Moving On

Well, I finished R. Scott Bakker’s The Warrior Prophet, but I had to force myself to do it.  I just could not get into that book, I found I didn’t have a care one way or another about the characters or what happened to them, and I was overly enthusiastic with his philosophical style of writing.  A comment on sffworld.com that made a lot of sense to me was that the characters were “sterile.”  That I definitely agree with.  They were.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like them or their motives, I just didn’t care.  Like a tv rerun you watch for five minutes and then change the channel.

So, I am moving on.  That’s right, I’m not finishing the trilogy.  Hard for me to do, but I’m doing it.  I’m going to take a break from fantasy for the time being, mostly to clear my head of Bakker’s works and discover again that there is lots of new, good fantasy out there.  I’m diving into a genre I don’t read very often: mystery.  I don’t read it very often because there is so rarely a mystery story out there that interests me, but when I find a good, man do I devour them.  And the one I found, one that’s been staring at me from bookstore shelves for a while now, is definitely fantastic so far. I haven’t wanted to put it down; I’ve wanted to go deeper into the woods…

Tana French’s In the Woods, is a murder mystery set outside of Dublin, Ireland.  So far, 55 pages in, I feel more connected to these characters than I did to any of Bakker’s characters after two whole novels.  The story is engrossing and disturbing so far.  Just what the doctor ordered to reinvigorate my reading.  I’m loving it.  If you are looking for a good read, check this one out.  I hope it keeps getting better!

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Better Than the First One

I completed the first book in R. Scott Bakker’s trilogy wondering if it might take me all of 2010 to finish the other two.  I thought it was a ponderous book – good, but ponderous.  It wandered.  It philosophized a little too much for me.  I think that if it weren’t such an expansive universe he created, with so many characters and factions, the philosophizing might not have gotten to me so much.  But he didn’t and consequently I felt like there was just so much to learn!  Did I really want to learn all that much about a fantasy world?

But the pace of the story picked up towards the end and I completed it.  When I picked up The Warrior Prophet, it was not without trepidation.  But it moves quicker, at least so far in the first hundred pages.  I think that is partly because I know the characters now (I hope there aren’t a ton more coming!), I know more about the different factions than when I started the first one, though most are still a bit mysterious.  I know more about the plot, though it has fuzzy lines too.  I feel more like I can sit down and enjoy reading this book and less like (I did with the first one) I have to set aside time to contend with it.  I do not feel as if I have to sit down and be taken to school.  And that is a good thing for a novel.  So far, I like the second one better.  I wonder if the third will be just as much better by increment?  At least it won’t be 2011 before I find out.

To Know What Is Before

Well, I finished The Lies of Locke Lamora, and loved it.  One criticism I have is that I wish the villain, the Grey King, was more developed. A good way to do this would have been to include interludes for him such as those which were included for the Caldo brothers, Jean, and Locke.  A glimpse into their pasts.  I did believe the Grey King’s motivation, I just wish I had been shown it instead of told it.  But, all in all, a great book, worthy of your attention and I can’t wait to follow Locke’s future exploits, as well as Scott Lynch’s development as an author.

Now, I have moved on (in life and in reading-I changed jobs and moved 7 states away) to R. Scott Bakker’s first installment in the Prince of Nothing trilogy, The Darkness that Comes Before.

So far I am enjoying it, but it is a far more difficult novel to tackle than Lies.  There is a lot of philosophy behind Bakker’s ideas and writing, as there should be for a man with his collection of degrees.  It is good and very interesting, but it is dense.  I find I have to concentrate and read at long stretches; I cannot sit down and read two or three pages because it takes time to get into the right zone to read it, and once you’re there, you cruise, but you have to dedicate yourself to it.  I am constantly referring to the glossary and other assorted appendices (maps, language charts, etc.) and I really think they are effective.  They orient me to his world without giving away plot points.  80 some odd pages into it, I am getting a grasp on the characters, some of the various factions, who a general idea of who like whom and who doesn’t.  I look forward to getting deeper into his world, particularly as he explores concepts such as religious conflict and warfare.

I am also very fascinated that he chose what good Christian theology considers to be two different aspects of God’s nature, transcendence and immanence, and split them up, assigning those beliefs to two opposing religious factions.  Inrithism (notice the “INRI-” at the beginning of that word) are the immanents and the Fanimism are the transcendents.

Fantasy Revival

I grew up on Fantasy novels.  When I was in the third grade, my Dad gave my a hardback, illustrated version of The Hobbit, without much preamble.  I read it and liked it, but felt I didn’t really understand it.  I read it again the next year and fell in love.  The following year, the 5th grade, he gave me his hardback Lord of the Rings and asked simply if I wanted to know the rest of the story.  I replied increduously, “There’s more?!”  And I ate it up, even setting my alarm clock to an hour earlier than normal in order to get more reading time.  For a while there, I read it every year.

Then I turned to the DragonLance novels and enjoyed most of those, but there was no denying the qualitative difference.  Over the years I’ve read a lot of the big names in fantasy – Jordan, Goodkind, Martin, etc. – and a few of the smaller ones, too.  But I’d say most of the fantasy books I’ve read in the past decade have been piss poor.  I pretty much gave up.  I never finished the Wheel of Time.  I agonized over the fact that Martin’s books weren’t finished yet.  I devoured Harry Potter just because it was well written sorcery, but I wanted, I don’t know, more adult depth of character.  I wanted shit to go wrong, because it does.  I wanted to see a character make a poor choice and then have to live with the consequences not get out of it with a deus ex machina.  I wanted…more. And no one was giving it to me.

Then I picked up The Blade Itself on a total whim, because I liked the cover and I’d never heard of Abercrombie or his publisher, Pyr.  Abercrombie, in a word, delivered.  Delivered everything I’d wanted out of my fantasy.  He reinstated my love of the genre and my belief that great fantasy could still be written.  I think people had to throw off Tolkien, I don’t know.  People, for ever in a day, couldn’t write fantasy without thinking of or being compared to Tolkien and I honestly think (as much as I love Tolkien) that kinda killed the genre for a while.  No matter what press praised a book on the cover as being “as good as Tolkien,” or, “the next J.R.R.!” the fact of the matter was that it simply wasn’t.  Couldn’t be.  And didn’t need to be.  Thank you Joe Abercrombie!

I’ve read all four of his published novels now and loved them.  The First Law trilogy better than Best Served Cold but we’re talking matters of degrees of greatness here, not leaps and bounds.  I’ve visited his website and gotten his list of recommendeds.  I bought a few this weekend.  I stopped reading a piece of shit Eberron novel because I got to the middle of the trilogy and realized I didn’t care.  And now, I’m excited and am not looking back.  Goodbye, shit fantasy.

Hello to:

Scott Lynch, James Barclay, Patrick Rothfuss, Steve Erickson, Richard Morgan, Alex Bell, R. Scott Bakker, Tom Lloyd and whoever else is putting out great stuff.  Basically, if Joe Abercrombie has said on his blog it’s good, I’m going with that.  Because right now, he’s the platinum standard.

I’ve started with

and so far, I can’t wait to read more.  There’s so much awesome fantasy out there right now.  Put down the shit you’re reading and go get some.