1. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Poorly written novels w/ a decent/good idea??

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by BillyxRansom, May 27, 2009.

    Are there any novels you just know you would have liked a lot more, or even loved, if they had just had better writing? Maybe the writing was simply dull, boring. Or maybe it came off as too important, and if the self-indulgence had been toned down, it might've been a good book.

    I can't think of any at the moment, I'll come back to this.
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Anything by Dan Brown. Although, to be fair, I loved his books the first time around, but on re-reading, I discovered he has an atrocious writing style. I think the first time around the fast pace and easy flow made me like it without really thinking about it, but when you know the story and aren't being captivated quite so much, his writing is like reading an encyclopedia of random crap. Some parts of angels and demons in particular are like reading an encyclopedia.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The story concept is nothing without good execution. The concept doesn't stand on its own.

    Rarely, you'll encounter a concept that is so unusual that it immediately sets your imagination going. One example is the Ringworld, an artificial structure with the surface area of a million Earths. Even so, had Larry Niven not written it into a complex story with conflicts, hidden agendas, and fascinating characters, it would have fallen quite flat (and personally, I found the sequels very disappointing).

    In general, a good concept in a crummy novel will probably not even be noticed. A well-worn concept in a superbly written story, on the other hand, will shine despite a concept someone else would call cliched. A kid playing war games discovers he's actually fighting the war for real. If you don't recognize the popular science fiction Hugo and Nebula award winning novel, I won't spoil it for you.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dan Brown's ideas are fairly interesting, and they held my attention in the movie, which was meh, but the main thing that held my attention was wanting to know what happens, nothing more. His ideas are interesting, but what makes people flock to the books, despite being poorly written, is that they are controversial.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    So if the Catholic Church hadn't made such a fuss over the books, they probably would never have had to condemn the movies too? :D
     
  6. akania
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    akania Member

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    Twiglight.

    Great idea, weak story, horrendous film. A real waste.
     
  7. A.J.Crowley
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    A.J.Crowley Senior Member

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    Terry Pratchett is one of my all time favorite authors but I think all of his early work -The Carpet people, Dark side of the sun, Strata, and the Colour of Magic (I’m probably going to cop it big time for that one) - definitely belongs in this category.
    There are elements that hint at the much better books he has written since but mainly they are lost amid forced and unfunny gags, confusing description of events interspersed with scenes that read like they have been ripped straight from some second rate Space Opera or High fantasy saga.
     
  8. g1ng3rsnap9ed
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    g1ng3rsnap9ed Contributing Member

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    I actually enjoyed Dan Brown's Angels & Demons, up until the horrible ending. (Funny, my last Post was in the Is Ending Important Thread) But his writing style never bothered me.

    *Shrugs
     
  9. Henry The Purple
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    Henry The Purple Active Member

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    Flowers in The Attic had a very interesting premise, but was very poorly written.
     
  10. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    GREAT book. :)

    The thing that I don't like about Dan Brown is that it seems like all of his books have the same plot with a different setting. The first time I read his books, I was like you-all the fast-paced action kept me reading without really thinking about anything outside of "what happens next??" Then I read them again and went "huh...I almost feel like I'm reading the same thing over and over."
     
  11. Hidesunderrocks
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    Hidesunderrocks New Member

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    I would have to go with a lot of Michael Crighton's novels. I have read quite a few and with the exception of State of Fear I usually feel like there is nothing to his characters so I don't necessarily care what happens to them, but his ideas fascinated (and frightened) me so I kept reading.
     
  12. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    Agreed. Although, as I was reading The Da Vinci Code I could already see that it was poorly written. The only thing that kept me going was that I hate starting a book and not finishing it. Although, the idea was quite interesting so I did want to know how he wrapped it up.

    I hated that after the main story was all done, he had all these characters still alive and kicking so just added a few chapters to randomly kill them off. That's how he tied up his loose ends and is the main thing that stood out to me!

    Actually, I think that's being made into a movie soon. Not necessarily that novel, but the idea anyway. Looks good too imo! :D
     
  13. OrdinaryJoe
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    OrdinaryJoe Member

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    I, Lucifer: Finally, the Other Side of the Story by Glen Duncan

    I was hoping that this would have been like the Wicked novel written by Gregory Maguire.

    Where you get a story that you know twisted around to a diffrent point of view.

    Well, it wasn't.

    Which would have been fine if it would have been written well, which it was not. The story was bad. The dialogue painfull to read. I did not at any time care if the main character lived or died. Just really really disapointed in it.

