This past weekend I finished a science fiction post-apocalyptic book that’s done pretty well for itself.
It did a lot that I admired. The author managed tension like a pro, raising the stakes just a little bit higher with every chapter. The setting was unique (at least to me, I’ve never read anything like it), and the threats came from every corner. It was brilliantly plotted and well written.
But to tell the truth, it didn’t interest me very much. I finished the book, but won’t be reading on in the series. It took me a while to understand what didn’t work for me, because I think the book is really well done in a lot of ways.
The answer, as cliche as it is, is characters.
For whatever reason, the characters in this story just never clicked with me.
And when a character doesn’t click, I don’t really care very much what happens to them, and so life and death stakes become meaningless.
Life and death stakes can be incredibly compelling. Most of my favorite books have at least an element of physical danger.
But only if we care about the characters.