Why I Stopped Reading George R. R. Martin

This is not a post about how George R. R. Martin is a bad writer, or his books are lousy. Nor am I here to trash people who love George R. R. Martin and say they have no taste.

This is a post about how, if you don’t want to invest the amount of time required to enjoy his books, or the investment required does not justify the reward for you: it’s okay.

Now, before you go and say I didn’t give it a proper chance – I got to the end of book two. I think I probably read more material written by GRRM than some authors ever publish. I really wanted to like it, and to an extent I did (though, IMHO, he doesn’t write female characters as well as some people think he does). It’s really not the content that bothers me, and I did appreciate his skill in constructing a climax to a scene. I *can* see why he is well loved. And if you’re one of those readers who love him, all the power to you, go enjoy. (What, you’ve read book five and there’s no more? Well, uh, sorry, I got nothing for ya.)

It’s not even because I read it at a time when I was a tad disillusioned with epic fantasy. I read other epic fantasy before and after, and enjoyed that.

My husband has read the first four books, and he’ll go on about how much he enjoyed them. He convince me to start reading them. He has the fifth book in his possession, and has not finished it. He’s tried several times to get into it, and just can’t. He says he got to the part where (yet another) new point of view character is introduced, and he couldn’t get past that point.

What it is, is a severe inefficiency of prose. The only reason I got through book one is because multiple people told me “You have to give it at least to page 100, and then it gets good.” Okay, I gave it to page 100. It actually starts to get good at, I believe, page 81, but that’s neither here nor there. And then I thought, “Okay, we’re getting into the swing of things now, right?”

Nope. Every scene takes forever to get going. It’s like he’s starting things from scratch every time. There’s *so* much buildup.

Speaking of buildup: Arya. She learns sword fighting in book 1. Somewhere in book 2 she gets her sword taken away, and hasn’t got it back yet. Then she’s got another plot line starting with this magician, implying she’s going in a different direction than the sword fighting thing. But it all feels like up to where I left off everything to do with her has been setup. The problem is the whole I-made-it-to-the-end-of-book-2-and-we’re-still-in-setup-mode.

Which results in me losing faith in the author. And I know people are going to run up to me screaming, “Oh, but later she ______!” Only, again, I got to the end of book two. I’ve given it a fair shot, and it’s failed to convince me that this character’s plot line is going to progress at a satisfactory rate. I’ve given up. I no longer care.

Then those people will say, “But…but…You’re going to miss out on all the awesome events that happen later! It gets even better in book three! You stopped at the wrong spot! Sansa gets less pathetically annoying!”

And to that I say, “I’ll watch the TV show.”

See, since I did get as far as book 2, I know exactly how true to the books they were in the first two seasons. And the parts they changed were changed for reasons that made sense to me from a storytelling perspective. They’re true to the characters and the spirit, and any changes to the plot are minor adjustments to make the telling more efficient (see that word? *efficient*) or in some cases to add interest to sections that were not as exciting in the books, like the dragons being kidnapped, or something that was implied, but there were not POV characters to tell the tale, like Renly and the Knight of Flowers hooking up. They’re taking all the awesome stuff and condensing it so that it’s a steady stream of awesome, instead of a dragging scene, dragging on, dragging you along because you know when you get to the end, *something* will happen, and you’re waiting for that little bit of payoff at the end of the scene. I think Daenerys is a psychopath, just like the rest of her family, and people just haven’t realized it yet because she’s doing nice things for brown people. I’m waiting for her to go off the deep end.

And like I said, I was enjoying it. Tyrion is awesome. Tyrion and Bronn are golden. I liked Arya. It’s just, I wasn’t enjoying it enough to keep investing the amount of time it took to get to the good parts. YMMV.

It’s just that I know there are books out there that I will enjoy more thoroughly than that. Even within epic fantasy. You don’t have to resign yourself to slogging through a book to enjoy epic fantasy. It’s like eating ten bowls of chicken noodle soup with one tiny piece of chicken in it, versus a one bowl with lots of chicken.

And saying that is not saying that GRRM is a bad writer. He’s obviously a good one, to have managed the success he has. There’s lots of people for whom this is just their cup of tea, and to them, all the power to you – enjoy. And I applaud GGRM for his success. My criticisms are as a reader, not as a writer. It’s personal taste. Chacun son gout.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say. Lets see how many page hits I get for dissing the Martin.

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Punkettes Blog Launch Today!

Come one, come all! The Punkettes blog officially launches today, so come tune in, follow the blog if you’re so inclined, to win prizes, and check out what we’ll be posting and reviewing. There’s already 50 people following the blog, and tons more on the Facebook page, so this is great so far.

The Early Bird prize has been drawn, but there’s tons more, books, art and accessories.

I don’t know if there’s anyplace before this to go to find reviews on just Steampunk books – maybe there is, and I just haven’t seen it. But I think the balance of the three of us is going to make it a very eclectic combination. I love my social upheaval, intrigue and adventure, but romance is always a hard sell for me, but we’ll have the other two for that. Plus it’s not just Steampunk – we have the Clockpunk and Dieselpunk going on too, so quite a bit of variety, considering we’re trying to focus on a small set of niche sub-genres.

