While I was out and about this week, I came to realize that it had been an age and a half since I’d gone out of my way to read anything new. Most of my reading habits lately have revolved around turning pages that I’ve read before and re-accquainting myself with dear old friends.
This tends to happen fairly often considering the speed at which I read. Authors just can’t keep up with my voracity… the bastards. But in the end this is a good thing. I’m comfortable with the familiarity of the stories, the images and memories that they conjure in my head and the fuel they give to my imagination to take my own stories in their directions. Plus from the technical side of things, I learn very real and simple lessons as to what works and what doesn’t work in a narrative.
For some strange reason, a lot of the authors I follow are firm believers in Douglas Adams’ quote about deadlines (as seen in this entry’s title) and have no idea when their next novel is coming out. Things that I’m currently following seem to always fall into one of three categories: either they’re not finished yet, they are finished but not published yet, or the authors in question just aren’t working on anything new at the moment (to our knowledge… but honestly, what writer doesn’t write).
So, while I was in the bookstore on Friday I decided to wander through and see if anything caught my eye that would be worth reading. Who knows, I thought to myself. Perhaps I’ll stumble upon another really cool series like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series which I’d happenned upon in a previous excursion many moons ago.
Sadly I didn’t find any new gems per se, but I did come to realize that a few existing series that I had been following and had since given up on due to the previous book in the series falling a little flat (aka I thought it sucked monkey balls but I’m being polite) were out.
Raymond Feist is barrelling along with his Conclave of Shadows series of Midkemia books. I read the first book in the series, Talon of The Silver Hawk, and to me it wasn’t the Midkemia that I knew, loved and grew up with. Rather than stick to one story or one set of characters throughout all his books, Mr. Feist has decided to just let the timeline of the world continue and is telling tales of new characters set in the same world with a few throwbacks and ties to the heroes of the past. That once bumbling magician’s apprentice named Pug that we were introduced to way back when is now a mighty mage who just sits in the background and rarely interacts with the world beyond performing the the occasional plot McGuffin or deus ex machina. Dissapointing to say the least.
The new heroes just don’t have the same feel to me as the old ones did and feel somewhat shallow and without any real vibrancy or depth. I’ve felt his way ever since his serpent war saga of books killed off ninety percent of the characters that I was familiar with. I’ve just never been able to enjoy the books the same since then.
Anyways. So I see the third book is out in hardcover which invariably means that the second book in the series is out in paperback. I thought about getting both, but I decided that I had no desire to waste money on a hardcover that I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy, despite my preference for the heft and feel of them.
While I was deciding what to do with Feist’s books I also noticed that Terry Goodkind had come out with a new Sword of Truth novel called Chainfire. The last Goodkind book that I read was Pillars of Creation and it, to me, sucked ass. Namely because the whole book revolved around two completely new characters that were fairly annoying and unlikeable doing their thing while the two familiar and primary characters, Richard and Kahlan, didn’t show up until the very last chapter and pretty much just acted as a deus ex machina to solve the annoyances’ problems and wrap up the book.
Goodkind seems to have a very hit or miss reputation with his books. It almost seems like he’s churning them out too fast to meet an editorial deadline sometimes. Either that or it’s a weak plotline that he hasn’t had time to nurture and let develop. From interviews I’ve read with the man, he seems very arrogant and egotistical and so my suspicion lies with the latter reason. Don’t ask me why. I just feel that way.
Again I digress.
So the new Goodkind book is out and that means the last one is in paperback. After shelling out thirty odd bucks for the last piece of tripe that he printed I wasn’t going to do it again and swore that when Naked Empire (the book prior to Chainfire) came out originally that I wasn’t going to buy it. Now that it was out in paperback though I figured I’d give it a chance as ten bucks is much more tolerable than thirty.
And so a quandary arose in me. Should I get the Feist book (for I had decided that I wasn’t enamoured enough of the series to get both) or should I take a chance on Goodkind.
