fantasy · reading

A Reason Not to Read the End First

Me, I read the end of a book all the time. I do it randomly, sometimes to find out if a character I like will survive, things like that.

So last week I was reading the second Sharing Knife book, Legacy by  Lois McMaster Bujold. I read the end and then I read bits and pieces of the middle.

And you know what? It sucks. I really like the main characters. And the author destroys their lives.

I am not going to say it was unexpected. Despite not actually reading most of the book, this was an outcome that the author hinted at in the last book. She did more than hint in the first few pages of Legacy. So it wasn’t surprising.

But really! She rained wholesale destruction on their lives.

I have read – I don’t remember where – but I have read Lois McMaster Bujold say she likes to take the thing that their society likes least and do that to the characters. (I think that’s a really great way to murder your darlings.)

She does it in spades. By the end, they got almost nothing left for people to destroy. There is still hope, but yeah.

I am still shocked by what happens to them and I don’t know how or even if I will actually read the book.

I would probably have finished Legacy by now if I hadn’t read the end first. So, yeah, this is a reason not to read the end first.

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11 thoughts on “A Reason Not to Read the End First

  1. Welp, I can safely avoid that one then! I remembering hearing the advice once that good writing involves making things as hard as possible for your characters. I thought of that when I started in on the Battlestar Galactica reboot (of all things) because every time they would work their way out of a crises, another would hit. But, they were actually able to work their way through! This sounds more like elongated Book of Job fan fiction.

    On a totally other random reading the end of of book notes, my buddy and I in High School would read the first line and last line of every book we were assigned. We figured if the two lined up well enough there wasn’t any point in reading the inbetween bits 🙂 As I recall we LOL’d when we tried it on Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

    I found it on Gutenberg and while the first line is basically what I remember: “One sultry evening early in July a young man emerged from the small furnished lodging he occupied in a large five-storied house in the Pereoulok S——, and turned slowly, with an air of indecision, toward the K—— bridge.”

    But the ending they have is totally different from what I remember: “Raskolnikoff repeated his confession.”

    I remember the last line being something like, “That’s as much of the story as can be told now, perhaps later more will be written.”

    So, either my 20+ year memory is off, or its a different translation? We’ll go with the latter 🙂

  2. EEk! I can honestly say I’ve never read the end first but I can see why some people do. I’ve thought about it when I’ve been about to not finish a book.

  3. Ahh – you are your own undoing.

    If an orfur had meant you to read his/her/its book backwards / about face / outside-in, they could save a lot of money on collation and imposition and simply bind the pages in random order.

    The only legitimate reason for reading the end before the middle is if it’s a mathematics test book or a reference book with an index – or The Bible, which let’s you cut out all the who begat who and when tedium and get down to the fiery reign of terror stuff – though you do miss out all the smiting and incest.

    The book where reading the end before the beginning really worked for me was “The Joy of Foreplay,” which was better for cutting out the squelchy stuff and let me get straight to the snoring loudly part.

    For anyone reading the end of this comment first, – don’t bother with the rest; It’s waffling drivel.

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