I read quite a lot, usually about two novels a week, plus short fiction, news, and tech documentation. Unless my stress and anxiety is too high, I always have a book at hand.
When I’m reading, I like to lose myself in the story. For me, reading is an escape to another world, a chance to get away from all of the things about the real world that are bothering me, causing anxiety, frustration, panic, etc. When I pick up a book (I’m a science fiction and fantasy reader, primarily) I’m primarily looking to get away from my world.
Given that and the fact that I’m a writer and editor, there are a number of things that I actively ignore. Spelling, grammar, and typographical errors, which are not always the author’s fault (they are often introduced during printing). Word choices that make no sense to me (sometimes it is lingo or dialect I don’t understand). The choice to data dump at the beginning of a book, rather than spread it out (authorial choice–sometimes it works, sometimes not).
In any case, these are the things I actively ignore. One of the things I’ve noticed over the last couple of years is lazy world building, or maybe it’s bad jacket or back cover copy. For me, as a reader, I pick up a fantasy novel and the contract I make with that novel is, “I suspend all my real world beliefs and submit to the belief structures set down in this fantasy world.” It makes it easier to be transported to that world, to get to know the characters, to be part of the world.
So what happens when the author of said fantasy novel takes a real world religion or country, changes one letter of its name, and recasts it as something “new”?
What happens is I immediately put the book down and pick up a different one.
Inevitably, there’s one of two possible things going on: the author isn’t spending enough time world building (“I’m more interested in the characters!”), which to me is a crime, because the world is one of the most important characters in a fantasy novel. Or the jacket/back cover copy is written poorly.
I’ve read books where both cases happened. In one case, I started reading a book, thinking it was pure fantasy, and discovered that the languages the main character was being taught were Latin and English. I put the book down, though I did eventually go back and read it. It turned out, the jacket copy was bad. It had been described as pure fantasy, and was really post-apocalypse fantasy.
In other cases, I’ve never gone back. These end up being lazy world building, and I just can’t bring myself to watch one of the largest, most present characters in the book be glossed over so entirely.
Sometimes (though rarely) I can forgive lazy world building, if there are other story elements that make up for it. Is the story so focused on one location that the rest of the world doesn’t matter?
In the end, we all have our preferences. What are yours?