Thoughtful Thursday: Reading is not a spectator sport.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsSo, I don’t know if you’ve noticed here in the states (for those of you who are in the states), but there’s this thing going on called the World Cup, which is basically just a month long journey of concentrated awesomeness. I’ve been watching the World Cup, and after straining my throat yelling at the game this morning, from my nice office on an entirely separate continent and hemisphere from the actual action, I wondered why my emotional involvement in this distant event was considered normal. There were so many people watching the game at work today that the walls actually shook from the screaming and jumping up and down when Landon Donovan scored his goal in stoppage time.  My husband, a thoroughly heterosexual man, texted me and said, “I want to have Donovan’s baby.” And for some reason this lunacy is considered normal.

And then I remembered.

The times I have yelled at a character. “Seriously, you’re going to play games with the big mysterious magical artifact now? Deep in the evil overlord’s palace? Really?”

The book that has been thrown across the room hard enough to break its spine. Not to put the book out of its misery, but to end my misery from reading it.

The tears shed as a beloved character has died. The shock of grief. The denial.  The turning the last page looking for the story to continue and your friend to be miraculously saved, only to be greeted by the author’s biography on the dustcover.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsAnd I realized that for an audience, the emotional connection to an event is the same for a reader and a good book, as for a vuvuzela wielding, flag waving, face painted fanatic jumping up and down in a stadium on a foreign continent.

So ‘fess up, dear readers: What’s the strongest emotional reaction you’ve ever had reading a book?

The reader who comments with the best story of (true) emotional craziness in your reading history will win a hardcover copy of The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass, or a different book from our ever-deepening stacks.


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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit’s staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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15 comments

  1. I can remember being totally floor-ed when !GAME OF THRONES SPOILER ALERT – Ned Stark was killed – ALERT 0VER!
    I was in total shock because it was all but unheard of at the time for a main character to just buy-it like that, in the very first book of the series no less.

    Not sure if its on topic or not, but I remember when I finshed the last book of the Thieve’s World series that I was very melancholy when it hit me that I wouldn’t be with these characters again. I guess that’s the first time I felt an emotional attachement for fictional characters and I didn’t even realize it had happened until it was over. I don’t know if its because I’ve read so many epic series since then that I’ve become immune or if it takes so long between books now-a-days, or if I just haven’t stuck with enough series till the last book -if there is actually a last book- but my attachment hasn’t been as strong for a long time and I miss that. :-((

  2. I was originally going to talk about the days of melancholy following the ending of The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, but then Greg mentioned the
    *Game of Thrones SPOILER!!*
    Eddard Stark thing…and I remembered my first reaction to that scene. I literally screamed at the injustice of my absolute favorite character meeting such a senseless demise.

    It actually ruined the series for me. I started to read book two but found that I just didn’t care anymore.

  3. OMIGOSH!! His name was Eddard…Didn’t someone call him Ned?
    Well I guess its to be expected, how long ago was the last book out now? Centuries ago surly.
    GRRM sure did shake things up though.

  4. cup oh and as for World Cup, I have an international house of sorts and we get a little crazy around world cup. When Donavon landed that goal my wife left forth a paint peeling squeal of joy, there was also much high fiving and jumping around.

  5. I had the same reaction to A Game of Thrones. I was so mad!! Not just the deaths. What he did to Bran… Hey, I’m still mad!

  6. GRRM don’t play.. and apparently he doesn’t finish books anymore either.. :chase:

  7. I’ll see you your Game of Thrones and raise you one Exiles series by Melanie Rawn. She kills off on of my favorite characters at the very end of the book, leaves it on a cliff hanger. Then she never writes book three, and goes on to write other stuff instead. Then to add insult to injury, she keeps talking about how book three is the next thing on her list, but then something else comes out. It’s been over a decade now.

    Grrrrrrr.

  8. Why would an author treat his/her fans like that? I mean where would they be without their support, right?

  9. Ok. Don’t laugh. And I’ve read Wayfarer -so I’m good, but I do want to share my experience. I just finished Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon. And it affected me spiritually. I’ve never sympathized so strongly with a set of characters as I did with the believers of the Goddess. My relationship with God has always been a testy one. I’ve never considered myself a Christian because, well, I question the virgin birth. Not that the Jesus Man wasn’t a great man… but I’m seriously harshing against the spread of Christianity right now, and the withdrawing of the Goddess into taking whatever little scraps she gets when someone prays to the Virigin or the Goddess Hera or something. I realize I am just a pagan at heart. Always have been, always will be.

  10. Tears, lots of tears. I cry a lot more often at scenes in books than in movies. I remember reading the Lord of the Rings as a young teenager and crying, throwing the book across the room in disgust – at a particular scene with a spider monster… have re-read it but do not have the same reaction as an older jaded reader.

  11. Anonymous /

    All honesty- the one that sticks with me the strongest is Anne Bishop’s ‘Dark Jewels Trilogy’. In a trilogy, i think it’s impossible to not get sucked into the world. You finish the first one and all you can think about is when you can buy the next one. With all the different connections between the characters, it was impossible to not relate to at least one of those relationships… i finished the last book sitting in an airport terminal and my brother looks over at me: “What the hell? are you crying?!”

  12. I remember crying when Cedric Diggory died in HP4. What a shock.

    IMy book throwing moment goes to Terry Goodkind, an author who had two completely unneccessary instances of violence against young children. One just to show how truly evil the bad guy was, and the other I’m not sure what the purpose of it really was, because I tossed the book hard at that point and never looked back. A group of women who killed boy babies by smashing them to death, both scenes written in loving detail, just wasn’t worth my time reading any more. People have raved to me about the rest of the series, it’s not for me.

  13. I was really young when I read Streams of Silver, so hopefully that explains my reaction, but when Bruenor went falling down the Gourge on top of the dragon Shimmergloom, I was incapable of comprehending that a main character could actually die. Of course, I also missed all the hints and foreshadowing that he survived. I still remember saying, “Hey, what the…good guys aren’t supposed to die!” Just dumbfounded.

    I also read Asprin’s Myth series after I got out of college. For a humorous fantasy series, reading about Skeeve growing up, trying to become a leader, and dealing with responsibility always really connected with me and lead to a lot of self examination.

  14. The only time I have ever nearly thought about wanting to throw one of my precious frien- I mean books across the room was not too long ago after reading the Hunger Games and then Catching Fire. I could handle the first ending with a bit of a cliff hanger, but once the second ended with an even bigger “DUN DUN DUUHHH” moment, I almost lost it. Don’t know why, it just hit me that the characters were leaving yet another adventure and on the verge of something HUGE and I couldn’t go with them right away! GAHHHH! Okay, there’s mine. =] Oh, and some tears in Order of the Pheonix… I could have sworn Sirius was too amazing to have anything happen to him… :'(

  15. I can’t bear Thomas Covenant, the unbeliever. That’s how and when I realised I WANTED to believe in my fantasy. I positively ranted at him : it was not fair, he had no right, etc. :-X :-? . I will never forgive Donaldson for creating such a contrary man ! Seriously, I felt most unbalanced while reading these books.

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