How much should a reader know about a book, plot, setting, characters, etc., after one page or two pages? I've been looking at books with a newly critical eye. Many seem to give us quite an overview of the who, what, and how very quickly. I read the first two pages of a number of Fantasy novels yesterday. Despite the exotic settings and often exotic races and powers of the characters, they did quite often get pretty much down to the point. In reasonable simple language. I'm confused as to exactly what a book should be telling its readers in the first page or two, and how. I've had another look at a number of books, and quite often they get very much straight down to the characters and plot. And describe this in straightforward language so that it's easily taken in and the reader knows very much what is going on if they have read that far. I'd like to canvas opinions on how much books should, and do, tell you within the first couple of pages. And what people suggest as preferred writing techniques for starting off a book. Here are a few books I've analysed today, and my quite likely wrong impressions of how they start. Pride and Prejudice - straight into everything within a page or two. Clearly not all characters are known by then, but we know that Mrs Bennett has noticed the arrival of a single man with a fortune, and is planning to marry a daughter to him. The Death of Grass - Main character's family introduced and something of the feel, but no mention of the virus that's going to wipe out grasses and cause society to break down. But, there's a goodly amount of information there and plot is starting to move. The Road - a bit abstract due to the telling of a dream, but even then within a page or two, the story, scene, and themes are explained. Treasure Island - right into it if you count the narrator saying he's writing down the story of "Treasure Island." Otherwise, it takes a while before various important characters come looking for each other at the inn. But at least characters, scene, and feel are set very quickly. Dune - starts with infodump. Then introduces the characters, including enough description to give me a good idea what's going on and where it's all headed. My Mum's Going to Explode. Even if the picture of the heavily pregnant mum on the cover and the title wasn't enough - two pages in and there's no doubt what's going on, and who it's all happening to. Not all characters are introduced, but that will be the same for most books, surely. Some exceptions - The Illustrated Ghormenghast describes the city of Ghormenghast in some detail right from the start, but doesn't mention Titus or Steerpike. Though, I'm sure a paper copy I saw in the library yesterday got right down to introducing the newly born Titus from the first page. The Colour of Magic - Describes the turtle, elephants, world, and Ank-Morpork. But the actual plot doesn't start until later. I'm not sure I'd classify Ank-Morpork burning to be central to the plot of that book. The Great Gatsby - Introduces the narrator and his view of the world quickly, but doesn't give much information on who this Gatsby, but just gives a description of what the narrator feels about him. Book starts proper (I think) a few pages in. The Haunting - Alan Titchmarsh. I think this book tries to set everything up, but I'm not sure I "got it." There seems to be a variety of things, the quote about ghosts from Tom Jones, the description of the "not a day for death,", and Anne leaving the house. After two pages, these haven't gelled yet. Now, here comes the confusing one. A modern book by Will Self. Umbrella by Will Self. I found the first sentence near unreadable, and didn't want to read any more. I did read a bit more. The main character is introduced, but in a jumble of confusing (to me at least) language. I have been critiquing people in the Writing Workshop section for not getting on with it. If Will Self's book was excerpted there, I would criticise it for that reason I'd probably criticise Alan Titchmarsh's book for having several different sections at the very beginning that don't seem to form a consistent whole until later. Has the way that a novel "should" start changed over the last few years or decades?