I was recently laid up for a couple of days, and basically could do nothing more than sleep, eat and watch TV. I watched A LOT of TV. Queued up in my watch list were three new shows “for which I had much excitement.” And anyone who watched Will Forte’s latest foray into television will get that reference and know that THE LAST MAN ON EARTH was one of them. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend this teaser clip. Another hotly anticipated show I watched? DIG. And the last was AMERICAN CRIME.
The AMERICAN CRIME pilot was absolutely riveting. Spot on casting and acting; tense, riveting writing, and at the end of the show, I couldn’t wait for the next episode. Unfortunately, I had the exact opposite reaction to DIG. While I am a huge fan of Jason Isaacs and love this concept, the pilot itself was dull and disjointed, and I’m going to wait for the rest of the season to play out before investing any more time. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH was charming and funny and touching, and it kept me interested. I’m definitely looking forward to the next episode of that one, too.
A pilot episode is exactly like the opening pages of a book. They have to give enough information so no one is lost, but not so much back story that boredom sets in. They have to keep the pace fast and the tension high, but have to balance action with a character worthy of our love. They need to make an audience want to know what happens next and tune in for episode #2.
Like TV pilots, some books nail this balancing act, and some don’t but are still solid enough to keep reading. And some come up woefully short, falling into the dreaded DNF pile. I’ve read my share of all of these variations lately and with so many books and so little time, I’ve become quick to drop a book that’s dragging – or worse, feels ridiculous.
One recent book that definitely didn’t drag was the much praised THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. By page nine, I was already flipping back to the beginning to pick up clues and try to ferret out who did what to whom. My heart hurt as I imagined the worst happening to (or being perpetrated by) characters that – nine measly pages in – I had already become hugely invested. And I knew that no matter what I thought was happening or would happen or did happen, I was still going to be thrown for a loop somewhere down the road. Yup, nine pages in and I was on edge, the pages turning as fast I could make them.
I ripped through THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN over a weekend, binge reading it just as I’ve binge watched many a show, including the first several episodes of both AMERICAN CRIME and THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. And like those shows, I will be thinking about it for a long time to come.
What books have you read that absolutely, positively hooked you from the first page, and never let go? Conversely, are there any that began with a slow start that ended up being a can’t-put-down favorite? Any universally praised books that ended up in your DNF pile, leaving you scratching your head at their rave reviews?