As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m not a fan of science fiction novels, and in general I’m not wild about fantasy either; I tend to gravitate toward books that have a realistic setting. I’ve been wondering what it is about science fiction/fantasy that turns me off (and what it is about some fantasy book that I love!).
I considered the few fantasy books that I do love:
For the latter three books, part of their charm (for me) lies in the way that ordinary children—ordinary in that they live in “our” world—encounter magical, hidden worlds that lie parallel to our own. These worlds become essential parts of who these children are, and the worlds benefit because of the children’s presence. When I was a kid, I read and reread Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe countless times. I was fully on board with the idea that there were magical worlds lying just beyond my perception: my dolls moved and talked as soon as I left the room. My toy dinosaurs were going to come to life—all I had to do was find the magic key and matching cupboard. I would be able to fly once I made the right mixture of cattail fluff, glitter and dandelion petals. And of course, I waited anxiously for my letter from Hogwarts when I turned eleven.
The Giver has an opposite sort of premise, where the protagonist discovers a new world outside his own, but that new world happens to be our world.
And to be honest, I can’t really say what it is that makes The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit so special to me. I think I’ve just grown to deeply love the characters and Middle Earth over the years.
So, fantasy can be enjoyable for me, if it’s done in a way that I appreciate. Save LOTR, I usually don’t enjoy books in which the characters live purely in a fantasy world, and the “real” world is never mentioned and seemingly does not exist. I like my characters to straddle the real world and fantasy world.
As for science fiction, there’s something about it that feels too sterile to me. Too inaccessible. I’m not saying that the characters or the plot are badly written, it’s just that I can’t connect with what’s happening in the book. It just doesn’t interest me, especially if there’s too much technology. Another thing that I really value in a book is the word choice and writing style; if writing style is sacrificed for the plot, it lessens my enjoyment. (I tend to enjoy a more poetic writing style, but I don’t mean to imply that other writing styles are not good.)
Do you like fantasy or science fiction novels? What are your favorites? What is it that you enjoy about them? What do you dislike about them?