Yep, that’s me. I’m one of those. I peek. I look at the end of books before I finish them. Sometimes I look at the end of chapters. I skip around all the time.
Often my excuse is simple: I look ahead to see how many pages are left before I finish the chapter, the section, the entire bloody book. I glance forward to see how many pages there are, period.
I consider those legitimate glances. Anyone, in the right circumstances, would do the same.
But the peeking. Oh, the peeking. Now that’s a nasty little habit.
Writers complain about peekers all the time. Peekers ruin endings. Peekers ruin the experience of reading the book. Occasionally I—in my role as writer—warn people not to look ahead.
Look at the hypocrite. Do as she says, not as she does.
Not that I peek all the time. I usually read in chronological order. But if the book is an unexpected child-in-jeopardy novel, I peek. Because I never read child-in-jeopardy novels—at least, not on purpose. Hence the word unexpected before child-in-jeopardy. The new Dresden Files novel is an unexpected child-in-jeopardy book and yes, once I figured out what it was, I peeked. I skipped ahead to see if the kid survived.
If the kid isn’t around by the end, I don’t finish the book. I won’t tell you whether or not I finished the Jim Butcher novel. That’s not fair to you non-peekers. And the kid shows up right at the beginning, so I’m not issuing any spoilers.
But, jeez, as a child-in-jeopardy avoider, I was annoyed.
(Once again, hypocrite that I am, I occasionally write child-in-jeopardy stories. Yep, can’t help myself. Wish I could peek to the end when I write those as well. It just doesn’t work that way. And honestly, I often don’t know if the kid will survive as I open the file to page one. Wish I did.)
Other cases where I peek? TSTL characters. For those of you who don’t read romance, TSTL is a romance term for “too stupid to live.” SF usually avoids TSTL types (for some reason, they abound in romance), but if there are TSTL types, they’re usually secondary characters, who often have a point of view section. I want to scan those sections. If the TSTL character gets too annoying, I peek to see how much of the book is devoted to this idiot. And if too much is devoted to TSTL types, I abandon the book.
I have no qualms about abandoning books. Life’s too short to read everything word for word all the way to the end. Especially with a TSTL character or some poor kid who’s gonna die anyway.
I probably should stop the peeking. At least, that’s what all my writer friends would say. But I’ll bet, if you sneak a look into their house as they’re reading, you’ll catch them peeking at the end of a novel before they legitimately get there. Sure, sure. They’ll tell you they’re checking the page count or looking at the author bio. But don’t believe them.
Just like everybody else.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch