Has anyone else experienced reader fatigue?

I’m a quarter of the way through book three of the Newsflesh Trilogy and something weird is happening. I loved – lovedFeed and Deadline. I couldn’t put them down. The third book, Blackout, is also great, but it’s a struggle to read.

If you’ve yet to read any of the books, think of Scooby-Doo meets zombie apocalypse (well, ish). Only the villains are super powerful, so powerful in fact that the hero’s don’t seem to stand a chance. I wonder if that’s the problem?

Can you ever give your main characters too many impossible situations? Situations tend to get more perilous as the plot moves on, which makes books like these particularly tense.

Tension spikes

Take Lord of the Rings – the tension in all three books tends to undulate. Bad stuff happens, and you worry about the characters, but there aren’t many scenes that cause a serious amount of tension. (I’m thinking scenes like the Black Rider almost finding Frodo in the forest.) I’d say that Tolkien keeps the characters and the world in an almost constant state of peril, but uses tension sparingly.

The Newsflesh Trilogy uses tension spikes. One-moment things are relatively calm, the next the characters are fighting for their lives against impossible odds. The pattern is kind of rest – extreme tension – rest, which is exhausting for a reader (at least for this reader).

Too much tension?

Okay, so maybe it’s wrong to compare a sci-fi zombie trilogy to the founding work of fantasy fiction. Zombie fiction is supposed to be tense. I get that, but there comes a point when the tension changes from something that forces the reader to keep turning the page, to something that makes the reader have to put the book down and do something else.

For me, Feed was a real page-turner. Reading Deadline, I found myself annoyed that there seemed to be no way for the characters to escape their all-powerful enemies (the zombies aren’t really the enemies in this trilogy). Blackout has added another layer to the enemies power, and they don’t appear to have any real weakness.

I’m not at the end of the story yet, but I feel that if the good guys win, it won’t be a clean cut, instant win, it’ll be a change that needs time to permeate society.

And finally…repetition

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I read this, but I remember reading a great bit of advice for writers. When you read a book, keep an eye on the parts you intentionally skip. It’ll help you spot the same issues in your own work.

In this trilogy I’ve found myself skipping quite a bit as the story moves on, such as:

  • Paragraphs that go over old information – personally, if I love a story I remember the important information, like a death, and don’t need to be reminded repeatedly.
  • Constant descriptions of the same action – characters in these books need to take many blood tests. Once I’ve read how this happens once, I don’t need to read the same thing every time they take the test. There’s also a lot of Coke and coffee consumed in these books. I know what Coke and coffee tastes like, and don’t need to be reminded all the time.

This makes reading the books rather an odd experience. I go from bored, to tense, to relaxed and interested, and back again in a kind of never-ending loop. I’m not saying that I‘m not enjoying reading these books, just that the writing style is exhausting.

I can’t wait to finish Blackout and start a more sedate book.