Thursday, September 15, 2011

How Long is a Piece of Rope?

I coined a new phrase concept, at least new to me, the other day whilst discussing the 100 sci fi books list a few posts below.

There is a style of fantasy writing that is very popular that I simply cannot stand. Members of it include Game of Thrones, Circle of Time, the Feist stuff I commented about, and no-doubt innumerable others. They rarely are less than 10 books per series, with each book around 600 pages or so, and never seem to have an end in mind. The stories themselves are rarely driven by a plot, instead relying on richly-drawn character lines woven together into some sort of coherent whole that seems to be headed somewhere but is never in a hurry to arrive.

In short, rope. I don't like rope stories.

These books also seem to confuse "complexity" with "fun to read". I don't need to know how many nails are holding together a senator's chair to know he's got influence, nor do I need to follow every meal and every scolding of "the youth" to know what he's like as "the hero".

These kinds of books also seem to revel in constructing real hellscapes for the characters to run around in, full of tragic and flawed losers that fail and die off every other chapter or so.

Yay fun.

Anyway, it's just personal taste and nothing more, but, yeah.

Rope. Don't like reading it.


Brigid said...

I agree, though I am certainly the "queen of run on sentences".

Though I have found a number of authors I'd not have read but for the recommendations of some other bloggers.


Old NFO said...

Excellent point! Having slogged through a couple of Feist books, I agree 100%!

Anonymous said...

I completely understand your point, but I will disagree with you about lumping "A Game of Thrones" (known in series form as "The Song of Ice and Fire") into this category. Martin is a master and there is definitely substantial plot moving the story forward. It's large because of a question of focal points. It's the difference between telling a story about WWII focusing on just one pilot in the 8th Air Force vs. following perhaps a dozen individuals ranging from foot soldiers, politicians and generals from all the nations in conflict, tossing in asides to look at quite a few other people along the way. The excessive level of detail you cite isn't really an issue here; it's just a very large cast of characters spread across a realistically sized world.

The "hellscape" comment is applicable, as he's describing a world shaking conflict with mass battles and such which really shouldn't be a fun time. Some of the characters are heroes while others are not, but they all feel quite real given the setting.

The body count is quite high with established characters dying fairly often but I don't consider that a flaw. You can extend script immunity to only so many characters before it begins to interfere with the story telling.

Feist is pretty pedestrian; Martin is one of the greatest living fantasy authors. Just my opinion, of course.


Atom Smasher said...

(quickie comment from work)

"The excessive level of detail you cite isn't really an issue here; it's just a very large cast of characters spread across a realistically sized world."

Right. Rope. :)

Well-written rope to be sure. But for me a real snoozer.

Anonymous said...

Don't think of it as rope in Martin's case so much as twelve or thirteen different novels that he's thoughtfully woven together for your reading convenience!


Smasher said...

Nope. Way too boring and way too slow. I have no interest in living a whole life in "Icey-Dragon-Wall-Zombie" world and learning gradually about my surroundings, encounter by encounter. Martin's first tick on his no-doubt long and somehow-impressive body count was me, the reader, long about page 50.

I finished it out of duty (promised a friend, who had bought me the book after years of recommending, after all), but it's just not my style. I hear the HBO show is quite well done, however - I'll no-doubt give that a shot eventually.

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