    I have to say that this book is the only book I have ever taken back to the book store. I read it once and I will never buy anything written by Glen Duncan again.
     
  14. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    All I can say is -- Huh?

    All four of his books have completely different plots. I have no idea what you're talking about.

    I agree with the poster who said, Angels & Demons was a good book with a bad (hokey and unbelievable) ending.

    My favorite of his books is Deception Point. I'd love to hear someone explain to me how the plot of Deception Point was the same as the plot of the Da Vinci Code, or how either of those two books had the same plot as Digital Fortress. None of those three books had the same plot as Angels & Demons, of course, and the only similarity between Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons is that they both featured Robert Langdon, but there's nothing wrong with bringing back a popular character.

    I don't see what the big objection to Dan Brown is. I love his books, and I don't see how they are "poorly written." I'd love to hear more specific objections. (Besides the ending of Angels & Demons, which I confess was bad. I also found that Digital Fortress demonstrated a lack of understanding of computer technology.) These vague generalities don't give me any real understanding of what, specifically, you think was wrong with the books.

    The only specifics I've seen here, I don't get -- the plots are all different, and I didn't get the feeling that Dan Brown "added chapters" to "kill off characters."

    The only specific objections I've heard elsewhere required an underlying belief in orthodox theology, something I don't believe in personally. I also recognize that his books are works of fiction, and am therefore willing to accept Dan Brown's character Leigh Teabanks misrepresenting some of the historic details about the Gnostic gospels as artistic license.

    One thing I think is great about the Da Vinci Code is that it got a lot of people reading, thinking and questioning. I know a number of people who simply do not read, who read the Da Vinci Code. Some of them picked up another book, when finished, and they weren't readers before that. If a book encourages people to read, that's a good thing. Dan Brown is a great gateway author, in that respect.

    Charlie
     
  15. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    State of Fear was nothing but a pseudo-science infomercial for those who want to deny the fact of global warming, a fact proven by thousands of peer reviewed scientific studies. I won't read any of his books because of this dangerous anti-environment anti-science claptrap he tried to pass off as a novel.

    And, frankly, it wasn't even very good as a novel.
     
  16. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    As to the same plot thing, not sure what the original context was, but yeah, its always a similar lead character, paired with an attractive woman, learning about some secret or conspiracy that gives Dan Brown an opportunity to share his encyclopedic research in any way possible, involving flat, cliche enemies and uninspired endings, told at breakneck speed to avoid having the reader dwell on any one part for too long.

    Like I said, on the first read, he's a really good author and the books are really good, but only because they flow so fast and so easily that you don't have to think about anything. If you read them again, once you're familiar with the plot, with the characters and with the ideas, the writing is pretty unbearable to be honest.
     
  17. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    ok for a more detailed breakdown of 2 of his books....
    da vinci code = angels and demons
    langdon = langdon
    jacques sauniere = leonardo vetra (both old men who hold powerful secrets)
    sophie neveu = vittoria vetra (the attractive female sidekick who is related to dead guy)
    "the teacher" = "the illuminati" (mysterious and powerful enemy, who spoiler warning is someone we think is a good guy in both cases)
    the chase round the churches in europe/britain = the chase round the churches in rome
    capt fache = olivetti/rocher (the police officer who seems like he is out to get langdon & co but is really a good guy after all)

    add to this the similarity of the conspiracies, the similar themes in the books, the similar style, language, pacing, characters

    like I said, they're good the first time around....but if you think about them too much, the similarities should become obvious....
     
  18. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    But I can do that with almost any two books.

    All books have protagonists, antagonists, most thriller novels have chase scenes...

    da vinci code = spider-man

    langdon = peter parker

    jacques sauniere = uncle ben (both old men with wisdom, both deaths lead to the whole story)

    sophie neveu = mary jane watsen (the attractive female sidekick who falls for the hero)

    "the teacher" = Normon / Harry Osborn (mysterious and powerful enemy, who spoiler warning is someone we think is a good guy in both cases)

    the chase round the churches in europe/britain = the chase around NYC with Green Goblin on his glider

    capt fache = Capt. Stacy

    Similarity of the conspiracies?

    (Spoiler warning)

    Da Vinci Code was a conspiracy involving Jesus getting married to Mary Magdaline, and a secret bloodline.

    Angels & Demons involved the kidnapping of four Cardinals, and the theft of manufactured anti-matter.

    Those are similar?

