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Good books are dangerous

Posted by nightphoenix on October 10, 2010 in Books |

They suck away whole hours and days of your life. They occupy your mind even when you aren’t reading them. The people in them can become as real or even more real than the flesh and blood people you actually know.

So what does that make us writers?

Anyway, I just finished The Maze Runner by James Dashner. It was good, but not the sort of book I’d write. Although I could take a page or two from him on how to pace a YA story, and how to sustain a mystery throughout a book in a way that’s intriguing, but not irritating. My only complaint was that sometimes the kids’ relationships in that book didn’t quite ring true. Honestly, they weren’t mean enough, petty enough, cruel enough. There wasn’t enough Lord of the Flies for me to quite believe it. But maybe that says more about me than it does about the author. 😛

On the recommendation of several different people, I have started The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I’m enjoying it so far, but I don’t think it’s going to quite match the sheer scope and power of The Way of Kings. However, one quality that I appreciate is that fact that it’s not as fast-paced as most epic fantasy, and far less fast-paced than the typical YA fare I devour.

It puts me more in mind of Robin Hobb’s Assassins trilogy, in that the main character is telling the story of his life, and is in no particular hurry to get to the “good” parts. The character’s voice is equally if not more intriguing than the events taking place. It’s not that there’s nothing interesting going on, but it’s a book than I can read a few pages and then put down again without…pain? Can’t do that with The Wheel of Time. Can’t do that with The Way of Kings. I don’t think this is a book I could just sit there and read for hours and hours at a time…it doesn’t spur you on and on and on. He eases you into the character at a nice leisurely pace. Yet it’s interesting enough that I want to get back to it.

I think that’s the sort of pace I want my Tindaari epic to have. Because while it’s an epic, it’s a character epic. I’m following five or six people throughout a large chunk of their lives…several decades. Stories like that just can’t run at a breakneck pace. Tindaari is also less about War (like most epic fantasy), and more about the interaction of Religion, Intrigue, and History. Yes, there is war, but the story is much more about all the threads that led up to the war…the war itself is rather short, and right at the end. More like an almost-war. I will reserve final judgment until I actually finish The Name of the Wind, but so far I think it’s one I will definitely try to emulate in pacing.

My chief complaint about the book so far is that even though it takes place on a completely different world, the author keeps using specific fantasy tropes from our own world. (And I’m not talking about demons…that’s become a fairly generic class of creature.) For example: The Fae. I can accept that another world might have fairies, but I would expect those fairies to be somehow; in language, behavior, lore, whatever; connected to that world. Rothfuss is not doing that with the Fae in The Name of the Wind. He’s using OUR fairies, OUR faery lore, OUR conventions to characterize them. (Allergic to iron, sometimes called the folk, same organizations: Twilight Court and such, graceful, ethereal, elusive, mischievous, cloven feet, etc.) And every time he does it, it throws me out of his fantasy world…because I associate those kind of faeries with OUR world. They’re too specific, and thus they don’t mesh with the rest of the world he’s created.

I think maybe he’s trying to follow the rule of not calling a rabbit a shmeerp, just because it exists in an exotic world. He wanted Fae in his story, and so he simply called them Fae (instead of making up some word for essentially the same beings). The problem, however, is that the history and existence of the Fae are all tied up in the history of Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia, and other real countries.

Same thing with using words like Aleph or Ruach. Those are actual Hebrew concepts…with Hebrew connotations, weight, and subtleties that just don’t make sense and would probably never develop in a world where Hebrew culture never existed. It’s like the author has taken these ideas without bothering to really integrate them into the fabric of this other world he’s created. Aleph and Ruach don’t naturally arise from the history, lore, and mood of the his world. He hasn’t provided any reason for Fae, or words like Aleph and Ruach, to exist as they do in THAT world. It begins to feel like a cheap substitute for worldbuilding.

Which is odd, because other elements of that world are completely unique…like the Chandrian…and those play right out of the history and fabric of the world. Those belong, in a way that the Fae do not. It’s not like the author didn’t do his worldbuilding. The history of this world is actually quite interesting, and seems very well-thought out. I think maybe he though he could use the Fae like he used demons…in a generic sense. But to me, the Fae are too specific, and too tied into this world to transfer. It’d be like, instead of angels and demons, using Lucifer and Christian saints in a completely fantasy setting where Christianity never existed. You can’t do that. They don’t belong there.

That turned into a bit of a rant. Let me be clear that otherwise I’m really enjoying this book, and would recommend it.

Also on the reading list:

Finally finished White Cat by Holly Black. Not bad. Will be reading The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Claire as soon as I get my copy from the library. Also thinking of reading the Coldfire trilogy by C. S. Friedman. I’ve read two other of her books and quite like her writing style. Going to see if I can find the Uplift trilogy by David Brin as well, on the recommendation of the guys on Writing Excuses.

And um, I’m going to be writing in there somewhere, too. I hope. Like I said, good books are dangerous.


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