I recently finished a long book by an author I'd heard of but never read. It would probably be shelved under SF or maybe Fantasy even though it wasn't 100% either. While the reviews from the critics were good, they seem to be less so from readers. It didn't take me long to discover something pretty odd.
I wanted to see where the story went, but I didn't care where the characters went, what happened to them, who they were or have any emotional connection with them. Not in the slightest. At first, I thought that was a failing on my part (the reviews suggested so), but as the long story went on, I realised it was because there was no heart to them. The story came purely from the head and was aimed squarely in that direction. It was like a physics problem had come to life and written a book. The intellect was there in spades; the issues the author wanted to discuss were on the page, but the character and the heart...zero. I had as much reaction to finishing the book and closing it as I did to opening it and reading the first word.
Yesterday, I finished another book. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. This one also deals with some heavy-going science and stuff that my brain (proud owner of almost no academic qualifications) wouldn't usually touch. Admittedly, it was written in a much simpler style than the other book and played out more like a thriller than a what the fuck is he on about now tale, but they're not the most important points for me. Dark Matter had a heart the first novel couldn't come close to - possibly the reason of the difference in opinion between the reviews and the readers. After all, most people are emotional creatures, not intellect. We react more than we think and we connect to the heart of any story more than we do the head.
Maybe that's one of the reasons I write what I write. To get into your heart.