Here's the scenario. You're reading a story where there are several characters and a town trying to deal with a killer. There's a core group of five characters that the story concerns, since the killer has actually targeted them. The author has chosen the omniscient point of view, dabbling a little here and there, getting you in the mind of each character at different times. Adding to the mix, the author has also chosen to give you the points of view of other side characters--a cop who is investigating the crime spree, other detectives working with him. Then, after three hundred and fifty pages, you find out that what you've spent your time reading is about a computer game, where only the five central characters are supposedly real. Everyone else, and the town itself, are just constructs in a computer game, which the five central characters are playing. (And they only figure this out at the end?)
Often, when I finish a novel, I'll just put it out there without adding spoilers. In this case, however, I think readers should be given the spoilers because I don't want anyone else to waste their time with this one. The book: Skin. The author: Ted Dekker.
Maybe I'm not being fair. Maybe the punishment--telling people to avoid this book--doesn't fit the offense. Maybe as writers we should be more graceful about other writer's work. Personally, in this case, I don't care. I think it's a violation of trust when you drag readers along on an almost four-hundred page journey, giving them inside thoughts of characters that turn out to be only computer generated skins. It would have been better to tell the readers about the scenario up front, let the central characters know they are in a game, and then let the game spin wickedly out of control, with people dying both in the game and in real life. As an author, using that strategy you could at least build the level of suspense and conflict without creating a catastrophe in your work.
Ted Dekker has written better stuff. His book Thr3e is a worthy read, and I won't give out the spoilers on that one. Skin, however, is not his best stuff. Not even close.
Even so, I'm glad I read the book. More than anything else, it taught me what authors should not do: destroy their reader's trust. Once destroyed, it is hard to get back. Will I read another Dekker book? Probably. Not anytime soon though.