    By the way, Deception Point involved a meteor found under Antarctica, and a Presidential election that will likely be impacted by the discovery.

    Digital Fortress was about a super-computer trying to decode a program and getting infected with a super-virus.

    I'm sorry, but beyond similarities that could apply to virtually any two books, I don't see it. Sure, two of his books had Robert Langdon, and were thriller novels that had vaguely religious themes. The similarities end there as far as I can tell, besides similarities that can be made between almost any two books. Most books have an attractive female lead, a hero, a villain... there are certain character types that appear in almost every novel...

    And pacing? Every thriller novel is supposed to be fast paced. That's the point. David Baldacci's books are paced almost the same... because they're all thriller novels, and a lot of them involve the Camel Club because, guess what, for the same reason about four books by Dean Koontz involve a guy named Odd Thomas, and about seven books by Stephen King involve a Gunslinger named Rolland... so, sure, two (three soon) of Dan Brown's books are about Robert Langdon, and so?

    Style? Authors generally have a particular style. You could complain about every author then, just about, although once in a while an author changes things up, it's rare. (Like Stephen King's "Eye of the Dragon," written... almost... in a different style, or the Bachman books by Stephen King.)

    In fact... I'm pretty sure that Angels & Demons and Da Vinci Code (which have virtually no similarities to Deception Point and Digital Fortress, which have virtually no similarities to each other, beyond similarities that virtually all books have in common) are more dissimilar from each other, than other books written by other authors that, like those two books, are parts of a series. The Odd Thomas books by Koontz, or the Camel Club books by Baldacci, are examples. Or, in another genre, the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovitch. Perhaps your issue is that you don't like series in general?

    I think the worst offender of what you're trying to describe is not Dan Brown at all, but James Patterson. His books are painfully formulaic, much, much more so than Dan Brown could even attempt to be. And, of course, most of them are either about Alex Cross, the Women's Murder Club, or some kids with wings.

    Oh, and I actually found Dan Brown's villains to be fairly well developed and interesting characters. Now, James Patterson's villains? They're all identical, and with the depth of a sheet of paper. And I've noticed a series pattern with Dean Koontz villains -- he tends to have villains that are wimpy, over-emotional psychopaths who, in many of his books, are obsessed with cutting people up. But I don't see anyone complaining about them.

    Dan Brown's villains aren't even the same within his books. Silas is a very different character from Leigh Teabanks, and neither of them are anything like the villains in Deception Point, or the killer in Angels & Demons, which was much more about the trail of murders than about unraveling the secret as Da Vinci Code was about.

    Sheesh, you open with this:

    Okay, a lead character paired with an attractive woman. Well, that describes nearly half of all books ever written. Hell, David Copperfield had a lead character paired off with an attractive woman. So did Spider-man, Popeye, Gone With the Wind, 1984, Brave New World, Romeo & Juliet... even Frankenstein had the Bride of Frankenstein (though "attractive" may be in the eye of the beholder.)

    I just plain disagree that his villains are flat, I've explained that. Saying his books are about conspiracies is like complaining that cop novels are about crimes.

    I'm out of time, have to go to bed, but I think I've made my point... I suppose, each to his own tastes.

    Charlie

    PS. This has been fun, though I'd be curious to see your "this equals that" diagram comparing Angels & Demons with Deception Point. I'm sure there will be similarities... both had protagonists, for example, but so did the Shining and so did the Scarlett Letter... but they were pretty much, completely different novels with independent plots.


    Edit:

    On afterthought, I'll grant you one similarity between the plots of two of the four books, and it's one you didn't mention. The ones you mentioned, I think, are simply plot elements found in most books... interspersed with the fact that you don't like researched books and you don't like Dan Brown's villains.

    Here's a similarity: Two of his four books involved, not only a conspiracy and some religious themes, but also an artist. One hid clues in his paintings, the other hid statues in churches. But all that is is a plot element -- it's not the whole plot.

    And the plot element was really handled very differently in both books -- more differently than the "haunted car" concept was handled by Stephen King in "Christine" and "From a Buick 8" and those two books handled the similar concept very differently.

    'Course, there's nothing of the kind in Deception Point or Digital Fortress, killing the "all his books" claim.
     
