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Vent about the Book You're Reading

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Devor, May 11, 2018.

  1. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Ok, the 'Benjamin Ashwood' series, billed as 'old fashioned sword and sorcery.' I picked up the digital version of the first three books for a steal many months ago, read part of the first one, wasn't impressed, wrote a review to that effect and moved on to other works. Then, I noticed more and more four and five star reviews on Amazon to that effect, dug it out of digital storage, and began reading it anew. Along the way, I began making comparisons to my own efforts. (yes, not supposed to do this, but couldn't help myself)

    Ok, 'sword and sorcery.' Means lots of fights, evil magicians, and assorted monsters. 'Benjamin Ashwood' has plenty of that. I'll also give the author points for worldbuilding - once I grasped the historical severity of the demon issue, the political arrangement of petty kingdoms made sense.

    The demons, however, are barely even one dimensional - they appear, they attack, and you either fight and win or you die - every single time. That was one strike - I kept waiting for demons to display something other than mindless violence; instead, there were a few more powerful specimens with a rudimentary grasp of tactics.

    Ok, I have demons in my own writings (especially 'Empire') that play major roles in what's going on. Monstrous demons on murderous rampages feature in several characters recollections. But, my demons were more than mere killing machines - they possess formidable intellect and knowledge, plus they have goals of their own that only sometimes involve mortals.

    Another strike is the discrepancy between the highly advanced knowledge (20th century level) displayed by some characters - notably the mages - compared with the feudal city-state and petty kingdom level everybody dwelled in. At this point, I'm wondering 'lost colony' or 'cataclysm.' If it's not one of those, then, well, the strike sticks.

    My primary world (and almost all the secondary ones, for that matter) have multiple high tech devices, and a number of characters with rudimentary understanding of them. Those devices and attendant knowledge stem from the 'ancient aliens.' In my worlds, the discrepancy exists, but it's accounted for. It's not well understood and is frequently regarded as magical or demonic. In Ashwood, it's like some of the characters are quoting from a 20th century college text.

    A strike of sorts is the total absence of religion. No priests, no discussions of theology, no mention of a deity or a pantheon. Comes across as 'weird' for a quasi feudal society. The closest is a sort of martial mysticism - the 'thirty ohms.'

    In my world - at least the primary one - religion is a very big deal. The faith of the True God exercises major influence across the Solarian Empire and beyond. Priests act as counselors for peasant couples, (sometimes) provide education, moral guidance, and more. There are also feuds between the True Faith and lingering pagan religions, plus splits within the faith itself.

    The 'long lived' are another strike of sorts. Seems you master a profession, one that requires great will (almost always either a warrior or a wizard) and aging just sort of 'stops.' Mind over body. Seems to me there should be more to it than that.

    Then, there is the body count in Benjamin Ashwood - people die in droves in these books. I could accept that, but all too often, it gets repetitious: Benjamin and company meet up with somebody, who is almost always presented as a fellow refugee or guide of some sort. Said character either gets killed in the next demon attack or assassination attempt, or is an assassin themselves. Then there are the small groups of assassins, some backed by mages, who just sort of randomly show up and try to kill the heroes. Very few of these secondary characters survive. For that matter, the body count amongst ordinary artisans, traders, and like folk is high as well, especially after even casual contact with Benjamin (and he's really, really trying to make things better for these people.)

    Ok, in my works, people died in droves during the Traag War. Unlike Ashwood, though, which has 'unsettled conditions,' the Traag War was a major, decades long conflict against a realm ruled by demons who regarded their subjects as bugs. Afterwards, though, well, Solaria is unsettled, plagued by banditry, piracy, widespread poverty, and occasional urban rioting - but the body count is (mostly) far less than Ashwood's. It's a symptom of social change.

    Social Change - that is something my tales have in common with Ashwood, though the thrust is different. In Empire, it's a massive seismic shift; in Ashwood, it's more 'ordinary folk building free states in the wilderness.'

    Ok...so the Benjamin Ashwood series gets some pretty good reviews (and is better than some other digital fantasy series I've read over the past year or two) - yet, it has these issues, places where I might have done a better job. Gives me a modicum of hope. Or maybe I'm being delusional.
  2. Kittie Brandybuck

