The Goodreads Writing Challenge
James C. Rocks
Just after the start of 2021 I saw the Goodreads writing challenge and, despite the obvious driver for the site (more people reading presumably drives more trade towards their parent company, Amazon), it seemed like a pretty good idea so I decided to have a go. I was already enjoying E C Tubb's thirty-three book "Dumarest" series (twenty-one books in) and was planning a re-read of some my favourite "Doc" Smith books so surely, I thought, it would be a doddle. I list all fifty books (for completeness) at the end of this blog but, suffice to say, it was educational and, more to the point, I was wrong! Some way into the challenge, I embraced Amazon Kindle Unlimited, a three-month free subscription, but decided it wasn’t for me as I don't read enough high-priced books to justify it and many authors that I liked seem to have left because they had issues with the way Amazon was "high-handedly" treating them. Still, I finished one of my favourite authors series "(Jay Allan's, "Crimson World Refugees") which was excellent and started another (his "Invasion" series) which wasn't as good as I expected. I also finished the "Dumarest" series and thank [expletive deleted] for that because they were getting really, really "samey" and, to be brutally honest, the ending wasn't anything like as good as I had hoped it would be. I re-read, through the half-squinted eyes often needed for a modern reader to truly enjoy older books with older moral standards, both the "Skylark" and "Lensman" series by the late great E E "Doc" Smith, enjoying them immensely. Reading the books brought home to me (and not for the first time) that Smith was, while possibly better than some, very much a product of his time. And I read for the very first time, the late, great, Isaac Asimov's, original "Foundation" trilogy on the basis of which I went on to watch Apple TV's "Foundation" based on the books and the prequels. Despite great actors and effects, it was slow, hard to follow and difficult to care much about any of the characters. The drama's style (along with that of other shows on the channel) suggested to me that Apple TV might be aiming for a kind of deep and meaningful production; to my mind a triumph of style over substance. So, what else did I learn? Well, that James Blunt can be almost as funny as James Felton is cynical for a start. I also reaffirmed my belief that classic science fiction authors like Larry Niven, John Wyndham and, as I say above, Asimov are or were truly good writers. I continued to enjoy Dennis Taylor’s "Bobiverse" series as well as books by Iain M Banks, Gareth L Powell, John Wyndham, Andy Weir and Luke Smitherd. I discovered new authors David Koepp, Timothy Zahn and Drew Karpyshyn and also that Ben Elton was much better than I thought he would be. However, as one might expect, it wasn’t all good. Joe Kassabian’s, "The Prisoner's Dilemma") was awful and Robert Shearman very nearly turned me off movie/TV tie-ins but, fortunately, I also read the first of Drew Karpyshyn’s excellent “Star Wars” tie ins. I managed to complete the challenge just after Christmas and, following some significant effort, it has to be said it was anything but a "doddle". To paraphrase one of our greatest leaders, NEVER IN THE FIELD OF HUMAN READING WAS SO MUCH STRESS GIVEN BY SO MANY BOOKS TO SO FEW PEOPLE! By that I, of course, mean me; setting targets on something I would normally consider a pleasure is just plain nuts! I think I'll keep my challenges to something constructive in future, writing maybe! On the plus side, while Jay Allan still reigns supreme on the space opera side of things (slightly shakier on account of his recent "Invasion" series starter) and I still love many of those classic authors, I have some new favourite authors including Gareth L. Powell, Ben Elton, Timothy Zahn, David Koepp, Drew Karpyshyn and Luke Smitherd. I will be looking forward to reading more from them. Thanks for reading.