Pet Please #101: Not Knowing When a Book Will End

Leviathan WakesYesterday I had something very, very rare happen to me: A book ended abruptly.

We’re used to this happening with movies. You never know exactly when a movie will end, and that uncertainly often keeps you on the edge of your seat. You never know if the scene you’re watching will be the climax.

But books? You know when a book will end. You can see it coming from either the physical pages or the location meter on an ebook. You can’t not know when the end is near.

Well, I learned yesterday that there’s one trick a publisher can do to put that uncertainty back into reading. Some readers may not like it, but I love it.

I was reading a fantastic book called Leviathan Wakes, recommended to me by fellow game designer Grant Rodiek. Some big stuff happens, and a character is about to give a speech about it. He opens with a monumental, game-changing line, and then the chapter ends.

At this point, the location meter on the book is about at the halfway point. Thus I assumed there would be another chapter (and many others) after this line.

But there wasn’t. The book ends on that line. I literally gasped, and I’m not a dramatic person.

I loved that. I loved that a book caught me off guard like that. The trick, it turned out, is that included with the ebook was an entire other book from a different series by the same author. So the book I thought I was reading was only half of the package.

Have you ever had this happen to you? Did you like it, or do you prefer to know exactly when a book is going to end so you can prepare for it?


3 Responses to “Pet Please #101: Not Knowing When a Book Will End”

  1. I love surprises like that! It is quite a shock when you first realize though and a definite risk for the author. I wish it had been an intentional trick and not a ebook misinterpretation.

    Another favorite dramatic tool of mine is the worked shoot, where the creator blurs the lines between fiction and reality and you aren’t sure if what you’re seeing is scripted or “real.” Used quite a lot in professional wrestling, it’s also been employed to great effect in movies (like Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop) and books.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Oh yes, I love the worked shoot. Have you read Neil Gaiman’s latest book of short stories? There are several stories that he writes from the perspective of himself, and as they get more and more fantastical, you still kind of hold onto the hope that they’re real–that Gaiman has access to worlds that most people don’t get to see. I love those types of stories.

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