I’m reading Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding right now. I picked it up on Saturday on the basis of the cover art, the interesting font used for the title, the blurb on the back and, most importantly, because on standing in the middle of the Science Fiction and Fantasy section and reading the first page, the writing style and I got along just fine.
It’s also very difficult to put down, with bite-size chapters just perfect for reading in spare quiet moments and intriguing characters I want to find out more about.
And honestly, that’s the aspect of the novel I’m finding the most interesting. A lot of advice given to authors, particularly in Wired For Story: The Writer’s Guide To Using Brain Science (there is more title, I'm just not using all of it; I'm sure you can find it from that), focuses on how the author should be upfront with information about the characters. The theory is that if you, the reader, know everything about them from the beginning, then you’re rooting for whatever the problem is to be solved.
Retribution Falls apparently didn’t get this memo, but I’m loving it all the more for it. Right now I don’t know why Frey is so irritated by the youthful picture of him on his wanted posters, or quite what’s wrong with Jez, or what Crake is running from. There are nudges and hints, little prods, but there’s no clear picture spread out for me. If Wooding was following the previous advice about laying out everything on a plate, would I be so interested in continuing reading? Possibly, because it’s written with a very nice style. But would I have this intense, burning curiosity, this need to find out what happened to the characters just as much as I want to find out why Frey’s job went so wrong? Probably not. If I’m honest, it wouldn’t have such a hold over me as it does if I knew all these things already. As it is I’m just as desperate to find out more about these people I’ve been thrown in the deep end alongside as I am to follow the plot.
It’s an interesting reminder that for all that the advice might seem good, maybe sometimes it’s also a good idea to kick it out and write what feels right instead, what lures a reader in and then inescapably hooks them until being separated from your half-finished story makes them feel empty and impatient.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a book I need to get back to.