So, for authors looking to have your book reviewed, we should be able to find one of the three of us who would enjoy your book, be it romance, adventure, or what have you. (As long as it’s either Steampunk, Clockpunk, or Dieselpunk, of course.) Just contact any one of us with a review copy, and we’ll figure out who to review it.

 

Wanted: Dieselpunk Recommendations

In followup to last weeks’s announcement of The Punkettes blog launch party, I’d like to make an open call for Things You’d Like To See Reviewed over at The Punkettes.

I’ll be focusing on Dieselpunk, myself, so that’s mainly what I’m looking for. Problem is, while Steampunk has hit it big lately, Dieselpunk is still fairly obscure, and often stuff that has Dieselpunk elements may not be labelled or advertised as such. Help tracking down stuff that other lovers of Dieselpunk would enjoy is muchly welcome.

I am open to authors suggesting their own books, but a couple of things to say on recommendations from authors for their own books:

– Dieselpunk stuff only. Please do not spam me with anything that isn’t at least tangentially related. If it looks like you didn’t even read this post, and ask me to buy a copy of your paranormal romance to review it, expect your comment or email to be deleted without a reply.

– Self published books may not get to the top of the to-be-read list very fast, for the reasons detailed in my previous post on self-published books. (As with traditionally published authors, please be prepared for an honest opinion if your book has not been through a relatively professional editing process. If it’s immediately obvious to me that it hasn’t, I may decide not to review it at all.)

– Offering review copies will definitely help put your book at the top of my to-be-read list.

That said, bring on the recommendations. Either reply to this post, or click the Contact Me link at the top of the page to send me an email.

Book Review: Mechanique: a Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, by Genevieve Valentine

I glanced over the nebula award nominees for this year to see if anything piqued my interest, and saw this one. Steampunk, set in a post apocalyptic setting – I was sold. It’s a circus of undead performers, enhanced with hollow bones for the acrobats to make them light as birds, a human trapeze, a strong man with a steel spine, and his brother saved from fever with mechanical lungs. Once there was a man with wings, like a bird, until he fell.

I went into it not knowing what to expect, so I’m not sure what I expected. It’s very experimental, style wise (literary, some might say). The Steampunk is more a veneer over the top, an aesthetic choice, which I love. Genre wise, I would call it magic realism, because there is magic, but the way magic works is never explained, but used in more of a free-form way.

The story made me think of Peter S. Beagle or Neil Gaiman. I don’t think I’ve read anything so subtly creepy since The Innkeeper’s Song. It’s about beauty and love and death, and the writing itself is beautiful too.

I normally find things this experimental to be annoying, but I think that’s often because “literary” authors sometimes think that the writing is everything, and they don’t have to have a story to tell. Miss Valentine has a story to tell. She doesn’t tell it in chronological order, and the point of view is all over the place, running from first to third person and not skipping second person, and yet, the confusion at first didn’t bother me. It was obvious fairly quickly that it was told out of order.

Also, I liked the scene openings she had sometimes, the ones that start with “This is what happens when (insert framing phrase to tell me where she’s jumping into the story.)” It was as unsubtle as a slap in the face, maybe, butso much less annoying than the author using dates to tell you when something’s taking place. I can’t stand that, I can’t keep track of the numbers in the dates, so they might as well not be there. This? This was effective and efficient.

Overall, I loved it, it was beautiful.

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Ok, so people kept saying, here and there and everywhere, omg, you should read The Hunger Games. So many places, I heard the same recommendation. I had my new e-reader and found the entire trilogy for $17. So I read it.

And holy crap, they were right.

I read it in about three days, which, for me, is about my record. I think my record is two days, and that was for a much shorter novel. Granted, two of those days were stressed out, what can I do to distract myself because there’s nothing I can do days, but still, it was very much what I needed to distract myself in those days.

I won’t make this too long, because I think there are a crap-ton of reviews of this particular novel already out there, but there’s one main point I’ll address. The main criticism – possibly the only criticism I’ve seen for this book, has been that the ending was too predictable. And you know what? That’s valid. I looked at the end of part two, and thought, you know, I can only think of one way that this could end and the end be satisfying. And I was pretty well right. There were details, I didn’t know exactly the circumstances the ending was going to come into, but the main plot twist at the end, that was no surprise to me.

On the other had, it *was* the only way that I could see this story ending that would be satisfying. And I always think, if you build up towards something you either have to satisfy the reader, or come up with something better. In this case, it was satisfy the reader. But the storytelling, the crafting of the story, was what kept me reading. What’s going to happen next? Who’s going to die next? How is the Katniss going to survive all of this?

There are those who say “there are no original stories, only original story telling.” I have to agree with this. Avatar, the movie, hell that’s not original in the least, but it’s still a really awesome movie. The Hunger Games, maybe it’s a tad predictable, for an experienced reader, but it’s well spun. Plot is not everything in a story, but sometimes the journey is. Sometimes it’s what the author does to make it all real that makes all the difference.

