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RSLancastr
22nd May 2011, 11:41 AM
Have you ever started a book and were so put off by the first chapter that you almost tossed it aside, but braved through that and found that you absolutely LOVED the rest of the book?

This has only happened to me twice that I recall:

1) Ghost Story - the opening chapter of this supernatural thriller follows a man driving a car with a young girl in the passenger seat. It is told from the man's point of view, and we learn that he is planning to murder the little girl. Thoroughly unpleasant, and I came very close to tossing the book then and there. Fortunately, I hung on and the second chapter radically changed in tone, location and time. I won't giveanything away, but, by the end of the book, the opening chapter made perfect sense, and is seen in a totally different light.

2 Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams. Describing it, as I sometimes do) as "sort of a Watership Down with cats" doesn't do it justice. But the opening chapter, or perhaps it is a Prologue, is an ancient legend of the cat-folk. As such, it is written in a voice similar to Greek myths (or the Old Testament). I found myself thinking "please tell me the whole book isn't like this", and even peeked at the next chapter to confirm that it wasn't before finishing that first chapter. The book became an all-time favorite of mine. When I read it to my children a few years later, they were impatiently squirmy as I read that Prologue to them, but mesmerized by the rest of it!

Anyone else have this experience with any books?

Gr8wight
22nd May 2011, 11:50 AM
Have you ever started a book and were so put off by the first chapter that you almost tossed it aside, but braved through that and found that you absolutely LOVED the rest of the book?

...

Anyone else have this experience with any books?

The Summer Tree, book one of The Fionavar Trilogy, by Guy Gavriel Kay.

It opens in a mundane setting with several University of Toronto students meeting a sorcerer from an alternate world and agreeing to accompany him back to that world. I don't know if it is the formulaic, clichéd introduction, or the fact that, being from Toronto myself, the mundane world is too familiar to me, but I have difficulty with the first chapter every time I read this trilogy. And I've read it ten or twelve times, because it is that good.

DrDave
22nd May 2011, 12:06 PM
My parents bought me the first book of the Belgariad - "Pawn of Prophecy" many years ago. I was one of those kids where if it was put in my bookcase, eventually I would read it (including the driest of reference books, no matter the subject) but it took about 6 or 7 attempts to read through this book. After I got through the first few chapters, I devoured the rest of the series as fast as I could (IIRC they came out as I read them). I still read through them occasionally now, so it amuses me that at one point the first in the series was the worst book I had ever read.

In the last book on that world (Rivan Codex), which is the supplementary material on the subject of world building, he actually brings up the point that you have to give him a few chapters to get into the mythos and then you were hooked - worked for me at least

RSLancastr
22nd May 2011, 12:36 PM
Thanks, GR8 and Dave.

There should be a name for this phenomenon.

Dinwar
22nd May 2011, 12:43 PM
The Lord of the Rings. Probably comes as a surprise to a lot of people, but until the hobbits got to Bree I just wasn't interested. Nearly stopped reading the books, but pushed through. Now I'm frequently being referred to as a fanboy. :D

The Silimarilian had the opposite problem. The first chapters are good, but then you realize that there's no actual story involved, but rather a series of stories. Gets old after a while.

Mashuna
22nd May 2011, 12:56 PM
My parents bought me the first book of the Belgariad - "Pawn of Prophecy" many years ago. I was one of those kids where if it was put in my bookcase, eventually I would read it (including the driest of reference books, no matter the subject) but it took about 6 or 7 attempts to read through this book. After I got through the first few chapters, I devoured the rest of the series as fast as I could (IIRC they came out as I read them). I still read through them occasionally now, so it amuses me that at one point the first in the series was the worst book I had ever read.

In the last book on that world (Rivan Codex), which is the supplementary material on the subject of world building, he actually brings up the point that you have to give him a few chapters to get into the mythos and then you were hooked - worked for me at least

I always thought it was a shame that he only wrote the one story.

DrDave
22nd May 2011, 04:29 PM
I always thought it was a shame that he only wrote the one story.

