How many POVs is too many?

I have been listening to The Disappeared: A Retrieval Artist Novel, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, because I wanted a sci fi detective story, and so far it is interesting and fairly exciting, but I am finding myself somewhat annoyed by how many POV’s it has.

I find myself annoyed by the cliff-hangers every time it switches viewpoints. As a strategy to keep the reader moving, I’m not sure this works as well as I used to–and everyone still seems to–think it did.  Maybe it works with just two viewpoints, but with 3 or 4 or 5, by the time I get back to the exciting place we left off, I find myself not caring as much, and more thinking about what I just left behind. This is very likely not the same for all readers, but I think there is a drop off point for how often you can switch viewpoints and still have effective cliff hangers.

Another problem with constantly changing views, especially in a detective story, is that I know much more than all the characters know. Watching a detective discover something is not nearly as exciting when I already know the secret because another character saw it or did it in a previous chapter.

A specific example in this book (The disappeared), we follow the main detective of the story as he deduces, using some clever investigations and questioning and hunches and reasoning (all very well written) to figure out that another character is lying, and what her real story is. Unfortunately, it’s not so exciting to read because we already know exactly what happened to that character because we saw it from her point of view in a previous chapter. So instead of turning the pages to find out the secret, I’m turning the pages thinking ‘hurry up and figure it out, man’.

The story so far still has my interest because it’s pretty intriguing, and I like the characters. But it’s not the detective story I’d hoped for, due to all these POVs.


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