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Home » Books & writing

First Impressions 4.13.12

Submitted by on April 12, 2012 – 9:34 pm 13 Comments

Last Friday I did a post on the opening passages of the books I was reading. I received positive feedback from readers who enjoyed those glimpses so I decided to do it again this week.

When I receive ARCs, I go straight to the first paragraphs or pages before reading any of the accompanying press materials. Any book that begins with long descriptions of the weather or scenery usually goes in the donation pile. These are three openers that didn’t mention trees or rain:

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton, Crown, out April 24

I couldn’t move, not even a little finger or a flicker of an eye. I couldn’t open my mouth to scream.

I struggled, as hard as I could, to move the huge hulk that my body had become, but I was trapped under the hull of a vast ship wrecked on the ocean floor and moving was impossible.

My eyelids were welded shut. My eardrums broken. My vocal cords snapped off.

Pitch-dark and silent and so heavy in there; a mile of dense water above me.

Only one thing for it, I said to myself, thinking of you, and I slipped out of the wrecked ship of my body into the black ocean.

I swam upwards towards the daylight with all my strength.

Alpha by Greg Rucka, Mulholland Books, May 22

Mario Vesques was sure he was going to make it, right up until he saw the knife in the dog’s hand.

He had no idea where the blade came from; what he did have was just enough time to realize he was in trouble, and then the cartoon animal was lunging at him in a way that Vesques recognized, had seen before, but yet couldn’t immediately place. Only as he got his left forearm up for a cross-block, felt the tip of the knife nicking skin as it split his sleeve, did it click.

What Comes Next by John Katzenbach, Mysterious Press, June 5

As soon as the door opened, he knew he was dead.

He could see it in the quickly averted eyes, in the small slump of the shoulders, the nervous, hurried manner as the doctor moved rapidly across the room. The only questions that immediately leaped to his mind were: How much time do I have? How bad would it be?

Based only on these opening passages, which would compel you to read further? Would you be interested in my doing this as a regular feature?

Happy Friday the 13th!




  • I’ve only read Afterwards, and I can’t remember whether or not you’ve read Sister, her first. Afterwards was good – really good – in terms of making me want to sit and read and do only that. But I also felt it was really manipulative, which in my book is, like, the worst curse word ever when it comes to books.

    I’m super curious to find out what you think of it, though, because there is no denying that Lupton writes some good, outside-the-box sort of stories.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I don’t like being manipulated, either! Unless it’s done so subtly and well that I don’t realize it until it’s over.

      I haven’t read SISTER. Did you like that better?

  • Eddy says:

    I will be interested in your take on “Alpha”. I like Greg Rucka’s first three Atticus Kodiak books, but once he stopped using one-word titles it felt like the character and stories went off on a tangent. Here’s hoping that his return to a one-word title is a return to good story telling.

  • Lauren says:

    Oh, I love this feature, so I hope you keep doing it. It’s very interesting for me, because I rarely if ever read any part of a book before I pick it up. I’m a word-of-mouth, jacket description, or “other description” reader. Never read blurbs, never or rarely read openings. So it’s fun to try and guess or get a feeling what a book is going to be about by these openings.

    At first blush, Afterwards sounds interesting. But when she leaves her body and swims towards the light, I start to fear it’s going to be some sort of ghost story where a character is looking down on his/her loved ones. No thanks. But I go read the book description and it has nothing to do with that. And, it also sounds interesting. Will await your thoughts, but it intrigues me.

    I’m a big Rucka fan, but this opening doesn’t grab me. Also, I’ve read elsewhere that the main character’s name is “Jad.” We’ve had the character name discussion and at least his last name is “Bell” and not “Granite,” but still. Although Atticus Kodiak (a Rucka character) is something of an offender, too. Though strangely it didn’t bother me. So I will definitely pick this one up, but more because I know/enjoy Rucka rather than the opening.

    The third one intrigues me, enough to read a summary. Which both is a turnoff and interesting. Will be interesting to hear what you think of this one if you review it. I keep an open mind.

    If I was to rate before reading the opening, I would have ordered them 2,3,1 but based solely on openings, I think it’s 3,1,2. Makes me think about how I choose my reads, for sure.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Does 1 mean you’d read that one first? I’m confused because you said the ALPHA opening doesn’t grab you, but after reading it, you’d move it up to 1 from 3?

      Thanks for the vote on making this a regular thing.

      • Lauren says:

        Sorry, that was kind of confusing. I was numbering the books 1-3 and putting them in the order I would have read them before and after reading the opening. So originally Rucka would have been at the top.

  • EIREGO says:

    I like them all, but if I had to choose the book I would be most interested in reading, it would have to be ALPHA. A dog wielding a knife? I’m so there.

  • Jann says:

    Gosh, I guess I’m in the minority here. It’s a good thing I don’t read first pages because if I did, I’d never pick up any of these books. Sorry, just didn’t do it for me. That said, I may have to go back to read the first pages of some of my favorite books to see if I’d feel the same way about them. (I don’t think I’ve ever used so many “I”s before).

  • Paulette says:

    I love this feature! I would read all of these based on the openings!

  • Nora says:

    Late to this, but I found Sister so tiresome and so manipulative (great descriptor — sure writers all manipulate to some extent, but a reader shouldn’t feel used afterwards) I’m a little gunshy when it comes to her new book. I’ll have to wait and see on this — if I see a bunch of great reviews, maybe.

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