I see what you did there ;)

To my great shame, I fell for the hype that the Mallorean was clever for following the Belgariad story since the protagonists didn't resolve it fully :o

Garrette
22nd May 2011, 05:06 PM
Every book I haver written suffers from an awful first chapter despite being marvelous afterwards. The problem is that I've never been able to write past the first chapter.

Garrette
22nd May 2011, 05:09 PM
Ref the Belgariad: Yuck. Ick. Ook. Horrible. Awful. Dreck of the worst degree. I seem to remember blatant lifting of multiple scenes from LoTR but rewriting to make them unreadable. If his later books got better, he didn't convince me enough to take the risk of reading them.


But an example of this type of thing is Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. First book is awful. Second and third books marginally improve. It's not until the fifth book of what was intended as a 10 book series that he found his stride. I wouldn't call the writing itself marvelous, but the world he created was with a very well-defined and unique system of magic, though it isn't called that in the books.

Kotatsu
22nd May 2011, 11:53 PM
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. Actually, I only have it on the authority of a friend and fellow Hardy-fan that it actually does improve, as I never got past the first two chapters.

gumboot
23rd May 2011, 01:17 AM
Les Misérables. The entire first 10,000 words is about the Bishop of Digne. Tedious stuff.

hgc
23rd May 2011, 02:07 AM
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. Actually, I only have it on the authority of a friend and fellow Hardy-fan that it actually does improve, as I never got past the first two chapters.

Ah yes - all about the Heath. I remember it as particularly tough going in 11th grade.

philkensebben
23rd May 2011, 02:24 AM
Thought Life of Pi had a horribly boring first 50 pages or so, but after that was a treat to read. (yes I'm aware of the plagerising controversy, still enjoyed it)

Dave Rogers
23rd May 2011, 05:12 AM
The Lord of the Rings. Probably comes as a surprise to a lot of people, but until the hobbits got to Bree I just wasn't interested. Nearly stopped reading the books, but pushed through.

I think this is a fairly common assessment. I know people who've never tried to read TLOTR, people who've given up on it part way through the first chapter, and people who've read it many times. Those seem to be the three main groups, in my experience.

Dave

HansMustermann
23rd May 2011, 06:41 AM
The Old Testament.

I mean, after the first couple of chapters there's the good stuff like murders, and rapes, and nuking whole cities for not wanting to gangbang Lot's daughters, and massacres, and smashing babies on rocks, and venting frustration by killing the enemy's cattle too. And such interesting curses that affect only the gold, so you must give all the looted gold to the priests, who can apparently safely decontaminate it. They're like an ancient hazmat team. And then stuff like a super-hero with a hair-based origin, who kills whole armies with a jawbone, girls boning their drunk father, another girl boning her father in law, or Ruth pulling off a drunk guy's pants (well, "uncovering his legs") and lying in bed with him, or a memorable character like Queen Slut. Saucy stuff, really. Hardly a boring page in there ;)

Well, ok, and a couple of chapter where the author loses it and just runs off with some enumeration of who begat whom, but then the occasional boring chapter or two happened even to Tolkien ;)

I mean, heck, even the second chapter starts boring, but by the end of it, at least it has a young naked chick strutting around with no shame. I think half of us (*) will forgive a lot of sins, literary or otherwise for that. Just cast some sexy porn actress as Eve, and it'll be more popular than the Passion Of Christ ;)

But the first chapter? Bo-ring. Do that kinda details even belong in there?

I mean, it's like going to the theatre and having to first go through 5 minutes of "in the beginning we had a dark empty room, and then the director stubbed his toe and said, 'Jesus-####ing-Christ, bring some ####ing lights already!', and then we had some lights and everyone agreed that it was good. But it was already 8PM, so we called it a day. And on the next day the director said we'll need a stage with some trapdoors for the props. And then Jack fell through a trapdoor and broke his leg, so the director laughed his ass off and said that now that was good. And that was the second day..."

That's the kind of stuff that goes on the "Making Of" supplemental DVD. You don't start the story with a whole chapter about how the set was built, really...


(*) ...the other half being gay men and heterosexual women. They don't seem as much into watching nekkid chicks, for some reason ;)

Beerina
23rd May 2011, 06:46 AM
Thanks, GR8 and Dave.

