Thursday, August 16, 2012

Curmudgeon's Corner: Spoilers (no spoilers in post :) )

I often like to read books without any idea of what I'm getting myself into, ideally without reading reviews, without reading book jacket copy, anything. I find that immersing myself in a story without any preconceived notions of what I think it will be about, or what I think it should have been about, is the best way to experience a book that's really good. 

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)Plot is, of course, the big reason that I don't like to know anything about the book. I was spoiled for Ender's Game's plot, and although it's still one of my favorite books ever, I do wish I'd been able to read it without knowing anything about it beforehand. And then there's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, which is one book that is constructed in such a way that if I'd known anything about the book before reading it (including published reviews and Amazon reviews) I would have enjoyed it less than I did, as part of the fun is figuring out what is actually going on. (I'm really trying very hard not to mention C--- N--- V----- here! But that's another one where you really don't want to know anything, going in.) Sometimes even knowing that a book has a spoiler, or an unreliable narrator, is enough to spoil some of the fun of it for me.

There are some things I don't mind being spoiled for. Books that are just fluffy. Books I don't care about that much (apologies to anyone who loves them, but I read David Weber more for the fluff than for anything deep, so I'll frequently flip to the end to see what happened. Same with Cassandra Clare.) Romances (for the most part -- I appreciated not being spoiled for Georgette Heyer's Cotillion) -- usually it's pretty clear who ends up with whom from very early on in the romance.

Then there are some things I feel better off spoiled for. I reeeeally like happy endings, so if your book has a seriously unhappy ending? I need to know about it before I read it so I can psych myself up for it! (I don't mean if there's death, or rape, or trauma, or what-have-you, and the character comes to some terms with it -- I mean if it's actually a hopeless depressing ending, you know, rocks fall everyone dies.) Sometimes (this is more true for TV than it is for books, for whatever reason) I want to know if there's going to be a character death. Not always -- sometimes that can be one of the plot twists that I really appreciate -- but if it's telegraphed too blatantly and annoyingly, then I kind of want to know if I'm right. K.J. Parker's Engineer trilogy (which I don't necessarily recommend, unless you like depressing and misogynistic and engineers and Rube Goldberg -- if you do, well, it plays to all of those, and because I like engineers and Rube Goldberg I at least found it interesting) I had to flip to the end to see what happened to one of the characters, because if he was going to die I was going to be really annoyed.  I also like to know if a book that starts strongly is going to end up wimpy. Or if it's going to make me angry (for whatever reason... being a curmudgeon, lots of things make me angry, from bad science to misogyny).

Books I wish I had been spoiled for (in case you DON'T want spoilers for these books, I shall not tell you why exactly, but comments are fair game if you want to know): Thirsty (Anderson) (I absolutely hated this book, but one of my friends loves it). Entwined (Dixon) (which mostly I quite liked). Girl in Translation (Kwok). I'd Tell You I Loved You But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Ally Carter). (Both of which had things I liked about them, and things I didn't.)

What books do you think are best read with or without spoilers?
For more book (music/TV) rants, you can also visit my personal journal.


  1. It's almost impossible in this day and age to be surprised by much of anything. There's info about everything everywhere. I knew who the Bachelorette was going to pick before I got to watch the last episode this year. Yes, yes, it's who I wanted her to pick, but I missed out on the four hours of drama leading up to that reveal! I love surprises in books too. But I also want a general idea of what the book is about before I commit to reading it. I recently read Ender's Game myself, and the big twist in it was a surprise to me and added greatly to my overall enjoyment of the book. In fact, had that twist been spoiled for me, I'm not sure I would have walked away from the story enjoying it very much. For that book, being spoiler free was absolutely critical, because there was a lot of work to get to that point, and I needed the payoff of a nice, gut-wrenching surprise to make it worth the journey.

  2. I hate spoilers because it ruins the overall experience of the book for me. I love being surprised even if the book isn't too great and I get so mad when someone spoils a book (even a TV show or film) because all I can think of is that spoiler and I can't enjoy the book anymore. That being said, it's the reason why I can't watch a movie before I read the book especially if the movie is the exact copy of the book, like The Time Traveler's Wife, I watched the movie first and it ruined the whole book for me.

  3. When it comes to spoil or not to spoil I really don't care either way unless it is a thriller or something like that and then if someone tells me something about it or whatever then I totally have to kill that person for spoiling the book, tv show, or movie for me. However, when it comes to books I have to know what I am about to sit down and read because there are some books that I really don't care about reading. I have to make sure that those books are not sneeking into the ones I am reading. Only way to find that out, for me, is to at least read the insert or book synopis. That way I get an idea of what the book is about so I know if I actually want to read it or not.

