etc. It would be interesting to explore the reading vs listening divide with an eye toward this issue (so to speak...).


terpkristin | 4142 comments That's pretty...well, ridiculous.

Obviously, you and I have read this book differently. Yes, I'm stopping after 20 pages because my mind is wandering. I fall asleep. I TRY to give it undivided attention (I even bought the print version to try to minimize distractions), but my brain is going elsewhere. Because I'm not digging it, I'm not "into" it. So I think it's insane to say "you can't take it seriously." Obviously, the book worked for you. You're into it.

But not everybody is. I have ALL DAY to do read (I'm off work, recovering from surgery), I'm reading plenty of other things. But I always pick up AJ first, it just isn't keeping me piqued enough that I don't fall asleep or otherwise have to go back and re-read things again and again.

I also respectfully disagree with your comment on audiobooks, but that's a different thread entirely.


message 22: by Rick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick | 2792 comments Sigh. I'm NOT trying to offend. But if you're literally falling asleep, I'm going to assume you're pretty tired/run down (I mean, surgery...) and that might affect focus.

Obviously, it's also that AJ isn't for you from the sound of it... but I can't think of any book that's made me fall asleep when I'm not already physically tired... and when I'm tired enough to sleep, I can only read very specific things, usually things with action or strong imagery. If you're not tired, but merely not gripped by it... fine. No one is under an obligation to read a book, but I think it's stretching things to say one can't get into a book when one's not even spent an hour straight trying and 20 pages isn't even 30 minutes for the typical reader. To the thread topic, I think one should try to give most books at least an hour or two of attention, but that's me.

As for audiobooks... I'm not arguing that they're not reading (silly debate) or that one can't focus on them but that I've often seen comments here that indicate the listener is doing other things and you're not focusing on the story if you're doing that. No, multi-tasking isn't real - we focus on one thing at a time. No, I'm not bringing citations, there's a fair number of studies that have been cited over the years and everyone here can use Google too.


terpkristin | 4142 comments I'm not offended :)

Personally I don't think I can blame the drugs for my sleepiness, as I'm reading other books and had no issues (and I'm in far fewer ones that I was 2 months ago...it's been a long recovery). But all I'm trying to point out is that it's possible to really give it a go and not be interested, so that point shouldn't be discounted. I imagine others have had the same issue, without the major surgery to blame. ;)

That all said, AJ is slow for me but there are things that have me piqued which is why I haven't put it aside for good. I'm sure, based on comments on other threads, that others have, so I wondered when they did....and when/if people typically do. Some people (as evidenced here) never give up. Some do. For me, my queue is huge. I no longer bother to keep up with books that don't hook me somehow.


Darren I can think of a lot of books I was really into, but which fell apart at the ending. Weaveworld immediately springs to mind. A book which is just so amazing... Right up until it's not. But I can only think of one book I ever found horribly boring at the beginning and then wound up loving: Lord of the Rings. And that's only because he changed his mind about what he wanted to write.


message 25: by Rich (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rich (justanothergringo) | 98 comments terpkristin wrote: "It seems like about half of us reading this book were sucked in by the beginning and the other half found it ridiculously slow. Different strokes for different folks, obviously, but it does raise an interesting question -- how long do you give a book to draw you in?"

I don't put any sort of page minimum on a book when reading. I don't like to bail on books, since I don't like throwing away money, so I usually don't bail until the book becomes too painful to read. Sometimes that point is just a few chapters in, and other times it could be just a few chapters from the end. There will always be a book starts or ends slowly, but when I just have no interest in how things end, or when things are so awful that I it hurts to go on, I don't go on.

I completely agree with you about the different strokes. Each book is as different the individual reader. In retrospect, I really shouldn't have encouraged you to keep reading in the other forum, since you're your own best judge of what you like.


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Rick wrote: " so many times I read posts that imply or state that the person is doing something else and, well, of course you can't focus on a book if you're housecleaning, driving, etc."

I think most people who listen to audiobooks can attest differently. Listening to Audiobooks doesn't require the same amount of effort for consumption/comprehension as reading because you aren't physically restrained as when reading a book. You simply need to listen. And while driving it's easier than having a meaningful conversation with someone, or singing while driving, or thinking about other things, all while giving due attention to your driving.


Kevin | 701 comments David Sven wrote: "I think most people who listen to audiobooks can attest differently. Listening to Audiobooks doesn't require the same amount of effort for consumption/comprehension as reading because you aren't physically restrained as when reading a book. You simply need to listen. And while driving it's easier than having a meaningful conversation with someone, or singing while driving, or thinking about other things, all while giving due attention to your driving."

I have the exact opposite experience. I can't listen to audiobooks, especially not while driving. I miss more than half of what is going on and get frustrated. Either I get distracted by, you know driving, or on less involved parts of the trip my mind wanders. It tends to do that when not fully engaged anyway. I'm a daydreamer. Just listening to stuff doesn't work, unless I fully commit to it. And at that point I'd rather be reading.
I can sing along perfectly fine while driving though. Well, I can't sing "fine", but you get what I mean.


message 28: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 832 comments I was recently reading Life of Pi for an in-person book club, and just for the hell of it (I had trouble getting into it) I got the Audible version, figuring I'd listen while knitting. It didn't take long for my hands to decide I'd knitted enough, so I listened and read simultaneously.

This turned out to be a BIG win. Huh.


Tamahome | 6261 comments Me too, when driving listening to audiobooks. If it's the type of plot that will get confusing if I miss a detail, I'll get lost. Do a lot of people hit rewind when they miss something?


message 30: by Rob, Roberator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob (robzak) | 6784 comments Mod
Listening to an audiobook when driving is easy for me. Riding my bike on the other hand can be tricky. I always have to be looking for cars that ignore me and try to kill me..

