1)The handsome, intelligent hero falling for a plain, ordinary (even plump!) girl because she has a fascinating personality– and NOT because she looks good with her glasses off and her hair down. And I’m not talking about the kind of girl that thinks she’s plain but is actually secretly fancied by everyone (yes, Stephanie Meyer/Bella Swan/Bridget Jones, I’m looking at you!). I mean the woman no-one fancies, but the handsome hero falls for
2)A proper science fiction story that also has a loving, romantic intense love story. War of the Worlds comes close, with the hero’s love for his wife, but most sci-fi books either ignore love altogether, or write about it awkwardly, almost flatly (I’m not counting Imzadi because that grew out of an onscreen ship)
3)An ‘unsolveable riddle’ that is actually very very difficult. Yes, I mean you, Dan Brown. Why does a renowned symbologist take approximatively 20 pages to work out ‘A Pope’s tomb’ means Alexander Pope? How about Robert Langdon cracking the Voynich Manuscript then? That I would pay to read! (As opposed to getting it out of the library) P.S. Moments after I wrote this, I went to the XKCD comic site only to find they’ve cracked the Voynich Manuscript.
4)A murder mystery I DON’T solve ten pages before the hero does.(It can be done. I never guess the killer in Agatha Christie books)
And just in case you think I’m going on a bit of an anti-book rant, here are three books I’ve read and enjoyed recently.
The Girl in the Blue Dress – a sort of fictionalised account of the marriage of Catherine and Charles Dickens – here called Dorothea and Alfred Gibson. It’s touching, moving and insightful. It helps if you know something of Dickens life and works, but is perfectly enjoyable without. A wonderful read.
Angels and Demons. I’m not a Dan Brown fan – I hate all his other works. But I enjoyed this. Partly because Robert Langdon is Dan Brown’s best character by miles (and even better now I have Tom Hanks interpretation of him in my head), partly because I’m fascinated by the Illuminati and art history in this. The riddles aren’t great, again (something the film wisely plays down), but it’s basically one long chase sequence through the landmarks of Rome, and I love chase sequences against the clock. And the scene in St Peter’s Square at the end, with the helicopter, is spectacular, on both the page and the screen
Domino Men, by Jonathan Barnes. This is … odd. A sort of alternative history fantasy. The House of Windsor and a secret group at war over a hidden secret with each other. It’s strange, and funny, and scary all at the same time. Jonathan Barnes, unfortunately, writes young female characters very badly – they’re all described by looks alone, and seem to have no personality, but the rest of his characters are wonderful. The whole thing is heavily laced with Dickens references, and has another spectacular – and chilling ending.
So there’s my point. There’s plenty of things about the books I read to annoy me (and I’m relying on you, Dear Reader, to fix those. And me too, of course), but there’s always another wonderful book round the corner.