    Kittie Brandybuck Minstrel

    I recently finished the whole Harry Potter series and it was just... i can't describe my feelings about it.
    First of all, they ruined my favourite character. Hermione Granger was the intelligent one who always found a way to help Harry out of tight situations. But in book 7, she was literally holding Harry back from defeating Voldemort.
    Book 7 itself was one of the two worst ones. The first half was just them being moody and the only reason i read it all was i just had to finish the series. The second half was so action-packed i got confused. The battle of Hogwarts was just pointless. I can't describe why, i know it was important, but it just felt pointless. Also, what sort of villain tries to take over a high school and fails?
    Snape. At first he was just your ordinary strict teacher who everyone loves to hate. But then you find out about his past with Lily and all that. I DO NOT understand why people like him and why he's treated as some huge hero after this shocking revelation. Because he just reminds me of a very annoying ex who wouldn't understand our relationship was over.
    Book 8. This just seemed like a badly written fanfic instead of the real thing. They got so much stuff wrong, like when they make polyjuice potion in, like, a day or something. I thought it took a month? Also, why the heck would Voldemort have a child with Bellatrix? I thought Voldemort couldn't love or whatever? And the time turners were totally different. In book 3, if you change something in the past, it ever-so-slightly changes the present. In book 8, if you change the past, it leads you to an alternate reality. Also, they ruined Ron. At one point, he runs into the room, points his wand, realizes it is upside down, and turns it the right way around. Seriously? That is not funny, it's just plain dumb.
    The movies. They changed everything and made it horrible.
    Harry himself. He's moody, arrogant, mean, rude, and stupid. He annoyed me sooooooo much.
    The other stuff (Lego, Pottermore, etc.). All that stuff is TOO MUCH. I just annoys me so much when I walk into a shop and the first thing i see is a kawaii-style Harry Potter plushie, right next to a tiny bag of Bertie Bott's every flavour beans. They are basically jelly beans with a differnt name (also, the flavours are renamed too, to make them "every flavour". All it does is make them disgusting).
    I'm actually sad about all this. If J.K. Rowling wrote every book in the style of the first 3, kept every flavour beans as something non-existing, and kept the films with only one director instead of 4, and written book 8 by herself instead of with 3 random people, and not made it a play, i wouldn't dislike this series so much.
    Insolent Lad likes this.
  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    From what I remember, the first 3 books had an editor run through them before they got published. I wonder how much was red-lined? Then they got really successful... and a lot less red-lining.
    Kittie Brandybuck likes this.
  4. Wow, straight up forgot that “Book 8” was a thing.

    I remember liking the 7th book when I read it, but in hindsight I don’t really know why, since a lot of the worldbuilding stuff came totally out of left field for me. The Deathly Hallows just don’t fit with the previously established character of the magic system. (Not that the magic system has consistent rules that make sense, but it’s at least consistent in feel.)
  5. piperofyork

    piperofyork Scribe

    I couldn't finish Mistborn. After a while it started to feel like a graphic novel with superheroes. Are all of Sanderson's books like this? Mistborn was published in 2006, so maybe his style has changed...
  6. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Funny, some of this is the same I felt after page 1, book 1, heh heh. Okay, I’m just taking pot shots at Potter. I made it part way through chapter 2 before my eyes rolled into the back of my head. In some ways I do wish I had been 10 when Potter came out, I would’ve enjoyed it and moved along with the story for a while at least. It’s the sme way I recall loving Narnia, and trying to read it now just doesn’t work. Tolkien’s LoTR is about the only books I read around the age of 10-12 that I can stlil read.

  7. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Mistborn is fairly “immature” for his writing, but it would probably depend on what you call “Style”. I’m not sure his writing changed a great deal from the books I’ve read, but the stories vary widely. I’m not a Sanderson-nista, so I’m sure his true followers would rail against us, heh heh. While I’ve not encountered those fans myself, several of my readers have mentioned how rabid his fans can be in our conversations.

  8. Yes and no. His style evolves from book to book (though I haven't read that many of them). I think this happens with all authors. And mistborn is clearly one of his earlier works, so he moves away from it a bit.

    At the same time, he likes very visible, action-packed magic systems. So there is often some of this. In the Stomlight Archive series you'll find people walking on ceilings and fighting while flying through the air. So still superhero stuff.

    As for Harry Potter, I think the later books needed a brave editor with a big red pen to remove 1/3 of the chapters. The pacing is just off in them and there's too many chapters where nothing happens, where there's no tension and they're just meh. She even manages to kill one of the important side characters by having him simply walk through a curtain.... They felt like the editors didn't dare say anything to her which would upset her in any way...
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  9. piperofyork

    piperofyork Scribe

    Thank you DemesnedenoirDemesnedenoir and Prince of SpiresPrince of Spires. Your replies make me wonder: is there a resource out there that provides encapsulations of what one can (generally) expect from published fantasy authors? Something on the order of:

    If you read Tolkien, you should (generally) expect ABC...

    If you read Brandon Sanderson, you should (generally) expect DEF...

    If you read Robert Jordan, you should (generally) expect XYZ...

    It might be useful to have such a resource for a variety of reasons. (I imagine any attempt to include evaluations in the encapsulations would attract disagreement, though!)
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I would almost (not quite; I do read reviews; I'm only mortal after all) ... er, where was I? Oh yeah, here.

    I would almost argue the opposite, piperofyork. Rather than people being able to read summaries, they ought to face the work as the author intended--alone and unaided. No expectations. That's the way I would wish people would come to my books.

