Space Opera Q2: The "Plot" and structure


The book didn't have so much as a "plot" as an excuse for a sequence of bizarre situations. Even the "eliminate a competitor" conflicts near the end of the book were rather tacked-on. On the other hand, books like "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and even "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" had about as much plot as "Space Opera", so is plot over-rated?

Related to this is the structure of the book, with alternate chapters of background exposition and the trials of the Decibels. Did that work for you? Did you like having exposition, or should it have been worked into the main sequence of events?


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    I found the excuse for a plot adequate unto the task. I found the exposition chapters interesting and pertinent to the main plot. No problems there.

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    Yeah, same. I noted the lack of plot. I don't specifically need plot - but when it's there, it does have to make sense. I'm not sure it did in this book, and I never really bough into the 'musical performance as a way to measure the worth of a species' angle. But it did provide a good platform for the satire, so it served a purpose all the same.

    As for exposition, I'm open to all kinds of ways of doing this, frankly. Mody Dick follows the same alternating chapter model, and you all know I quite like that book.

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    I figured the 'musical performance as a way to measure the worth of a species' was what you had to accept to read the book, like 'The Force is a pervasive energy in all living things', not something I actually was expected to believe.

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    The alternating structure was fine. The "eliminate a competitor" business dragged - there were a couple of good situations, but most weren't there.

    I've issues with the book, but the absence of plot wasn't one of them.

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    I guess the classic division is plot - character - setting (which last we often refer to as world-building here). I certainly don't think a book has to have all of these, and some authors excel at one of the three, and let the others just bobble along. Equally, some genres favour one of the three over the other two. But for repeat readability, I think a book has to do pretty well at at least one and ideally two of the three.

    Did Space Opera have any of them to a great degree? As @NeilNjae said, the plot is a thin tissue draped over a collection of bizarre settings. Characters were there but not really strong or memorable. World-building - outside of the extraordinary diversity of alien races, I don't think there was much.

    So I appreciated encountering and reading the book, but I can't imagine going back to it. Moreover, the lack of strongly developed plot/character/setting has meant that it was very hard describing the book to my significant other. "It's kind of about the Eurovision song contest, but in space" I said. "Really? That doesn't sound very appealing". "Well," said I, "I suppose it's really about how the way aliens can relate without killing each other is through music, so that music is the fundamental organising principle and test of sentience." "Oh? Did that work". I'm still thinking about that.

    Re the comments of others, I agree that the whole sneaky let's-eliminate-others subplot seemed rather crudely tacked on, and didn't really need to be there. Maybe it's a key part of the real Eurovision thing?

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    I could have put up with the paper-thin plot if the bizarre situations had a bit more oomph. The one time they did- the elimate-a-competitor - well, like other commentators this seemed a bit slow. I didn't find myself itching to find out more about the universe the way I would in a better-built one, like Douglas Adams say - it didn't feel like there were hidden depths to explore beyond everything that was shared in the first few chapters, where the whole concept, plot, and universe were spaffed out in the first 2 chapters. From that point on it felt pretty predictable.

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    it didn't feel like there were hidden depths to explore

    Pretty much this is the main thing that separates a good setting from a bad one, for me. This is partly why I struggled with The Broken Earth so much, I think.

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