With Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains currently making headlines around the blogosphere for its full-on, visceral scenes of violence and whatnot, I'm starting to wonder whether anyone else - like myself - is starting to get tired of the 'gritty' tag.
It seems that over the last year or so we've seen an explosion of so-called 'gritty' fantasy, to such an extent that it's become not just a marketing ploy, but a bit of a cliche in its own right. Now, I like my hard-edged fantasy as much as anyone. I like realism, I like hard-hitting novels. I like blood, sweat and tears.
But I also like the fantastic element in fantasy, and I'm just wondering whether some releases seem to be lacking in that department. Brian Ruckley, for example, has written a gritty, realistic novel but it does rather lack any sense of wonder. I'm thinking that maybe the reason I enjoyed Gail Z Martin's The Summoner so much was because it was a refreshing break from the whole gritty thing, it reminded me - with its magic and adventure - why I liked fantasy so much in the first place.
I'm thinking gritty is all well and good, but not at the expense of the fantastic element. Some sort of balance is required. I believe George R. R. Martin does this well, striking a fine equilibrium between the grittiness of his world and the more exotic, fantastic elements. It means you can enjoy and appreciate the harshness of his world, but appreciate the more wondrous aspects at the same time.
The whole gritty thing hasn't run its course yet, but I can see readers getting tired of it eventually. Who knows, if The Steel Remains is as hard-hitting as it is reported to be, it may even kill off the whole thing altogether.
All of this remains to be seen, but I'd sure like to see some hard-edged novels that embrace the fantastic a little more.
Cover art for Jeff Noon's A MAN OF SHADOWS
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