Sunday, July 8, 2012

Last Week in Denmark

So I've been away for a week or so, visiting beautiful Denmark. While there, I blogged a little on my smartphone so I could just cut'n'paste it here now that I'm back home. I began a new re-read post before I left but have to get back to it.

It's July the second, and I am on a short holiday to the eastern coast of Jylland, the largest landmass of fabulous Denmark. I love this country's mix of Scandinavia and the European nations further south, such as Germany. Unlike Norway, Denmark has an interesting medieval history and there's the odd castle ruin to gawk at. One rather terrifying thing about this otherwise sweet and relaxing week is the fact that I'm offline. I'm writing this using the Writer-app for my smartphone, so I can cut and paste it into the blog once I have returned. So what can a geek do, trapped in a rented villa by the sea, with great people but none of them even remotely interested in the delights of secondary worlds? No computers, no dice, no discussions about the worthiness of Tom Bombadil or the circle-shape of Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy?
The answer, of course, is reading. Nice fantasy reading. It's actually easier to be immersed here in a remote corner of Denmark with nothing to take my attention (except being social and a father, of course).
Point being, I've finished Peter V. Brett's "The Painted Man", started and finished Steven Erikson's "Cracked Pot Trail", and am now enjoying - simultaneously - Patrick Rothfuss' "The Wise Man's Fear" (a deliciously fat hardback bought on publishing date) and Brett's "The Desert Spear".

Yes, "The Painted Man" turned into a read good enough that I've jumped straight into the sequel. Somewhere during the book's last half I was entertained enough to finish it (unlike a long row of fantasies on my shelf). It did have some major flaws, such as authorial intrusion, POV confusion and some awkward and/or predictable plotting, but it also has a neat concept in the shape of worldwide, nightly demon risings that would make for an interesting roleplaying game setting, and some good character building (with a notable downer for one of the characters).  Most of the novel is buildup, giving us unusually detailed and long backgrounds before merging all characters before the conclusion. It was a (for me) fairly quick read and once main character Arlen discovered the ruins hiding a certain spear, I knew I wanted to follow this story. One thing remains an overhanging threat to my immersion. This is related to the core concept of the demons and, specifically, the magical wards of protection used against them. I found myself asking questions beginning with "But why...?" quite often. In other words, the concept is great but feels shoddy. I don't want to explain this further so as to not spoil anything, but when the concept is vital to the story on all levels, it is a bit of a shame that it doesn't hold entirely together. Still, I'd give "The Painted Man" an 8 out of 10 on the fantasy literature scale.
"Cracked Pot Trail", Erikson's latest novella, is entirely different. Complex, philosophic, experimental, at times absurd and certainly macabre, Erikson plays with language like no other fantasy author, and I am amazed by this story, its peculiar cast of characters, everything but a somewhat dissapointing ending. Since January 2010 I've gone from curious to intrigued, to wowed, and now with this novella, to sincere admiration for Steven Erikson. Now that I have read everything Malazan, I can only look forward to Erikson's next work, "The Forge of Darkness", scheduled for NEXT FRICKING MONTH. He's more machine now, than man. But his prose is oh so human, especially evident in "Cracked Pot Trail" where Erikson comments on a fair few human conditions. Despite the - in my opinion - somewhat lacklustre ending, this novella was incredibly entertaining, providing laughs as well as reflection. There is so much packed in here, and it seems quite clear to me that the Trail is an outlet for Erikson to have his say on the subject of writing as art. And art it is. A solid 9.5 out of 10.

As for returning to Kvothe's adventures - I sense a more confident writer and a good story to come, not too dissimilar from "The Name of the Wind".

And George RR? Is he being left behind in the dust? Not yet. There's still nothing quite as awesome as the first three novels of ice and fire. I guess Erikson will never be mainstream. His legions are growing though. But Abercrombie is coming with a new book and he's only been improving. And there's always a new author to discover while Martin is in limbo five years at the time. Maybe "The Forge of Darkness" will propel Erikson into his proper league. Maybe Abercrombie will outsell "Eragon". Maybe .. I love maybes. They belong to the genre.  Arf now I wish I could go online and check out fantasy news.
  - -
  July the sixth; the last (holi)day, and feeling the Interwebs abstinence! For some reason I decided to let "The Wise Man's Fear" lie and read an old fantasy I've long wished to read out of curiosity; a story about a character I vaguely remember from crossover stories in the comic book series "Conan the Barbarian" - yes, I've read Michael Moorcock's "Elric of Melnibone". About time I'd say, for a fantasy freak. The character of Elric is intriguing to an extent, but the framework is woefully undeveloped. It feels like a first draft, but of course fantasy has come a long way since Elric began his adventures. Short descriptions (often with paranthesises), quick jumps between plot points (a grand naval battle is over within a few pages despite an interesting setting in the shape of a maze harbor), ye olde assistants (often immortals) that never give a straight feels like reading a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Still, there is something alluring about this pulp, it's hard to define what makes it work despite massive flaws. It's a breeze to read, like reading a comic book. It hasn't aged well but now I know more about Elric, Yyrkoon, Stormbringer et al. I'd give it a 6.5 out of 10. It also makes me appreciate the more voluminous works of contemporary fantasy.

Also, I found a few packs of Magic: The Gathering 2012 in a small toy store, visited the ruins of a castle, and finally caved in and bought the latest Star Wars DVD set. More money for George Lucash, and an increase in geekery over the last couple of days. Also, sun and sea. Mmmmm... I wonder if there's news on The Winds of Winter. So long ago since I was online..literally days! Nah who am I kidding. We're all back to square one, in the midst of yet another long wait.

No comments:

Post a Comment