Well, as luck would have it… I’m nursing a really shitty cold… This happens every time the season change is upon us, and last weekend the very first cold front (okay, well “cool front”) made its way down from an arctic air mass and blew a pleasant little kiss across San Antonio, Texas… it fucked me up immediately. I love the cold weather, but the very first one brings stuff along with it from other parts of the world which just don’t seem to agree with me. Once the congestion is gone, I’ll be back to normal but in the mean time I was fortunate to get some time to read.
I’ve been wanting to read James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes for a while now, and the down time from being sick afforded me just the opportunity I’ve been looking for. I devoured that book in four days! It was un-put-down-able; so much so that I kept reading even after the damned tome made my arms fall asleep… that’s right: quaint as it is, I read the book in trade paperback format… that’s print, y’all. It was an intimidating book; at 592 pages I thought it would take me forever to read… that’s right, I’m admitting it right here: I’m a slow reader (there’s a reason for that which I will get to in just a moment, so please bear with)… slow as molasses. I’m a slow eater and a slow reader, I admit it. Why? I like to savor my meals and my reading.
Sounds dodgy, I understand, but it’s the God(s) honest truth… I eat my fries one at a time, and I read my books one page at a time. It’s simple analytics: you can’t acquire a true and honest sense of something if you just gobble it up and don’t make the time to think about it… to consider the flavor… the balance of spices… the nuances of all of the ingredients at play… and I’m talking about books here, not food! I was dangerously close to missing some of the flavor in Corey’s Leviathan Wakes, but then that was the pace the authors demanded… that’s right, I said “authors.” Even if I didn’t know that James S. A. Corey is a pen name used by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, I could tell you that the book I read was written by two distinct authors… and the editor did a hell of a job making the work seem tight and cohesive while still maintaining the quality of the authors’ distinct voices… it worked very well.
And that, boys and girls, is what it’s all about… it’s the Holy Grail of all aspiring authors to create a work that operates so well it forces, demands the reader to turn the page in spite of the fact that bedtime was hours past… that everyone is waiting at the door to go out and run errands and the reader is trying to squeeze in one last sentence before putting the book down… that all other distractions fall to the distant background and that all that’s left is the story and the reader — exciting, engrossing, compelling, and un-put-down-able.
The formula resides in the stories and books that have kept you up, haunted your waking consciousness, dared you to have the balls to turn one more page even though you know you’ll be in trouble if you don’t put the book down now; the ones whose ending brings more than a little regret along with it… the ones you don’t want to end… the ones that play in your mind long after the book is done… That’s where the Grail is hidden, and you can only find it if you read the book one page at a time… if you consider the mechanics and architecture of the story… if you strive to understand why the author chose that particular placement of the words… why she chose the words themselves… and their order. To drink from the Grail you have to ingest this, masticate it slowly, savor every morsel, every bit, internalize it, and digest it… with luck, this will be the vitamin that gives your stories the power they need to keep a reader up at night.