Books: On The Suspension Of Belief

What, exactly, is the suspension of belief? Essentially, in fiction, this is where the author creates a situation where one can suspend their belief that “this can’t happen. Give me break”. Sometimes it is really easy, as with books on zombies, vampires, Frankenstein, and so many others within the horror and science fiction genres. Not always. I love a good zombie book (they are not really about the zombies, but about people surviving in tough situations), but I’ve started a few that make it impossible to suspend the belief. Same with some scifi and horror.

You don’t have to believe in what the author is pushing, but a good suspension of believe allows for an excellent read. Consider the Nightside and Secret Histories books by Simon Green: a secrecy place in London called the Nightside? Return of King Arthur? Magic? Druids watching the world? It works. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files? Magic? Demons? A wizard protecting Chicago? It works.

Harry Turtledove writes excellent alternative history books. Consider his World War series. It relies on the South forcing an end to the Civil War, essentially giving them a win. This all stems from a simple premise: instead of a messenger losing General Lee’s battle orders with them being found by Union soldier, a Confederate notices the drop and hands them back ( look it up, this is real). Instead of the Union winning the battle, what if the Confederacy won, and France and England told President Lincoln to settle, and there was two nations? Resulting in different outcomes in WW1 and WW2?

What brings this up? Two books. The first is Stealing Second. I did not finish this one. Why? Here’s my brief review

I really wanted to like this book. I usually avoid heavily political fiction, even books that agree with my political leanings. They have to be really entertaining for me to make it far in, much less finish. While this is entertaining, there is just too much wrong in order to suspend belief.

Spoilers ahead.

First off, there is a serious issue with the timeline. Things happen way too fast that would never be able to happen in America. In a very short time, the President declares certain guns verboten, then says all guns must be turned in, then puts out an Executive Order suspending the 2nd Amendment, deploys the National Guard, has law enforcement rounding up guns, then citizens are being shot, hung, or thrown in magically appearing detention centers? The main character getting into really good shape and losing lots of weight in a few days? No. Sorry.

Could this happen? With a proper buildup to provide that suspension of belief. But not as laid forth. There is no way that any of what was mentioned could happen without a long buildup. A president could not issue any orders to collect all guns, nor suspend the 2nd Amendment. Nor total martial law. Nor can a president arbitrarily call up the National Guard for domestic use in the manner described. It would take an act of Congress.

And I heavily doubt that the majority of law enforcement and military members would abide by what they are told to do in the book, nor go nuts and shoot and hang fellow Americans. More than likely, most would side with The People in support of the Constitution. You can bet those in Red States would revolt. And would Congress and state government blindly go along with all this? No. The conditions to allow this to happen were not created.

If you read In Due Time by J.K. Jones, and the After Eden series by Austin Dragon, you see those conditions created.

A little thing, they are not “clips”: they are magazines.

It was a good start, but, sorry, no.

Then there is The Second Revolution, which I just finished. What happens in the beginning is similar to the other book, yet, it is much more believable. A better timeline. A better buildup. President in both give illegal orders, yet The Second Revolution provides a more plausible story (I’m trying to avoid spoilers) by creating a proper suspension of belief. In essence, it works where Stealing Second fails.

I’m not trying to discuss politics regarding the two books, just illustrating how little changes can create a better story. Especially since I am very reticent when it comes to political books. I tend not to even like little political references, even ones I agree with, in fiction.

Though, I will say that conservative leaning books, like talk radio, are light years better than liberal ones. 🙂

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