There should be a name for this phenomenon.

Dude Ya Need A Beginning Before We Can Publish-itis





The Hobbit's opening was intensely boring to me, when younger. I tried to start it several times before finally plowing past it.

Lisa Simpson
23rd May 2011, 06:55 AM
I just finished a Steampunk book that the first chapter was GREAT. But then the next three or four chapters almost made me put the book down. The hero and heroine passive-aggresively snipe at each other for seemingly endless pages. Then it finally picked up again.

Reivax
23rd May 2011, 07:12 AM
I agree with philkensebben on the Life Of Pi. I found the first few chapters very tedious, but I warmed up to it not so long after. Great read.

jasonpatterson
23rd May 2011, 07:18 AM
The Lord of the Rings. Probably comes as a surprise to a lot of people, but until the hobbits got to Bree I just wasn't interested.

No surprise. I tried reading these when I was fairly young, as I had read The Hobbit and loved it, but the beginning did me in. I didn't try again for another 5-10 years and had a much more pleasant experience (yay for speedier reading.) Not only are there a very long first few chapters to get through, there is also the tedious introduction, preface, foreword, etc that seem to accompany any Tolkien book. I'm masochistic enough to read those and always have been, unfortunately...

JoeTheJuggler
23rd May 2011, 07:56 AM
This might be very nearly the opposite of your request, but the first chapter of Grapes of Wrath is a different thing altogether from the novel. I think it's lovely poetry though. It's a description of the weather, the people (in a very general way), and the dust.

paiute
23rd May 2011, 08:07 AM
Agents will tell you that unless you hook the reader (and the agent) with the first several pages, the manuscript goes into the bin.

SpitfireIX
23rd May 2011, 08:56 AM
Agents will tell you that unless you hook the reader (and the agent) with the first several pages, the manuscript goes into the bin.


This doesn't apply so much to well-known authors. Readers will be more likely to plod along hoping that the work gets better.

CJW
23rd May 2011, 09:03 AM
1) Ghost Story -


It's funny that you mentioned Ghost Story because as soon I read the thread title, I immediately thought of another Peter Straub book - (that I just re-read) called The Hellfire Club. The opening which is a prologue, rather than an actual chapter, is set at a vacation retreat where the various cottages/buildings have fairly-tale sounding names. At first I couldn't tell if I was reading a fantasy novel, a mystery or what....settled in for a great read after that.

RSLancastr
23rd May 2011, 09:28 AM
I'm pretty sure that I read The Hellfire Club, but what little of it I recall is hopelessly blended in with Ghost Story in my memory. Didn't one of them tell a story about being a schoolteacger in a rural area, and another tell a story of being a doctor, delivering a baby under odd circumstances? That's all I've got.

StuBob
23rd May 2011, 11:46 AM
Around 35 years ago or so, I went through an Ayn Rand stage where I read everything she wrote. I recall, though, having great difficulty getting started with "Atlas Shrugged". It seemed to go absolutely nowhere for the first 50-75 pages or so. Finally it got rolling and I recall enjoying the rest of the book.

(thanks to the folks above for pointing me towards Tailchaser's Song, which I had forgotten about but had wanted to read, and to Hellfire Club.) :)

fleabeetle
23rd May 2011, 12:32 PM
In childhood, I found “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” something of a trial to get through in its first few chapters – the heroine is alone, underground, confined, confronted with baffling choices – “Drink Me”, etc. – with alarming consequences. I always reckoned those first few chapters, rather a misery to get through. My “take” was, that as soon as she starts encountering other inhabitants of Wonderland (the Dodo, the Mouse, and many more leading therefrom), the book became splendid and wondrous fun. (“Through the Looking Glass” is something else – “interaction with the locals” kicks in immediately.)

gumboot
24th May 2011, 02:16 AM
Agents will tell you that unless you hook the reader (and the agent) with the first several pages, the manuscript goes into the bin.

In addition the days of submitting an entire manuscript for consideration are long gone. Generally they'll want to see the first three chapters, and only ask for more if you impress them. So in theory at least nothing new should come out these days with weak opening chapters.

