Most books that sell well have nothing to offer but a halfway decent story. That story may not be well told, but it is still a story.
I think it’s because of this that the readerly world will sometimes sneer at the kinds of books that appear on bestseller lists, and associate books that offer only a good story with shallowness. “Where’s the depth?” “Why should I care?”
But really, there’s nothing wrong with a good storyteller weaving a good story. There’s something wrong when readers can’t recognize how bad the storyteller is (I’m looking at you 50 Shades of Grey). But that doesn’t mean a good, solid, exciting plot is bad.
We think “Everything popular is bad” (Oscar Wilde, incidentally), but just because stories are popular doesn’t mean they’re bad. It doesn’t mean experimental fiction should be embraced, even if it’s unreadable, just because it’s different.
Take “The Magicians and Mrs. Quent.” It’s not a work of great depth. It’s not making larger statments about humanity, or society, or history. What it is is a rollicking good yarn, where Victorian relationship drama collides with mad magical and political machinations. It’s got an interesting take on gender, love that you can relate to, and characters you can invest in.
It’s not going to revolutionize the novel. Or break barriers. Or even do anything that hasn’t been done before. But it’s fun. It’s delightful and exciting. And there’s nothing wrong with that.