    Like Shawn Keenan said, it is almost impossible to be surprised by anything in today's day and age, which I could not agree with more. I mean, I watch way to much tv, movies and play way to many video games. Nothing surprises me anymore so with my books I am not really looking for surprises. I like to know what I am getting myself into before I dive right in but I don't like things spoiled to much. Have to throw that in for sure, because if something gets spoiled for me to much then forget it because I don't want to watch it, read it or play it because, for me, what's the freakin point. I already know what is going to happen. Who cares how it gets to that point because, for me, it's already ruined.

  4. I'm one who hates spoilers. I prefer reading an excerpt on a book and/or reading what bloggers have to say minus giving away the whole story. I also can't stand when a reviewer writes War and Peace. You know, the ones who outline the entire book chapter-by-chapter, ad nauseam.

  5. I personally don't like spoilers at all. I read the back cover or the inside of the jacket and that is all I want to know to start! I do find myself getting impatient sometimes and my eyes will wander ahead on the page to see what the next big event is. I am trying to stop doing that though, because I find that whenever I do end up skipping to the next shocker, I wish I had read the lead-up to it before knowing what was happening. The lead-up is there for a reason and I'm always angry with myself for skipping it. Spoilers, I find, ruin the lead-up as well, and that bugs me. I'd prefer to not have spoilers around! I do have to say that, like you, I like knowing if the ending will be a sad one, of if there is a particularly sad event in the novel. Not knowing ahead of time about the sad part of John Green's "Looking for Alaska" somewhat ruined the book for me when I came across it. That being said, that is about the only time I tolerate spoilers.

  6. Getting the balance just right between knowing too much and not knowing anything is important, as a story can be ruined by spoilers and plot information. Having that element of suprise and being in the dark, is often a good thing for it leaves you in suspence wanting to read on and know more. For example i have just finished reading a book that i knew nothing about (not even the title or genre), and yet i apsolutely loved it because it kept me guessing! x

  7. I hate spoilers! I don't even like reading excerpts before I read the book. I always like to have that element of surprise when I'm reading. :)

  8. I hate spoilers of any kind and I hate reviews that dont tell you they have spoilers!! I read a review not long ago and it had the biggest spoiler ever and ruined the whole book for me. I love to read a book and have no idea whats happed in it, be it good or bad.

  9. spoilers are really annoying. and i stay as far away from them as possible ^^ but i am also like you. i really want to know if the book has a happy ending - mostly i can determine that through the genre already. that's why i don't read thrillers for example. but i really hate it if a movie or a book that has the overall vibe of a happy ending ends up destroying it at the end. that's why i read the last couple sentences of a book first. and decide then if it's worth reading - for me mind you.
    i don't think reading the book jacket is too spoiler-ish - well i never encountered one before that was. and i need to know what the hell the book is about after all ^^ there is no going around reading the synopsis.
    concerning reading the reviews beforehand: i am all on your side. most reviews ARE spoilerish - even if to a miniscule degree. and they colour your perception of the book - you can't get around that. and it already happened to me that i read a book and found it awful just like the reviewer - whereas if i hadn't read the review i might even have enjoyed it. but that way every flaw of the book was in my head while reading it and it was so glaringly obvious that i couldn't enjoy it.
    so i make it a rule not to read a review to a book i haven't read yet. i read them after - that way it's interesting to see what other people liked or disliked and how much it overlaps with my experience.
    in a way i don't even like reviews, because the ones i CAN read should be only consisting of the synopsis and an over-all feel of the reviewer about the book without any details whatsoever - and that's kind of boring and i don't read those - and the other ones i can't read, because they have spoilers and should be called book DISCUSSIONS - and i would love to read those AFTER i read the book ;)

  10. Honestly, I have to read EVERY PART of a book short of the publication and copyright details. The jacket flap, the author bio, acknowledgements. I wouldn't even start a book if I haven't read the jacket/back cover blurb. I like knowing what kind of book I'm getting into, instead of starting a book I assume is sci-fi and find out it's a contemporary. That way I have this mental preparation that gets me into the mood of the story.
    Genuinely, I have to agree with you on the bit where I spoil the fluffy books for myself. (You can often see me flipping to the back of a number of fluffies.) Usually, if a review spoils a book, I'd be fine unless it's one of those books that's meant to let you sit enraptured in the pages and tear your heart out with its pure amazing-ness. Problem is, a lot of today's books follow a lot of trends, so there's not much surprise in them. They're all being marketed off as "The Next Twilight" or "A New Katniss" which makes a great number of them very ordinary.
    For books with a bit more intricacy and depth, I have to slowly read to the end, because the plot line simply calls for it and because I would've probably driven my head into a wall if I flipped to the end and found out about some huge turning point that I haven't reached. Those books I'd look at and treasure in my heart, and would occasionally go back and read little blurbs out of, just so I can get back into the world. But if I read the entire book again, usually the experience is ruined because I don't have that piece of anticipation anymore.

  11. I hate book spoilers. I almost never even look at reviews before reading a book because I am afraid that the reviewer will give something away. I do like to have a general idea though what the book is about. So i usually will read the book jacket.