Novels that are largely padding

I just finished reading Robert Heinlein’s The Number Of The Beast and was extraordinarily disappointed by how much of the book was pointless padding (boring minutiae over programming the computer, arguments over who gets to be Captain, and the author expounding their pet theories). The actual “stuff happening” part of the book was surprisingly small, I thought, and that got me thinking about other books that I’ve read where the author clearly only has enough material for a short story (or novella at best) but has expanded it out to a full novel (perhaps for contractually obligatory reasons).

The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Afghan, where a major sub-plot element appears to only be there because otherwise the book would be a bit short, but I realise there must be other books where there’s as much (or more) “padding” than there is actual story…

So, anyone got any candidates?

the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, with at least one entire book that is all padding and little substance.

I came in to mention him. By Book 4, his *prologues *were approaching 150 pages.

It was The Number Of The Beast that stopped me reading Heinlein.

If R.R. Martin could just focus a little bit, he might have been able to finish the Game of Thrones series. There is just way too much padding.

I didn’t find it that bad. Definitely more style than substance but the style was Heinlein’s style :dubious:

On the OP I’d nominate Tom Clancy’s later books. The Jack Ryan series progressively gathered more and more padding - much of it repititious - at the expense of the plot. Did the man not have an editor? Or was he too important to argue with? (That’s ignoring the daft, wish fulfillment, plots!)

Tristam Shandy. It takes him three volumes to even get to Tristam’s birth!

Remember that what we think of as “padding” was once thought of as “additional color” or “corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude.” Dickens’ for example has LOTS of padding, as do most 19th Century authors. I’ve been re-reading R L Stevenson, and his adventure stories are very slow moving and “padded” by today’s standards. Modern novelists tend to go right for plot, sacrificing character and environmental, si?

Agree with Jordan, disagree with Martin.

Jordan can go on for pages about the embroidery in someones tunic, or repeat character tics (Nynaeve tugging on her goddamn braid!) over and over and over. This is definitely padding. The foremost criticism I have had while reading TWOT was “this man needs an editor he’s not sleeping with!”

Martin doesn’t pad, really. There’s very little pointless description. His characters do tend to wander before they get to the plot point, but that always seems like an author in need of an editor, again. Martin’s problem is that he’s not moving forward on the rest of the series very quickly, not that he’s padding what he is actually publishing. If anything, he’s padding his “timecard” with blogging about freakin’ football instead of writing the novels we want to finish reading.

The Time Traveler’s Wife, with its long, pointless descriptions of Claire’s artwork. The author decided that if Claire was going to be bored by Henry’s long absences then, dammit, so were the readers.

Almost anything by Stephen King.

One man’s padding is another man’s entertainment. If you think a book is highly padded, maybe you are reading it for the wrong reasons.

That said, I find John Norman’s *Gor *novels, which I read primarily for the plots, get more and more padded with the philosophy of slave/master relationships as you get further into the series, with less and less time spent on the potboiler stories.

I came in to mention Robert Jordan without even having read any of his stuff!

Galaxy 666 by Robert L. Fanthorpe, writing under the pseudonym Pel Torro, has to be the poster child for this. Not only is the plot pointless and paper-thin, but Fanthorpe upped his word count by apparently finding a thesaurus and simply copying out of it.

You want pointless padding? Try this:

Fanthorpe reportedly got $20 for this. He was overpaid.

If it wasn’t the artwork, it was whatever high end meal they were having :rolleyes:

I agree sometimes on Stephen King, but usually he does padding quite well, an example being the part in The Stand where he gives little anecdotes of several accidental/coincidental deaths that happen because of the plague, at least I think that would apply as padding.

I’ll disagree as to both The Time Traveler’s Wife and A Song of Ice and Fire. I never thought there was too much detail/meaningless padding in those books. I like 'em. (I like Tolkien, too, and I know there are many who think his books are padded with poetry, descriptions of terrain, forests, etc.)

C K Dexter Haven is right about changing tastes (and I appreciate the Gilbert & Sullivan reference, BTW). I’ve read both The Turn of the Screw and The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James, and dear Og, the man was clearly paid by the word. He goes on and on and on and rarely, if ever, does anything actually happen in those stories.

David Palmer wrote a novella, called Emergence, which was serialized in Analog magazine. He also wrote Seeking, which was a followup novella, also serialized in Analog, IIRC. These two novellas were published as a novel, and I greatly enjoyed them.

Not too long ago, he wrote a sequel to that novel, which was also serialized in Analog. Dear og, Analog’s editor should have taken a dozen very sharp blue pencils and gone to town. Palmer described, in excruciating detail, just how this particular aircraft control was tweaked one way or the other. These little notes didn’t add anything to the story, other than pad out the word count. In fact, I would argue that since the story is set in the future, that such details are likely to be completely wrong, and detract from the story. Perhaps some airplane geeks enjoyed the details, but unless the reader is completely fascinated with just How An Airplane Works, eyes are gonna glaze over and skip most of the story. Or at least, MY eyes glazed over and I skipped most of the story. Putting in all that detail didn’t increase the drama at all, and in fact greatly decreased my enjoyment of the story. There were great big blocks of airplane details, more than there were blocks of story action.

I think that this may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for my Analog subscription. I still read and enjoy a lot of science fiction. However, most of the stories in Analog are just not really that great for me, and lately I just haven’t been able to read at least half of the fiction that’s in every issue of the magazine. The science articles are mostly about things that I don’t care about, and sometimes are written way over my head…and I usually enjoy reading science articles, if I have the background to understand them. So, I’ve let my subscription lapse, with some grief. My maternal grandfather was a subscriber, and he got me started reading selected stories when I was 8, and then let me have unrestricted access to the whole magazines when I was 10 or 11. He kept all the old issues, and one of the joys of going to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s was getting to read back issues, and selected books. I’m very sentimental about Analog, and it was the first magazine I subscribed to when I had my own earned money. As the years went by, it was the magazine that I kept a subscription to, unless we were absolutely broke, and the first luxury item that I’d buy when we had money again. However, over the past years, I’ve noticed a decline in the quality of the stories, and I’ve given up on the magazine.

I’ll add Tom Clancy. He’ll give the entire history of a character who is only in one chapter.

And Tolkien.

I’ve read both of these, too, and refuse to read any more Henry James. James was the only person who could make a ghost story boring.

The Beast in the Jungle has to be his most typical novel – the title is wholly misleading. There is neither a physical beast nor a physical jungle. The entire point of the story is that nothing happens. But it takes such a damned long time to not happen.

Preach it, brother! Perhaps we should start the SDMB We Hate Henry James Society.