  19. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I guess I just don't like Dan Brown haha. Those are my reasons for it anyway, that and the fact that the structure is like Narrative-fact-narrative-dialogue-facts-flashback-facts-facts-facts-look at me i can research-narrative-dialogue-funny anecdote about harvard-facts-facts-omg facts

    At least that's how it feels to me. But if you like it that's cool, I'll stop being a dick :p

    And like I said, I geniunely liked them the first time round, the man can write a bullet train of a book. Its just a little insubstantial beyond that, but the same could be said of the majority of books written in that genre (again just my opinion!! sorry to anyone who likes James Patterson!!)
     
  20. Acglaphotis
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    The problem it's that they one book is just after the other, so if you read one you already know what's going to happen in the other one. All his stories have the same basic plot, the details are meaningless. If you can't see how the storylines are very similar without looking at the details of each, then we can't help you.

    When you do the exact same thing in both, yes.

    That's not the point, of course heroes, villains and side characters appear in every story, the point is that they're too similar to each other.The comparison you made with spider-man would have only worked if you were describing spider-man 1 and 2, and the first one had all the cast die and the second have new characters that are just the same as the old ones.

    I kind of agree, I don't like thrillers.

    What does this have anything to do with Dan Brown?

    Because this is a dan brown thread.

    You mean Teabing? Anyway, of course Silan and Leigh are different, no one said the villains in the same book were the same. The villains in all of AD, DVC and DF are practically the same. Hired assasins with no other motivation beyond vaguely specified "personal" reasons (Silas' primarily).

    You only mentioned you disagreed, you didn't explain why.

    Nop, still not getting it. In harry potter one, he goes through three trials (vines, chess and potions) and then defeats the main antagonist. What if he had done the same thing in books 2 and 3 with the only thing differing between them was the cast, except for harry, the theme of the book and the trials.
     
  21. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me it would be the book Truancy by Isamu Fukui. I love dystopian stories, but the writing was sophomoric--and fittingly, he wrote it when he was a sophomore at age 15!
     
  22. starseed
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    The Celestine Prophecy. I absolutely resonate with the spiritual message, and most of it lined up perfectly with my own spiritual understandings I have gained so far in my life. But the story itself was very surface.. filled with empty characters who were nothing more than tools to demonstrate the awesome spiritual message. It was asinine and really bothered me while I was reading it. I would have respected it so much had it just been presented in a non-fiction sort of way, like The Secret or other such books.
     
  23. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    The story lines are very different. Except, as I stated, the things that are similar in all novels.

    How many Cardinals were kidnapped in the Da Vinci Code? How many Popes elected? How much antimatter was created? Where in the Da Vinci Code was the "God particle"? How much time did Langdon have to prevent the murders of the Cardinals in "Da Vinci Code"?

    What secrets did we learn about Jesus in Angels & Demons? How many secrets about Mary Magdaline? How many murders were Robert Langdon suspected of? How many neat observations about "The Last Supper" (which were remarkably accurate, btw)? How many cryptexes did Langdon have to decipher?

    And I had no idea what was going to happen in Angels & Demons (I read Da Vinci Code first.) I'm reading Angels & Demons, and it's like, "What's going on with this anti-matter? Will the Cardinals survive? What's the deal with the Camerlengo? How will Langdon prevent the anti-matter from destroying Vatican City? Was the Pope really murdered?" Nothing in the Da Vinci Code clued me in as to what was going to happen in Angels & Demons, I don't know what you mean when you say that it would.

    They didn't do the exact same thing in both.


    I don't see the similarities. For example, Sophie, to me, is nothing like Vittoria Vetra. Sophie was a stronger lead, in my humble opinion, had a more powerful presence in Da Vinci Code than Vittoria had in A&D. She was an agent who knew how to use a gun, while Vittoria was a research scientist. They had different personalities. They were different characters. Frankly, I'm not even sure they would have liked each other very much, if they met.

    I wasn't comparing Spider-man 1 and 2. I was comparing Da Vinci Code and Spider-man, which were just as similar as Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. That was my point. Sure, there are basic character-types to be found in all fiction, from Homer's Epics to Stephen King novels to Hardy Boys adventure stories. Your comparisons of the characters in two of Dan Brown's novels could be comparisons of any two characters.

    Of course two of his books had female leading characters. Most books do. They were no more similar to each other than they were similar to Mary Jane Watsen, or Jane (in Tarzan) or Juliet (in Romeo & Juliet.) They were female leading characters, with their own personalities.

    Well, gee, may be the problem isn't Dan Brown. May be the problem is you don't like the entire genre. Perhaps you should stick to reading Romance, or something else?

    I was contrasting him with another author.

    No, this is a " Poorly written novels w/ a decent/good idea??" thread.