I decided to think some more on the problem and wandered the store some more. While I was wandering the SF/Fantasy section I spied a rather large collection of The Neil’s works which mildly surprised me. I usually only see one or two copies of American Gods along with a copy of Good Omens. Amazingly they had the whole run of his mass-market printed works, including Stardust and Neverwhere.
Seeing Neil jogged my memory about an author he’d recommended and a book she’d written recently that I recalled was something that I’d wanted to read. Of course as these things go, I had a hell of a time remembering the author’s name and the book’s title. I refused to be one of these people that harass employees with vague questions like “Do you have that book with that guy about that thing. It was written by that Other guy. You know, the one that so and so mentioned on her TV show”. Defiantly I wandered the aisles muttering to myself like a loon trying to jog my memory when it finally came to me.
Mr. Norris… No. Wait. That wasn’t right.
Mr. Strange? Hrrm… I was on to something here. And then it came to me…. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark.
Darting back through the cramped aisles to the SF/Fantasy section I started alphabetically with the C’s and found Clark easily enough. I hunted high and low for the book. Nothing. Tons of Arthur C. but no Susanna. Bugger I thought to myself. I then proceeded to check the new releases, because it wasn’t THAT old of a book and there was a slim chance it’d still be there, but again nothing.
But wait… There’s always that useless computer search system they have. Perhaps it’d be able to help me and I wouldn’t have to torture myself by talking to the clueless staff. Which would probably be a good thing as they’d started to eye me strangely after all the rambling and muttering I’d been doing.
After momentarily being driven insane by the mouse’s lack of a scroll wheel (I’m still in shock at how much I rely on that and miss it when it’s gone) I found what I’m looking for and was absolutely boggled by the answer.
Fifty copies in store?!?!? Where the hell are they hiding them? In the bathroom? Under the sink with the dirty magazines? What the hell?!?! Honestly.
I resign myself to actually talking to a real live person and go searching for a drone. Unfortunately like a rabbit that has caught scent of a wolf, they’ve seen me coming and have made themselves scarce.
I give up.
I glance down on the table beside the ROMANCE section on my way out and lo and behold what do I see? A neat little stack of my white whale of a book.
Fuck that’s a big book I think to myself. And I remember my earlier quandary and realize it’s just gotten larger… literally.
After about 10 seconds of inner turmoil I make a decision. Big thick book for next week’s adventures and then I’ll take a chance on Goodkind’s Naked Empire paperback for the weekend.
And now… for the original point of this whole damn excessively long blog entry. A review (of sorts) of Naked Empire.
Like I said earlier, I hadn’t liked Pillars of Creation. It fell completely flat for me. While the story contained therein was good in and of itself, it wasn’t what I, as a reader, was looking for. The characters themselves were annoying and the narrative completely broke the chain of the overall plot by completely removing the primary characters of that story and only re-introducing them clumsily at the end in a very deus ex machina way.
So, I opened the book with trepidation and started reading. Thankfully Goodkind either knew where he’d gone wrong or his editors put him in line, but regardless the story returned to it’s roots and ended up being suitably enjoyable. The pace was swift and while there were a few places here and there where I felt that he rushed things a little, the story got where it needed to properly without incident or clumsy plot devices.
In retrospect Pillars and Naked Empire seem to be two parts of the same story. As if they were really one book that had been split up, either for monetary reasons by the publisher or because as it stood it was too large. Personally, I think that Pillars could have been trimmed down to a meaty sub-plot and just existed as the first part to this book without too much complaint, but what do I know. I’m not the all-seeing god that is Goodkind.
Anyways, if you were dissapointed with Pillars to the point of dissillusionment like I was, I would suggest that you pick up Naked Empire and give the series another chance.
As for the current one, I’ll wait for it to hit paperback before I pick it up and see how it goes.
And as for the bigass Jonathan Strange book… I’ll let you know how it goes next week. I am resisting the urge to read it until I have to otherwise I’ll chew through it beforehand and be left wanting.
And now I sleep because I am now over an hour and a half past my own deadline of bedtime as I have to be up early tomorrow to (probably) bitch up a storm to a Nurse about the animal testing that I was subjected to earlier in the week.