The sad thing is that based on this criteria a good percentage of the greatest works of literature in human history would have been rejected. It is chilling to consider how many amazing creative works - of a variety of mediums - must never see the light of day in these modern heavily commercialised times.

Syameese
24th May 2011, 03:03 AM
Ah yes - all about the Heath. I remember it as particularly tough going in 11th grade.

+1 I bought the "cheat summary" book and still could barely get through the synopsis. But, I read the bit about what the exam qs would be about and sailed through the exam never having read the book :)

Still to this day (40 years +/_) TROTN is still up there in my mind as one of the worst books I have ever cast eyes on.

Nursefoxfire
24th May 2011, 09:56 AM
I'm pretty sure that I read The Hellfire Club, but what little of it I recall is hopelessly blended in with Ghost Story in my memory. Didn't one of them tell a story about being a schoolteacger in a rural area, and another tell a story of being a doctor, delivering a baby under odd circumstances? That's all I've got.

Sounds like the Stephen King short novella "Breathing Method" where the doctor
meets his client, a very pregnant young single woman and teaches her a new method of delivery (what we think of as Lamaze these days, this story was set back in the 1930s, i think). On the night she goes into labor there's a terrible ice storm and her taxi has an accident as they slide into the hospital parking lot. She gets beheaded but the head continues to breathe, chuffing away and helping to push the baby out.

RSLancastr
24th May 2011, 10:03 AM
Sounds like the Stephen King short novella "Breathing Method" where the doctor
meets his client, a very pregnant young single woman and teaches her a new method of delivery (what we think of as Lamaze these days, this story was set back in the 1930s, i think). On the night she goes into labor there's a terrible ice storm and her taxi has an accident as they slide into the hospital parking lot. She gets beheaded but the head continues to breathe, chuffing away and helping to push the baby out.

I know I've read that one, and may well be conflating it with Hellfire Club

Rasmus
24th May 2011, 10:39 AM
It's been ages since I read it, and I doubt even back then I would have referred to it as a wonderful book. One of Karl May's many work starts out with something like "If you were to ask me what the most boring place on earth is, I would without hesitation answer that it was the small cantina in [...]" ... from there it launches into a long, detailed description of the most boring place on earth that drags on page after page after page ... I cannot remember if in the end there ever was a point to that piece, but I know i had to start the book several times over before I made it through the beginning. Google to the rescue:

Sollte jemand mich fragen, welches wohl der langweiligste Ort der Erde ist, so würde ich, ohne mich lang zu besinnen, antworten: Guaymas in Sonora, dem nordwestlichsten Staat der Republik Mexiko. Dies ist allerdings nur eine rein persönliche Meinung, ein anderer würde sie vielleicht bestreiten. Ich aber habe in dieser Stadt die inhaltlosesten zwei Wochen meines Lebens verfaulenzt und verspielt. (Karl May: „Die Felsenburg“)

[quote]Should anyone ask me which might be the most boring place on earth, I would without much hesitation answer: Guaymas in Sonora, the most north-west state in the republic of Mexico. The is but a personal opinion, someone else might dissagree. I, however, spends the two most unsubstantial weeks of my life there, slothing and gambling. (Karl May, Castle of Rocks)

elgarak
24th May 2011, 10:50 AM
It's been ages since I read it, and I doubt even back then I would have referred to it as a wonderful book. One of Karl May's many work starts out with something like "If you were to ask me what the most boring place on earth is, I would without hesitation answer that it was the small cantina in [...]" ... from there it launches into a long, detailed description of the most boring place on earth that drags on page after page after page ... I cannot remember if in the end there ever was a point to that piece, but I know i had to start the book several times over before I made it through the beginning. Google to the rescue:



Should anyone ask me which might be the most boring place on earth, I would without much hesitation answer: Guaymas in Sonora, the most north-west state in the republic of Mexico. The is but a personal opinion, someone else might dissagree. I, however, spends the two most unsubstantial weeks of my life there, slothing and gambling. (Karl May, Castle of Rocks)

I'm not entirely sure I would call any of Karl May's books wonderful... At any rate, Die Felsenburg is one of his lesser works. I went through a lot of them, and I couldn't get through this one.