    Silas seems to me a very well-developed character, and quite different from every character in the other three books.

    Personality wise, he was much deeper than the pure-evil followers of Voldemort in the Harry Potter books. The only thing that kept the Harry Potter villains apart were superficial characteristics like, an eyeball that spins around. They were all just evil, selfish followers of Voldemort. That doesn't make the books bad!

    Oh, and by the way...

    Snape = Teabing, over and over again.

    Teabing, he's good, until we find out he's bad.

    Snape, he's bad, until we find out he's good, until we find out he's bad, until we find out he's good, until we find out he's bad, until we find out he's good.

    Harry Osborn also did the double-switcheroo in the Spider-man movies.

    It's one of those common plot elements in all fiction, that could probably be found in Bible stories and in books written in hieroglyphics.

    These arguments fall under the "nothing new under the sun" category.

    Sure I did. His characters are well-developed, and quite distinct from each other, just as distinct as they are from the characters in Spider-man. More similar are the characters, say, in a Dean Koontz, or in a James Patterson. And, since you mentioned it, the Harry Potter novels. Which were terrific, by the way, but that doesn't change the fact that they all had a mysterious Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher, a ghost that dropped clues, an immensely powerful object, spells... in one book it's a Sorcerer's stone, in another it's a Goblet, in another it's an old book... and it all lead back to... you know who, the one who must not be named! (Voltemort! he said defiantly.)

    As much as I loved the Harry Potter books, they were much more formulaic than Dan Brown's books. Besides the last one, they all had the same format, exactly: Harry's at home with the Weezlies. Silly things ensue that make a fool of Harry's cousin. He escapes their clutches and is hanging around with Ron and his pals. The school year starts. He has to get his books. He finds out weird things having to do with Voldemort. Something is strange about the Defense against the Dark Arts teacher. He gets caught investigating by Snape, who gives his team some demerits. Etc.

    Another point, kind of outside all this -- even if all four books were identical (they're not) it wouldn't explain what's not to like about them.

    I like them. Is there a serious problem with that?


    In Angels & Demons, he found the locations of four Cardinals in four churches, while trying to locate the anti-matter that would destroy the Vatican. If he had done the same thing in the Da Vinci Code, your argument would hold merit. No hunt for Cardinals, no threat to murder Cardinals, no anti-matter threatening to destroy thousands of people... a completely different plot. The two books were as different from each other -- and more different in many ways -- then the various Harry Potter books.

    And Digital Fortress and Deception Point, unlike the Harry Potter books, bore no resemblance to the other two.

    Charlie
     
  24. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Reading over the posts, I'm realizing more that this might be about personal tastes.

    I read for fun, and I read to learn.

    Two of my favorite types of books are thriller novels and certain histories and biographies, at least when they're written in an engaging fasion.

    I just re-read the phrase, "some parts were like reading an encyclopedia," and was thinking, "that wasn't my experience," when it occurred to me... that's a criticism? I actually like reading the encyclopedia. I love to learn new things.

    May be those who love Dan Brown are people who love thriller novels and people who love to learn new things, as, for example, by reading well-written history or encyclopedia. May be that's why he's got so much appeal.

    Now, personally, I don't think his books read like an encyclopedia, but maybe some people want pure entertainment and resent learning things. I love a good story, and I also love to learn. When I'm not reading fiction, I'm reading nonfiction.

    Clearly, his books do have a broad appeal. I know a lot of people who read Dan Brown's books and loved them. Then again, there are folks who only read romance novels. Something for everyone... and to each, what he or she likes. It's what makes the world go around.

    Charlie
     
  25. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    About the encyclopedia comment:
    I enjoyed that aspect of the novels the first time around, whether it was learning about CERN and anti-matter or the NSA code breakers or the Priory of Scion, its all really cool the first time around, but once you've read it once and you already know it all (and more cuz you got interested and went and researched it yourself....at least i did :D) the way he writes makes it really hard to read....I mean I guess its not his fault, and he's already done his job right? Giving a good reading experience.....but there's little/no replay value, and the quality of his writing isn't worth going back for...

    As to the similarities....I dunno, I guess we see what we want to see? I think they're pretty obvious (to me, Neveu and Vetra were identical, both in character and function), but I guess they're different enough that people can still enjoy them.

    Anyway...I think Dan Brown would get a complex if he came here now :( maybe we should start bitching about everything Stephen King has written in the past 15 years...except some of that didn't even have a good idea to start with...
     

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