I like a book that grabs me with a really riveting opening. I’m not the most patient fellow, so an author needs to make a good first impression in those opening pages, or I might pull the ripcord and jump to something else. Re-reading Andre Norton’s Witch World brought this notion rushing back to me. It’s got one of the best opening scenes of any fantasy or sci-fi book I’ve ever read. Sucks you right in.
Allow me to elaborate. Witch World tells the story of Simon Tregarth, a desperate, war-haunted man hunted by assassins and forced to choose escape by the most desperate of measures, the Siege Perilous. In passing through it the person incurs its judgment and travels to another place worthy of his or her character and standing. Tregarth gets the Witch World, but in the moments leading up to that fateful passage Norton paints a vivid picture of her lead character’s desperation. Hunted to the ends of the earth and now cornered, Tregarth’s character and bearing remain noble and engaging. When he makes that passage to the next world you simply must read on to see what happens next.
Here are three other titles with dynamic openings:
Setting The East Ablaze: Lenin’s Dream Of An Empire In Asia / Peter Hopkirk — This book isn’t fiction, but it reads like it. Hopkirk’s prologue immediately sets the table for intrigue, “Great Game” style, in this gripping historical account of England’s attempts to foil the rising tides of Bolshevism in Asia.
A Game Of Thrones / George R.R. Martin — A looming winter that threatens to envelop the world? A macabre massacre? Killer wights? Martin lets you know right away that this will not be elves singing in sylvan glades.
Imajica / Clive Barker — The mysterious Mr. Chant prowls the damp, dark streets of London well past dark in search of a very special assassin. What he finds is more than he ever bargained for.
Now it’s your turn. Care to share a book title that ropes the reader in and leaves him or her unable to put it down?
8 responses to “It’s All About The Opening”
I loved the beginnings of Ready Player One, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.
That certainly beats “It was a dark and stormy night. A shot rang out.”
I haven’t read Norton – but seeing as how “Witch World” is the beginning (I hate coming in in the middle), it looks like a good place to start.
I can’t think of an opening that grabbed me, but I do there have been lots of openings that I had to slog through to get to the good parts.
Ah, sadly, you got me interested in rereading the Witch World books… but they are very out of print (except for some very expensive used copies). Sigh.
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan … positively takes your breath away. I dare you to stop reading.
I had to read the opening over immediately because, well, I simply could not believe what Morgan had done.
Don: I looked at the first pages on Amazon. You’re right: it’s gripping – but no only for what’s happening, but for his way with words:
“… join the curlicues of smoke …”
“… rotor blades on the fabric of the night …”
“… an assembly of low-frequency sine curves …” (Sarah, sleeping)
Lots of great similes, and only a single “like”.
The Amazon search leaves off just where I’d think the book ends – everyone dead.
Actually, that’s where the first chapter ends! Everyone dead … then the story begins. At that is the story …
Witch World (Paperback)
Used, from $1.02 (Used – Very Good) to under $10 (Used – Good). All plus $4 shipping.
There’s one hopeful soul:
“$101.67 + $3.99shipping (Used – Like New)
I’ve bought from Amazon sellers before, and never had a problem.
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