Book Review: Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor

This is one that caught my eye a long time ago, I think though a blog, and I’ve been meaning to read it. The setting intrigued me, and the book has not disappointed. I bought it  from the Sony Reader Store over my uncle’s wifi, because I was amused at the convenience of being able to buy a book with my new e-reader without having to go home and hook it up to a computer, even to set it up. So, I got it on Christmas Day, when I got the reader, and finished it exactly a week later, on new year’s eve, at a party, huddled in a corner, going OMG there’s only 20 pages left, I can’t stop! Best book I’ve read since The Windup Girl.

What follows may be triggering – the setting is post apocalyptic africa, where the genocides and other activities related to genocides in africa have not stopped. Given that, I should not have to explain what sort of topics this review may contain that may be triggery.

Ok, that’s out of the way.

The story centers around the genocide of an entire people, and how rape is used as a weapon to destroy their spirit. It’s a heartbreaking story, but inspiring, because the main character is so driven. I was interested to see non-erocentric fantasy, and it’s a rich and ugly world that these characters live in. A world where a woman can scream for help to a crowd of onlookers as she’s dragged into an alley to be raped, and the onlookers stand there and watch. They are different people than we are. When Onyesonwu sets out to find her biological father who raped her mother, to stop his bringing his soldiers to rape her people, her mother doesn’t try to stop her, doesn’t try to make her stay home to protect her. No, she looks at her daughter and says, when you find him, kill him.

After some of the recent blog posts complaining about authors dealing with rape poorly, it was good to see it treated as it should be. The author never refers to it as sex, and doesn’t shy away from using the word rape to describe it.

The main character herself is sympathetic, and yet never wallows in sorrow, or if she does, the narrative doesn’t dwell on it. She’s a woman of action, and doesn’t allow herself to indulge in self pity, however lousy her lot. She fights to change it, and I find that the most engaging of character traits.

Onyesonwu also has a relationship with a young man, and it’s a rare one – a healthy one. It’s not that there is never any conflict between the two – not at all, there’s plenty of angst. It’s just not angst that tears them apart. They may argue passionately, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need each other, or that they aren’t right for each other. It’s refreshing to see such a believable couple.

As for the main conflict, nothing is black and white there. As I said, it’s an ugly world, and an ugly war. There can be no victor in such a war. Neither side is innocent, and the story goes into child soldiers, even.

And it will take a miracle to stop it. That’s the sad thing. Much as I liked the book, it makes me sad to think that even in fiction, the author couldn’t find a way to end such atrocities without resorting to magic, which is something that we can’t hope for in real life.

It’s a book that really goes there. It’s very dark, but it’s beautifully written, and paced precisely. I feel like I’ve learned something about being human, that I’m ashamed to know.

Review: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War

I really expected to like this one – it’s a Hugo and Nebula award winner from back in the golden age of science fiction. Only I didn’t. Glancing at reviews, no one seems to have picked out the greatest flaws in this book.

It was interesting, had it’s moments, and I laughed a couple times as the author’s extrapolations of where we’d be fifty years from now. For example, he figured by the 90’s we’d be way past mars and have a military base on Charon, one of Pluto’s moons. On the other hand, he also anticipated that we’d have electronic money transfers by the year 2115 or something like that. I suppose back then they were hopeful that exploration and human curiosity would be the leading drivers of innovation, rather than convenience.

That wasn’t what disappointed me though. Those things – see, those are the same as H. G. Wells’ man eating orchids and anything else he wrote about that we know can’t exist now. I don’t have a problem with that.

It was the story crafting that lost me. See, the theme of the story is embedded in the setting. The extrapolation of the progress of culture is the point of the novel. The fact that the main character was going away, losing time, and coming back, fifty, a hundred, seven hundred years later, was the macguffin the author used to show the theme. The problem is the plot has almost nothing to do with the theme.

The main plot is the romance between the main character, William, and his fellow soldier, Marygay. The plot does nothing to further the point of the story. Furthermore, the main character is not in a position to affect anything to do with the state of the world, so he’s not exactly the idea candidate for a main character. The only reason William goes back to view the changes that occur in the world each time he returns from a mission is so that he can observe the state of the world now. The theme is wedged into the plot, like an after thought. I was expecting the plot to eventually have some link to the theme, and it never did. There are those that argue that, well, it does, sort of, but should a story’s plot only touch on the point obliquely?

Robert J Sawyer has a great article on how to choose and create an effective main character, here: http://www.sfwriter.com/ow02.htm. He explains that your main character should be the one in the best position to illustrate the purpose of your story. Plot, I believe is the same – you choose a plot to illustrate your point, to make your story a cohesive whole. As I learn more about the craft of writing, I notice these things more, and they annoy me more.

Did it get a Hugo and Nebula because the readers of the time were less discerning? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it’s simply that what they considered important about the novel was different. There are people who are nuts for Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, and I didn’t care for that one either. I supposed that’s just not the time period I’m nostalgic for.

Back to H. G. Wells.