Tuesday, 4 October 2011


I'm re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire to refamiliarise myself with the story in preparation for settling down with A Dance with Dragons (it's been 6 years after all), and I think I have a problem: reading too much Vance, Wolfe, and Harrison in recent years has ruined fantasy literature for me forever. Not because these guys are bad, but because they're too damn good. Going from Wolfe to Martin is a bit like switching from cocaine to coffee. Okay, so you like coffee, but the effect just isn't the same.


  1. Here's the solution:

    listen to it on tape. Way easier to get thru the bad writing.

    It's all on audiobook over at youtube on "the audio adventures channel" or something.

  2. Or just read it. He's great, not sure what the issue is. Read ten pages of Robert Jordan to remind yourself what shitty fantasy is really like. Then you can pick Martin back up and be just fine.

    Or read the NY Times book review where they compare Martin to Balzac and Dickens. The critics couldn't be wrong could they?

    Kidding aside, enjoy, Dance with Dragons is wonderful.

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  4. I just wanted to say, that for the past two years, I can't make it through a new fantasy work. I just keep rereading Wolfe, Vance, and Howard.

    On the plus side, Wolfe and Vance really really benefit from rereading - those books are like the DMG, every time you open it you discover something new.
    (Edit: Corrected misspelling)

  5. zerohero: I like ASOIAF, definitely better than 99% of what's out there. But I find Martin's prose to be pretty functional at best. He's a good storyteller but not a good stylist.

    -C: I agree. I recently re-read The Book of the New Sun and loved it.

  6. Too true. I tried to read the Martin books earlier this year, on account of the HBO series coming about, and I just couldn't get past the first 30 pages, it was so awful. Dude's no Neal, Neil, or China.

    I think you did this once last year, but could you repost a short list of your most recommended reads? Been casting about and failing in finding something worth the effort.

  7. Try with Neal Stephenson's Mongoliad, or maybe some Lois McMaster Bujold.

  8. There's a couple of issues that disappointed me big time with this book:

    1. It's not written, it's produced: mandatory cliffhangers, predictable shiftings from hero to hero, characters in shades of grey, modern days real-world philosophy and way of thinking upon a medieval background, etc. While skimming through it, I could almost hear Martin thinking "oh yeah, I forgot the kiss on page 216". That really ruined the fun for me.

    2. Many people I deemed clever really loved the book, falling into all the traps I've mentioned in 1) and biting all the baits. I felt really sorry for them.

    Yet, while the book was very obviously written and intended from A to Z for a TV adaptation, they managed to scramble and tear it apart while adapting it... Go figure.

    All considered, it's still better than Goodkind, but almost everything is better than Goodkind.

  9. Actually, for me, it's precisely the opposite. Having read the GOT series, essentially all other Fantasy seems . . . uninteresting to me.

    And it's absolutely driving me fruitbats insane right now as I'm struggling to find a series or novel that can keep me interested like GRRM did.

  10. You could try watching the TV show!

    (Maybe this is the saving grace of TV: it liberates second rate fantasy from its narrative shackles)/

  11. @Hamlet

    Patrick Rothfuss' "The Name of the Wind"
    Slow-ish start and a lead who sometimes comes off as a Mary Sue, but all was forgiven when i started to realize the depth of the world and the story.

    Brandon Sanderson's "Mistborn"
    Action-packed and loaded with interesting and original magic systems. They recently released an RPG based on these books. I don't know if it's good or not, but i'll probably pick it up some time.

  12. @noisms

    I agree in regards to Martin as a storyteller rather than a stylist. Is that bad though? Need every writer be James Joyce? Martin is a master at the art of storytelling, the prose being merely functional is not a flaw in my opinion.

    At least you aren't criticizing Martin while lauding the virtues of much of the pulp that rounds out the 'canonized' appendix 'N'.

    I will read Harrison on your recommendation. Wolfe and Vance I have already read and greatly appreciate both.


  13. I read the first one and had no desire too read any of the others. Everyone else adores Martin, so I'm sure he won't mind if I don't bother with the rest of the series.

  14. Everyone: I want to make clear that I do like ASOIAF, at least for its first three volumes and before GRRM completely lost control of the story and it turned into "what everybody in Westeros did for their summer holidays". There is too much rape in it - faustusnotes wrote a blog entry about it, which I initially disagreed with but now can see the truth of. Yet it's vastly superior to most of what's out there.

  15. Ah Noisms, the sad cry of the modern fantasy reader: "it's vastly superior to most of what's out there."

    I've just finished Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles and strongly recommend them to people looking for a "gritty" fantasy story with a lot of originality. I wonder actually if they're just a superior, earlier version of ASOIAF?