Is there such a thing as a novel (/TV show/movie) having too much story? I'm beginning to think that it's possible. There's a very fine line between packing in as much action as possible, and packing in too much action.
I'm currently reading Kim Harrison's The Outlaw Demon Wails, which is what brought this question to mind. I truly enjoy how real to life Harrison manages to make her fictional world, and how complex and real her main character, Rachel Morgan, feels. I love how life interferes with Rachel's plans as much as it does any real person's. However, I'm only halfway through the novel, and I find myself wondering how Rachel is able to keep moving. She feels real, reacts real, but has so much stuff tossed at her, does so much in a day, that if she really were real, she'd need an adrenaline shot every once in a while just to keep it up.
I imagine that fans of the TV show 24 can relate. I've never watched the show, but the fact that Jack Bauer never falters after twenty-four hours of nonstop action, always managing to save the day and the world (right?) begins to stretch the boundaries of willful suspension of disbelief. At some point, even heroes need to sleep, need to eat, need to take a breather and relax. Even real-life special-op marines sleep (perhaps only in four-hour increments, but they sleep nonetheless).
Similarly, I used to adore Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series, but in the more recent installments, I've found it harder to suspend my disbelief as Anita goes longer with less and less sleep and more and more strenuous physical activities.
Yet, reading about people relaxing isn't exactly captivating, is it?
Like I said, there's a fine balance. As a reader, I need the downtime as much as a character might. I need time to appreciate the events that have just happened, the changes that have just altered the character's lives forever. I can think of several authors that manage to make these "down times" as memorable as the high-action moments, their knack for pacing immaculately tuned. Off the top of my head, there's Peter V. Brett (obviously fresh on my mind), Jacqueline Carey, and Charlaine Harris. All three have completely different styles, but all three are masters with pace.
Don't get me wrong, though. I still love Harrison. I just have to pace myself while reading her.