I’ve started reading my third Stanislaw Lem book and of the three it is the lowest rated on Amazon. The reason’s clear to me; the book is a difficult read, takes a long time to explain concepts and has displayed very little advancement in the plot. The following quote exposes the problem to me, it follows an entire chapter explaining why new ideas are not accepted in scientific circles, ‘All that I write here is to that point’.
This problem is so noticeable to me that the three novels are rated, in my opinion, according to the pace of their plot and the amount of unnecessary descriptions. From lowest to highest scores on Amazon, it goes His Masters Voice, Solaris, and the Invincible. This further reinforces the standard advice that staying focused when writing a novel and cutting the fat produces better work, and I believe it’s important for a writer to think this way. If something can be said in ten words or a hundred, it’s usually better said in ten.
While I’m certain that this is a good belief for a novelist to have, I’m not so sure it’s a good belief as a reader. There will always be portions or books that a specific reader won’t like. For example, the popular and well-regarded manganese Death Note has a portion which I found boring in the middle, it’s the corporate plot, and everyone who I’ve lent the series to has stopped reading at that point. While that’s fine, no art is entitled to the viewer’s attention, it is essential to the plot, and does confirm how smart the main characters are. Addressing specific themes or plot lines will occasionally require uninteresting passages, and for me, I try to give the writer some breathing room, trusting that the boring segment will be proven necessary.
This is the real rule for writing. We shouldn’t always follow the belief that less is better, it depends on the context. While the statement, “Christopher ran to the train and boarded it. He sat and waited until it reached the destination.”, does accurately represent a man riding a train towards a final confrontation, any tense scene requires establishing, perhaps revealing the man’s thoughts or describing the journey in a way which anticipates the confrontation. As a reader, we have to trust that the writer is using these moments correctly, and as a writer we have to establish that trust, and not lazily abuse it.