Saturday, October 27, 2012

As long as the country's red

So I was thinking of reading a chapter of A Storm of Swords, then Joe Abercrombie crashes down the mailbox with his latest novel, Red Country. Abercrombie is one of those utterly few authors who just demand me to get cracking right away, other books be damned. Well, he wasn't always like that; I struggled somewhat with his debut trilogy The First Law (especially that seconsd book felt like it took ages to read through), but both Best Served Cold and The Heroes had me reading vigorously long into the night. At his finest, Abercrombie is incredibly entertaining, and has only been getting better at his craft from book to book. 
And now Red Country. Well, as I pointed out in the Abercrombie-thread at 'Is Winter Coming?', I was immediately put off by this book. Now that was surprising. The cover is as glorious as the others, the blurb sounds just like it should...but as I opened the book and began to read...I was a bit miffed at how much it felt like I was reading a western. Not a fantasy inspired or influenced by the western genre, but...you know, a western. So I actually let the book lie and continued with The Wise Man's Fear, in which Patrick Rothfuss is showing considerable improvement himself. 
Today, though, an hour or so ago, I decided to try Red Country again, and...yeah, you probably guessed it. Hook, line, sinker. Getting past those first pages and immersing myself, I am once again fully enjoying the experience and damn if this isn't simply fantastic stuff.
Joe is becoming a master, you heard it here (but probably not first). Chapters are thematically linked in more clever ways, he is really starting to outshine George RR Martin himself in the dialogue department, the humor is once again close to perfection (well I guess that's a matter of taste), there are some great characters of old showing up and a few new interesting ones as well, simply put this is - right now - feeling quite like it could turn into another hit. It's the kind of book where I continually have to take a quick break just to marvel at the wit, trying to savor the experience. It's the kind of storytelling I want everyone to experience, and talk about at the water cooler. You know, instead of the results of some football game or whatever. Abercrombie is growing more powerful than we can possibly imagine! There's one character I have problems with, a religious zealot, but I'm guessing (hoping) he'll sooner of later become enlightened. 

I did have a great time reading The Wise Man's Fear last night too, Rothfuss is really nailing it with this book (I didn't think too highly of the first one, it was entertaining but not Abercrombie-riveting); right now Kvothe is out in the woods searching for bandits, and the interaction he has with the mysterious Adem mercenary, Tempi, is really solid writing. Rothfuss does an amazing job, no doubt, but in a subtler, less provocative way. Abercrombie is more like a party, with the occasional time for a profound thought. 

I'm really gushing tonight, am I not? I think both these authors deserve a little gushing, though. I laughed so hard last night when Kvothe was asked to tell a story, and he really didn't feel like it, so he told them the story of the boy with the golden screw in his belly button. It was so entertaining I had to read it aloud to lady Slynt, who had to laugh as well. Likewise earlier this fine Saturday evening reading Red Country I was just so entertained by many of the lines of dialogue and the character interactions, and I also noticed Abercrombie is getting badass at mixing up setting, exposition, backstory, characterization all into one coherent story. If the first chapter of Red Country doesn't convince you Joe is about to usurp the throne of fantasy, then try the second chapter. Okay, he won't usurp the throne. His books are perhaps too...I don't know, non-epic kind of? It's perhaps the world-building that is lacking the most in his books but then again there isn't room for it with so many wise-cracking fun characters and situations. As any fan of A Song of Ice and Fire should know, the throne is of course occupied by Steven Erikson. /trollface

So, as of now - my favorite fantasy authors, in no particular order are, Steven Erikson, George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss and JRR Tolkien. That's probably about what most fantasy readers have in their top five, I guess. Not a very radical list, though I'd wager a good few people would find the works - at least of the three first I mentioned - pretty radical in terms of humor, violence, and sexuality.

All right, I just had to get that out of my system. I know not everyone likes Joe's works, but for me it's a match made in, ah, on a muddy battlefield. Really, I feel like quoting everything I've read so far. I know that when I get excited about something, I get excited about something so feel free to take any of the above with a pinch of salt.

I have to make a schedule now, though. Twenty minutes Red Country, twenty minutes The Wise Man's Fear, twenty minutes Deadhouse Gates and uh...well the rest shall have to wait, then. That's an hour every night already (though I suspect Red Country is captivating enough that I'll be reading it when I really shouldn't)...

Hey ho for fantasy literature. Me loves it.

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