I receive a certain number of comments about my work. Some readers cannot wait for the next book, and others, an apparently much smaller number, dismiss my books as repetitive. With that wide a gap, is one group wrong… or deluded… or not comprehending? I’d have to say, “No.”
This kind of dichotomy has likely existed from the time of the first novels and lies in the basis of the human psyche.
Obviously, at least obviously to me, a novel or story must initially entertain or otherwise provide some form of satisfaction to the reader. However….a novel which merely recounts a series of adventures or events, without an underlying value structure that motivates or challenges the protagonist and the reader, no matter how threatened the protagonist may be or how great his or her achievements may be, is essentially a mindless adventure story, or, if there are no adventures, a totally meaningless mass of words, even if each sentence is perfectly polished.
This would suggest that readers who continue to read my novels, or those of any other writer, for the entertainment value alone, but find them “repetitious” aren’t getting the refreshment or reaffirmation of their deeply held values because the values depicted through the story don’t resonate with them. After all, we all know that there’s nothing more tiresome than someone telling stories that reiterate old platitudes that we’ve rejected, found unsatisfying, or that don’t match our perceptions of how “the world” operates or how we’d like it to operate. That’s why one group of readers can find a book deeply satisfying and another group, equally intelligent and perceptive, can find the same book repetitious and “boring.”
While a large number of readers read primarily for entertainment and escape, a significant number read for more than that, for a greater understanding, often of who they are and what they believe, as well as to affirm – and sometimes to challenge – what they believe and hold dear..
Although I doubt there are any sociological studies that test this thesis, to me it makes perfect sense why Game of Thrones is so popular and resonates with so many viewers and readers. The values, or lack of values except self-interest, and the comparative moral relativism embodied in Martin’s work reflects a widely held popular perception about the current power structure in the United States and other technological societies – that everyone is corrupt and venal to some degree and that everyone is, foremost, out for his or her own self-interest, regardless of the consequences to others.
That’s why, frankly, I have little interest in Game of Thrones, and found the one book I forced myself through to be a well-written but boring repetition of violence and human venality that held little appeal to me, while millions of others find it absolutely spell-binding. And I suspect many of those millions would find, and have found, my work “repetitious.”
All this suggests that when someone reads the work of a long-published and successful author and labels it repetitious, it’s far more a reflection on the views of the reader than an objective assessment of the work in question.