Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Pile o' Shame - Part 2!

Last time I discussed the authors - all of whom are legends within their respective sub-genres - whose work I have spectacularly failed to read, leaving embarrassing, gaping holes in my genre knowledge.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of more recent authors (and one not so recent) - whose works are no less influential - that I've also managed to somehow neglect.

So without further ado, here's the rest of my pile o' shame...

Patrick Rothfuss

Over the past year or so, I've watched with interest as hype started to build around a novel called The Name of the Wind. I listened as readers gushed about how brilliant the novel was, how much they'd enjoyed it and how disappointed they were that the sequel was to be delayed until 2009. I read, with some awe, about how the novel had shifted 40,000 sales in hardback alone.

I bought the novel, a nice first edition hardback copy. I read the blurb - which I thought was very promising - and gazed longingly at the map (I like a good map, oh yes indeed). I thought that Rothfuss' world looked interesting and that his places had cool names. I decided that I was quite excited about the story itself.

So I put the book on the shelf and left it to gather dust. Why? Simple really. I do a lot of reading on the commute to work, and my copy is a big bastard and just not practical to lug about all over the place. So I'm waiting for a chance to read it.

Hopefully that time will come soon.

Steven Erikson

I originally bought Gardens of the Moon several years ago, but after hearing that it was something of a difficult read, I set it aside "for later" and of course didn't get around to it for quite some time.

In fact it was only recently, after realising that the Malazan series has been garnering very positive reviews in some quarters and has developed a large following, that I dug the book out and took the plunge.

I can see what the novel's detractors mean when they say it is hard to get into. Erikson throws you straight into the action and expects you to fill in the blanks as you go along. It's not easy, what with the epic scope of the world and a plot that leaps about like a fish out of water.

Despite this, I liked what I read. Here was an author that wasn't afraid to make liberal use of magic and other aspects more normally found in RPGs. This of course led to accusations that Erikson was some sort of hack and that he had written just a glorified Dungeons and Dragons story, which is a false argument if ever there was one. What he has created is a huge, complex world full of diverse characters that are forced into desperate situations. There is some serious imagination at work here, such as the moon of the title and its Lord, Anomander Rake, who is such a cool character. Hairlock, the insane puppet with alarmingly powerful magical abilities, is also brilliantly conceived.

Despite only reading one book, I already feel a real affinity for Erikson's work, and will definitely be cracking open the next two books in the series, which are waiting patiently on my shelf...

China Miéville

I've had my eye on Miéville for a while now, and have almost purchased some of his books on more than one occasion. What attracts me to his work is his deliberate attempt to go against the grain, to write something challenging, something less conventional. To this end, his world mixes magic and technology, and is allegedly influenced by a number of different aspects from various sub-genres - a refreshing break from the ye-olde-medieval setting that domiates many works of fantasy.

In his own words: "I’m not a leftist trying to smuggle in my evil message by the nefarious means of fantasy novels. I’m a science fiction and fantasy geek. I love this stuff. And when I write my novels, I’m not writing them to make political points. I’m writing them because I passionately love monsters and the weird and horror stories and strange situations and surrealism, and what I want to do is communicate that.

But, because I come at this with a political perspective, the world that I’m creating is embedded with many of the concerns that I have... I’m trying to say I’ve invented this world that I think is really cool and I have these really big stories to tell in it and one of the ways that I find to make that interesting is to think about it politically. If you want to do that too, that’s fantastic. But if not, isn’t this a cool monster?"

Sounds good to me.

Stephen King

Yes, I know. But it's true. I've never read a Stephen King novel. As I mentioned before, I like my horror very much indeed. So it's pretty embarrassing that not only have I failed to read much Lovecraft, I've also failed to read the other most influential author in the genre.

I've meant to of course, but somehow have never got around to it. About the closest I've come is watching The Shining film (which is excellent in its own right, but hardly a substitute for reading one of the books).

Hopefully I'll get round to it one day, but with so many books and so little time, we'll just have to see.


Mark Newton said...

You must read China Miéville! Fantasy just will not be the same again for you...

J.G. Thomas said...

All in good time, sir, all in good time!

ThRiNiDiR said...

Miéville...meh (pps failed to impress me utterly)

rothfuss is on my to-buy list (i think i'm buying a copy now that a mmp is out)

erikson is up there with grrm imho (not exactly on the same level; but a wonderful read nonetheless).

Fritz Leiber and Moorcock are on my guilty conscience as well...but so is Zelazny,Asimov,Heinelen, Vance and some of the other classics. What can a man do if he can't even keep up with the current releases? *shrugs*

Stephen King is somehow offputting for my tastes, even though I haven't read him yet...but I guess I'll start with The Dark Tower.

I don't think I'm touching Lovecraft though. I'm not much into horror and as far as I've heard Lovecraft isn't really scarry...just weirdish and funny at timees.


Mark Newton said...

Miéville's works were devastating to genre boundaries. They injected massive amounts of style and panache. They're dark. They're brutal. What's more, the characters are remarkably deep and complex. Not your usual bag of clichés.

But I think you either love his work or hate it. And that, for me, is a good thing. Better that than having everyone think "yeah, I suppose it's all right" about your books. It means things move on. IMHO.