Rasmus
24th May 2011, 12:46 PM
I'm not entirely sure I would call any of Karl May's books wonderful... At any rate, Die Felsenburg is one of his lesser works. I went through a lot of them, and I couldn't get through this one.

You might when you're 12 ...

Still, I seem to recall that the rest of the book was at least much better - the reasons I'll ever remember it, though, is because even when reading it I was wondering why-oh-why would an author set out on purpose trying to bore his readers to death? (And that is really everything I do remember about the book, too!)

theprestige
24th May 2011, 05:57 PM
It's been ages since I read it, and I doubt even back then I would have referred to it as a wonderful book. One of Karl May's many work starts out with something like "If you were to ask me what the most boring place on earth is, I would without hesitation answer that it was the small cantina in [...]" ... from there it launches into a long, detailed description of the most boring place on earth that drags on page after page after page ... I cannot remember if in the end there ever was a point to that piece, but I know i had to start the book several times over before I made it through the beginning. Google to the rescue:



Should anyone ask me which might be the most boring place on earth, I would without much hesitation answer: Guaymas in Sonora, the most north-west state in the republic of Mexico. The is but a personal opinion, someone else might dissagree. I, however, spends the two most unsubstantial weeks of my life there, slothing and gambling. (Karl May, Castle of Rocks)

Really? To me it seems like May is having you on from the very first line, and the longer it goes on, the funnier the joke becomes.

I mean, any storyteller that opens by saying "let me tell you about something really boring" either truly loathes his audience, or has a wonderful--and ballsy--sense of humor. The extent of the tale of boredom signals either the square acreage of the author's hatred for you, or the metric tonnage of his cast-iron comedy cojones.

RSLancastr
24th May 2011, 07:42 PM
Really? To me it seems like May is having you on from the very first line, and the longer it goes on, the funnier the joke becomes.

I mean, any storyteller that opens by saying "let me tell you about something really boring" either truly loathes his audience, or has a wonderful--and ballsy--sense of humor.

OR, thinks that they can describe a boring place in a very interesting way!

EeneyMinnieMoe
24th May 2011, 07:52 PM
You know, I have the strong feeling that I have had this happen to me on more than one occasion- but I can't think of a single example.

There should be a name for that.

I second Lord of the Rings, though. The hobbits don't even get close to leaving the Shire for the first eighty pages or even longer. Boring and long beyond belief.

It took me several tries to get through even the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring because of that. I must have made four abortive attempts over two years or so to read the book.

RSLancastr
24th May 2011, 08:34 PM
You know, I have the strong feeling that I have had this happen to me on more than one occasion- but I can't think of a single example.

There should be a name for that.

There is: Aging. Get used to it. :D

CJW
25th May 2011, 06:38 AM
I know I've read that one, and may well be conflating it with Hellfire Club

The Hellfire Club focuses on a dysfunctional family that runs a publishing company where the authorship of one of it's most popular books "Night Journey" is under question. There is a decades old mystery surrounding a missing young author and a current situation where the main character is kidnapped by a serial killer - To say more would be....criminal!

I've reccommended this book to many friends, but most have trouble getting past the prologue.

angrysoba
25th May 2011, 06:53 AM
I agree with philkensebben on the Life Of Pi. I found the first few chapters very tedious, but I warmed up to it not so long after. Great read.

I don't agree with this at all. I really liked the opening chapters about the boy's life in Pondicherry.

As it happens I thought there were some boring chapters towards the end. There seemed to be one really, really looooooooooong chapter that seemed to entirely be about going up and down on waves. At least that's how I remember it.

As for the OP, one book that I had to try two or three times to get into was...of all things...100 Years of Solitude. I actually love the book and think it's really really good but the first time I tried reading the opening I simply didn't find it very interesting.

Satanic Verses starts badly as well. In fact, it might not ever improve or it might become excellent but I'll probably never find out because the beginning was so rubbish.

Let me see... I didn't get on with Catch 22's beginning either. Not sure why. It's brilliant though.

