Friday, September 26, 2008

Boring writing

So, several weeks ago I stumbled across a site advertising 10 Awesome Fantasy Series That Are Not Potter or LoTR. Hmm, thunk I, fantasy fiction other than Potter or LoTR hasn't appeared on my reading list in many an age. Maybe I should give one or two of these a try.

Knowing that I will not be reading this entire list, I jumped straight to #1 and began reading Modesitt's The Magic of Recluce. And here is what I found:

Perfection, especially for a youngster learning about it from cheerfully sober adults, has its price. Mine was boredom.

A price Modesitt is happy to share ... and spread. Because that word keeps showing up, over and over again:
"But why does it have to be so flaming boring?

Besides, pots and vases bored me.

But I was still bored, even as I continued to learn.

"Just because I'm bored?" ... "No, because your boredom reflects a deeper lack of commitment."

[B]ut it was boring.

"... probably get more bored with each day.

Mind you, that's just the first 14 pages. A little while later, the writer does manage to come up with the word dull, but immediately defines it as "almost boring."

Since all fantasy novels have to be compared to The Lord of the Rings, let's see how Tolkien handles a similar concept:

So it went on, until his forties were running out, and his fiftieth birthday was drawing near: fifty was a number that he felt somehow significant (or ominous); it was at any rate at that age that adventure had suddenly befallen Bilbo. Frodo began to feel restless, and the old paths seemed too well-trodden. He looked at maps, and wondered what lay beyond their edges; maps made in the Shire showed mostly white spaces beyond its borders. He took to wandering further afield and more often by himself; and Merry and his other friends watched him anxiously. Often he was seen walking and talking with the strange wayfarers that began at this time to appear in the Shire.

I don't have time for such unimaginative writing. The Magic of Recluce may not be a book to be hurled with great force, but it will be tossed aside with a light flick of the wrist.

P.S. On the same trip to Border's, I also picked up Ender's Game, about which I kept hearing great praise. I join the chorus; it's a terrific book.

1 comment:

Jeff Hebert said...

I have a strange attraction to the Recluse series, even though the entire time I'm reading any of them I keep thinking to myself "Good lord, this is dull." He has a number of writing tics that are irritating, like using onomatopoeia way too much (THAP! The tankard came down on the table. NNNUUHHH! The horse whinneyed) as well.

But I keep reading them. I don't quite know why.

"Ender's Game" is definitely one of the best sci-fi novels a relative newcomer can read. It may not be THE best sci-fi novel every written, but if not it's sure as heck on the list.

Speaking of lists, I have an Amazon Listmania set of the sci-fi/fantasy novels that "moved me", with Ender's Game at the top and Recluse nowhere on it.

If you're looking to try something in the fantasy genre that's accessible in many of the ways "Ender's Game" is to a non-regular devotee, I recommend anything in the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust, starting with "The Book of Jhereg". It's a first-person fantasy about a human assassin in a world run by (for lack of a better word) the faerie. It's just great storytelling, with a character you really come to care about and get wrapped up in.

If you liked the military sci-fi in "Ender's Game" you might like the Honor Harrington series by David Weber, particularly the first, "On Basilisk Station". It suffers from some of the same faults as the Recluse series, namely an occasional overindulgence of detail at the expense of pacing (i.e. it's dull in spots) but I love the main character and how realistic he makes all of the space stuff.