Everyone is different though. I tend to pick books I don't need to give my full attention to for audio as a result.

I feel like this would have been very confusing in audio for me though, especially at the beginning.


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Tamahome wrote: " Do a lot of people hit rewind when they miss something?

Yes - though I use the button free screen so I don't have to find where I'm pressing.



message 32: by Chris (new) - added it

Chris  | 57 comments I don't have a set limit on when I Lem a book, though I am getting pretty close at chapter 5 of Ancillary Justice. I am just not getting it or getting into it.

I did this a couple years ago when we read Hyperion. I gave up on it then, but read it completely a year later.


Shaina (shainaeg) | 165 comments I find that if I'm picking up other things instead or if I'm not looking forward to reading more I decide to give up on a book.

I'm about 100 pages into Ancillary Justice and I can't decide how I feel. I'm enjoying the parts in the current time more than the stuff in the past, but I'm just having trouble getting into it and not feeling any motivation to push forward with it.


message 34: by Tim (new) - added it

Tim Alm | 34 comments I tried several times to get into this book but failed miserably. The things that grated on me were the universal she designation of all characters as she although I understand why and i kept losing track of which member of the collective I was following. I REALLY hate LEMing a book but I just had to on this one. I went back and read Hyperion instead which I had missed on the first go round. I love that book.


Andrew (copyright75) | 3 comments Baffling! I am dumbfounded by the seemingly endless positive reviews of this book. From NPR to i09 to so many here in our forum, everyone seems to have a very different experience from mine in reading Ancillary Justice. I just passed the halfway point of the book and it has been a chore. I am glad to see from this post that I'm not the only one who struggled on this read.


Daniel Ashley Roberts  | 65 comments I give a book a 100 pages, if I'm not into it by then its time to cut it lose. To many good books to read as it is


message 37: by Neil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil (rucknrun) I am finally reading this book also. I am a little behind. I am around 75% into it. I am having a terrible time finishing it. I have to force myself to read it and if I read it in bed I fall asleep immediately.

I am going to finish it but, I am falling behind terribly on my books for the year since this one it taking forever.


message 38: by CatBookMom (new) - added it

CatBookMom What does LEM mean? Google wasn't any help. I know about DNF - did not finish.


message 39: by Phil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Phil | 1140 comments CatBookMom wrote: "What does LEM mean? Google wasn't any help. I know about DNF - did not finish."

LEM is word we use in this group to mean "did not finish". It comes from the author Stanislaw Lem when Veronica didn't finish his book Memoirs Found in a Bathtub. She "lemmed" it.


terpkristin | 4142 comments Neil wrote: "I am finally reading this book also. I am a little behind. I am around 75% into it. I am having a terrible time finishing it. I have to force myself to read it and if I read it in bed I fall as..."

Well the good news is that you're almost to the point where it gets moderately interesting. The bad news is that the book still sucked. ;) Yes, I know I'm in the minority on that opinion. I'm appalled at how many accolades this book gets. I think they're all hipsters. ;)





(totally tongue in cheek on the hipster thing but I really don't get the love for this book or Ms. Leckie)


message 41: by Joel (new) - added it

Joel | 235 comments I usually give a book about 100 pages or so, maybe 200 depending on its length. If I am not enjoying a book, I'll take a couple of days to decide, and then finally move on. I love to read, and there are tons of books that I want to read, so if I am not enjoying a book after a few sessions of reading it, I believe it is better to quit and move to something better.


message 42: by Neil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil (rucknrun) I am going to finish it. it should not take that much longer. Took long enough to get to the interesting part.


message 43: by Tommy (new)

Tommy Hancock (tommyhancock) | 98 comments A lot of you seem more forgiving than I am haha. Something has to interest me within 50 pages, or I'm out. It doesn't have to be big, mind you. One interesting event, an interesting/cool/funny/etc. character that makes me want more from them, a setting that piques my interest. SOMETHING.

If by that point you haven't grasped me in some way, I just assume your book was not for me and move on.


AndrewP (andrewca) | 2481 comments Just finished this and I mostly agree with Terpkristin. It took way to long (200 pages) to get good(ish) and then if flattened out back to boring until the end. I did like some of the ideas but overall there were to many negatives for me to rate this book more than average.

I don't understand how this book got so many awards. My assumption is that all the competition must have really sucked.


message 45: by William (last edited Nov 04, 2014 09:39AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

William I was recommended four Iain M Banks books recently, and for all of them you had to read At Least half of the book before "it starts". Often the characters you met in the first half are throw-away.

I really like a lot of his writing, but the up-front payment is steep.


Tamahome | 6261 comments He likes 'trick endings'.


terpkristin | 4142 comments Well, that seems like a waste of a book.


Darren William wrote: "I was recommended four Iain M Banks books recently, and for all of them you had to read At Least half of the book before "it starts". Often the characters you met in the first half are throw-away.
..."


I haven't read all that many of his books, but didn't find that, personally.


terpkristin | 4142 comments Darren wrote: William wrote: "I was recommended four Iain M Banks books recently, and for all of them you had to read At Least half of the book before "it starts". Often the characters you met in the first half are throw-away.
..."

I haven't read all that many of his books, but didn't find that, personally."


In fairness, I'll probably give ONE of his books a go, but lately, that's just too darn long. I'm impatient.


Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments I should adore the Culture books. They're full of all kinds of clever alien and cultural diversity. But practically speaking, I can't find myself identifying enough with the struggles of most of the characters. They come across as spoiled brats. "Poor me, I can't find my purpose in this post-scarcity society." Realistic, probably, but not interesting to me.


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