Best first chapter of a book is Enduring Love by Ian McEwan.

RSLancastr
25th May 2011, 02:32 PM
The Hellfire Club focuses on a dysfunctional family that runs a publishing company where the authorship of one of it's most popular books "Night Journey" is under question. There is a decades old mystery surrounding a missing young author and a current situation where the main character is kidnapped by a serial killer - To say more would be....criminal!

I've reccommended this book to many friends, but most have trouble getting past the prologue.

That sounds very familiar.

Then what was the book where a group of old men have been meeting every month for decades, and at each meeting, one of the members tells the others a scary (but true) story?

Dinwar
25th May 2011, 02:59 PM
No surprise.I've made something of a name for myself as a Tolkien fanboy, is what I mean. :D

In childhood, I found “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” something of a trial to get through in its first few chapters I read it a few years ago--my sister (English professor) got a copy of this and "Through the Looking Glass" for Christmas and it was sitting on a shelf. I finished it. That's about all I can say for it. I like the idea of the book--a truly alien world, with completely different rules--but the execution was so poorly done in my opinion that it just drove me away. It's like looking at the world through the eyes of someone who is truly mentally ill.

I recall, though, having great difficulty getting started with "Atlas Shrugged". Really? I'll admit that Dagney never held much interest for me, but Eddie and Hank certainly held my interest. Of course, in the case of Hank it's partially due to the fact that he shares my view of steel (something of a rarity).

Madalch
25th May 2011, 03:38 PM
I see what you did there ;)

To my great shame, I fell for the hype that the Mallorean was clever for following the Belgariad story since the protagonists didn't resolve it fully.
You know it's bad when your protagonists start complaining that this adventure is a lot like the last one.

Sherman Bay
25th May 2011, 03:42 PM
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

"Call me Ishmael..."

Dead out of the box, all of them :)

JSFolk
25th May 2011, 10:55 PM
That sounds very familiar.

Then what was the book where a group of old men have been meeting every month for decades, and at each meeting, one of the members tells the others a scary (but true) story?

That would be Ghost Story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Story_(Straub_novel)).

RSLancastr
26th May 2011, 07:45 AM
That would be Ghost Story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Story_(Straub_novel)).

So I got Ghost Story conflated with...itself?

dropzone
28th May 2011, 08:04 PM
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

"Call me Ishmael..."

Dead out of the box, all of them :)Not even close. In those cases the books went downhill from the opening lines.

For me, life is too short, and my attention span is shorter, than to plod through a boring first chapter in hopes that it will get better. Granted, I can enjoy a beautifully-written description of something boring, but a boring description of anything gets the book put back on the shelf. Unless the author is participating in some sort of art for art's sake masturbation it's his job to capture our interest and hold it.

Howie Felterbush
1st June 2011, 09:28 PM
That sounds very familiar.

Then what was the book where a group of old men have been meeting every month for decades, and at each meeting, one of the members tells the others a scary (but true) story?

Not a book, but a couple of Stephen King's short stories (The Breathing Method and The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands) take place in this sort of club. King strongly suggests that the club in which they meet is sort of other-worldly.

Nursefoxfire
2nd June 2011, 01:03 PM
Not a book, but a couple of Stephen King's short stories (The Breathing Method and The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands) take place in this sort of club. King strongly suggests that the club in which they meet is sort of other-worldly.

And Isaac Azimov's Tales of the Black Widowers is sort of like this, too. A group of old men who meet 1x per year to tell creepy stories (although Stephen King's stories were creepier).

Andrew Wiggin
3rd June 2011, 12:53 AM
And Isaac Azimov's Tales of the Black Widowers is sort of like this, too. A group of old men who meet 1x per year to tell creepy stories (although Stephen King's stories were creepier).

At least the black widowers usually solved the mystery at the end. Those were actually a lot of fun.

Tricky
4th June 2011, 04:47 PM
The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner. The first chapter is literally "a tale told by an idiot", being the story as seen through the eyes of a severely retarded man. If it hadn't been for the fact that it was required, I probably wouldn't have made it through that first chapter. But I'm sure glad I did.