Two days ago I finished reading Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and once again I noticed something – if this book had been written in the 21st century it would have been done as at least a 4 part series with 400 pages per book. This way it was a 230 page single volume book.
There’s so much that happens in this book – years and years of action, murder after murder, investigations, trials, imprisonments, travels and exploration. Now, Mary had the good luck of living when she lived, because the resulting book is fast paced, not tiring, easy to read and fun. If, instead it had been written by a modern writer the first part of Viktor’s education and research would have been done in such detail (and on at least 500 pages) that after the “it’s a live!” moment the average reader would have given up. But luckily Mary didn’t do that and we are happier for that.
Now, why is it that the modern writers seem to have the need to spew page after page after page?
One might ask in return – Well, didn’t Dumas and Hugo write bible-long novels as well?
Well, they did, and they weren’t alone, but their 1000page novels finished in one volume, the action did not taper off, and if they did publish multiple volumes there was narrative reason for doing that. In today’s novels (excluding some exceptional multiple-volume novels) this is not the case. When one reads them one gets the feeling that the author forced the pages out of their pen (or keybord as things are today). The action is diluted and the characters are vapid and two-dimensional (I should write another post discussing how it is possible to not build a proper character when a series is 2000 pages long, but not today).
All this results in two groups of readers: 1) readers who gave up after volume 1 or 2… and who are angry because they don’t know what happens in the end, or how things get resolved because often the action is transparent; or 2) readers who finish the entire series and are then angry because they spent weeks, months of their reading lives on shit.
Now, again I have to repeat, there are exceptions to this. There are series which have captured thousands of readers in their worlds, who have created such intricate worlds that they sometimes seem more real than the thing we live in now, but those are not the series I am talking about. Those series have one arching action, but each volume is almost a standalone novel. The series I talk about are the ones where the single action is unnaturally divided into more than one volume. The series where you almost wish the hero / heroine had died in the first volume, and then you feel bad for wishing that on a character.
When all this is said I still read multiple volume novels because I am a reading masochist. The result is then when ever I start reading a book which is a part of a series I bite my nails with apprehension.
All in all I loved the book, although the first time I read the name Frankenstein in the book, I felt the need to pronounce it “correctly”