    After reading two or ten of the author's books, then the reader comes to the third or eleventh with expectations certainly, but with *their* expectations. They have formed their own opinions of the author's work, uncolored by both the opinions and the characterizations of others.
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  11. piperofyork

    piperofyork Scribe

    You make an excellent point, skip.knox. My thoughts on the matter were probably too pedestrian: since we have such limited time, it might be useful to have a very rough guide, as non-evaluative as possible, to help us determine where to invest our reading time. But despite any such benefits, the cost you mention is serious and prohibitive. Better to let the storyteller tell the story. Quite right.
  12. piperofyork

    piperofyork Scribe

    Anyone else have a hard time finishing Dune? The repetitiveness, the constant interruptions by internal voice...all honor to F. Herbert - the book is littered with jewels; I couldn't do anything like it - but these days I'm fighting through chapters more than enjoying them.
  13. FifthView

    FifthView Vala

    Dune is one of a small handful of novels I've read multiple times. At one point, I would have said I've read Dune more times than I've read any other novel, but I've failed to keep track now. Either that, or I'm losing those memories in my old age. I haven't read the book in at least two decades. I wonder if I'd feel differently about it now?

    For me, the internal voice was key to enjoying it, or at least one of the keys. It and other features, particularly the 3rd omniscient narration, combine to create an effect the Writing Excuses podcasters called intrigue. (Giving credit to them because I had never considered Dune through this lens before I listened to that podcast.)

    In one of the seasons of the podcast*, they focused on various aspects of fiction, or tools a writer could use, and intrigue was one. Intrigue is different in this way: mystery hides a lot from the reader, but intrigue reveals everything.

    There may be an enjoyment in uncovering mystery, bit by bit, while reading a novel; but with intrigue the enjoyment for a reader is in having everything revealed and seeing the tensions and interactions of characters while having this knowledge that the characters don't have. The characters hide things from one another, but the reader sees all of this.

    Anywho. I wonder if this is the aspect that bores you. It thrills me, but everyone is different.

    *It was Season 10, Episode 19.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2021
  14. S J Lee

    S J Lee Inkling

    I love Dune too (the first book, anyway) but I felt it was good in spite of the headhopping etc, not because of it. Tried a few other FH books, eg Dosadi Experiment, but they didn't seem to have a "spark"

    Cannot understand the appeal of BS - I see few people commenting here seem to like his stuff, yet SOMEBODY does - who are these people? Where are they hiding? I started the 10 page free sample of "Way of Kings" on Amazon, reasoning that if people talk about him, he must have SOME merits, but had to give up on p7. It seemed like it was written by a 14 year old, not FOR 14 year olds (which I wouldn't have minded). Even someone like RA Salvetore was way better - RAS is no great writer of "literature", but at least he churns out reasonably entertaining yarns fast - or did when I last read anything of his 20 years ago. But BS' lectures on Youtube about arc and "three toggles" etc are fairly good, and I cannot help but suspect he is a writer of some sort of real ability deliberately writing in a fairly naff way for a big-enough-to-succeed niche audience. Does his "clumsy" style help him churn the books out quickly or something?

    I've deliberately never read a HP book, my wife loves them and my kid reads them, or at least pretends to, to make mom happy. If I read them and say they are crap, I'll have a big argument, and I'm pretty sure they won't interest me (Was forced to watch the movies, the whole premise sounds annoying - to ME...) so better by far to admit, "I've never read one, so I shouldn't have an opinion, maybe they are good after all"....
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2021
    Demesnedenoir and Insolent Lad like this.
  15. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Dune was good… the next books flailed and died, IMO. I didn’t mind all the in the head stuff, I’m indifferent to it, but I can see where it would annoy a great many people.

    Sanderson’s niche made him a millionaire, so it works. I would read Way of Kings over Malazon, but both bore me to death, much like Name of the Wind. I don’t know whether this is really the writing style or just the stories. The only Sanderson book I’ve finished was the first Mistborn book and it was okay, but didn’t make me want to read the second one.

    Harry Potter is just a no go. I glanced at a copy once way back before the movies when I bought it for my niece… Yikes. Love that kids are digging fantasy, but no idea why so many adults got into it.
    S J Lee likes this.
  16. Nighty_Knight

    Nighty_Knight Minstrel

    Big thing with the Harry Potter books is they got much better as they went along. The first was decent, but I was sucked into it by book 5. Her pacing I feel is very good, that was my issue with the Name of the Wind. That book I felt had bad pacing and dragged on in many parts, it lost my interest a few times and I kinda had to force myself to finish. If the writer for that had better pacing I would have probably really liked it.

    Funny, reading some of the comments, I feel very different about much of those series than others. Kinda funny how it works that way.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2021
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  17. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Could not get into Dune.

    Same with Harry Potter, though I did enjoy the movies when the daughter brought them over.

    Did read a fair pile of the Malazan books. Author did do a fair bit of research and they were entertaining, but way to many assassins and large sections seemed lifted from an ADnD campaign.

    Sanderson. Barely made it through Mistborn. Couldn't get into most of his other stuff, at least until Way of Kings came out. Made it through the first three books.

    Ones I did like...

    Fiests Magician series...at least the first ten books or so. Main complaint, not many prominent female characters, and most of the characters hail from the aristocracy.

    Elliot's Crown of Stars. Multiple complex characters in desperate and convoluted situations, with good writing.

    Kerr's Deverry series, characters reincarnated through the ages on a fantasy world. Good writing, credible situations.

    Then there be assorted olds favorites. Lord of the Rings. Earthsea. Witchworld.
    Demesnedenoir likes this.

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