Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Storm of Swords (not a review)

Tolkien has a lot to answer for. Last night, I was having difficulty sleeping, so I decided to have a read. I finally picked up George RR Martin's Storm of Swords:1 Steel and Snow. It had been recommended on one of the sff lists I lurk on. I opened the book and there was a map. Fine. Gave it the once over. Turned the page, another map, and that went on for two more pages. OK. Started reading and got lots of unknown names and places thrown densely my way. Very little action, just lots of names and places. This went on for 12 pages or so, and I stopped. Then I flicked to the back, to see if there were any author's notes. Nope. Instead I came across nearly 50 pages of character names, grouped by houses. And was reminded why I generally don't like sff.

I feel bad about not liking this book, as it was so enthusiastically recommended. But it really isn't my cup of tea. I had gained the impression it was a sort of medieval alternative history, and that I might it enjoy it. Unfortunately, no. Just on the huge cast of characters alone, I know I won't like it - I prefer to follow a couple of characters and find out about their story. I do wish I'd checked out the back pages before I bought it :-)


At 12:28 pm BST, Blogger Carla said...

Amazon says it's Book 3 of a 6-part fantasy epic (which description always makes me wary, even without your comments). Have you read Books 1 and 2? Just wondering if all the names and places etc might work better for someone who's already been steeped in the epic and its world for 2 hefty volumes, and if this isn't really intended to work as a standalone.

At 1:33 pm BST, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

I'm sure I would have complained as much about Books 1 & 2; well Book 1, part 1, as I wouldn't have got any further :-) Now I've discovered which way the wind blows, I really wouldn't sign up for fantasy on this scale. Surely it should be able to standalone in some manner - nothing about it caught hold of me at all. It was the fact that it was obviously well regarded that made me try it. I can't be on the same wave-length I guess.

The only sff I've read in the last few years and really, really liked (as in it's on my top 10 book ten list) is Ash: a secret history by Mary Gentle. Even then, I examined the book several times over a period of weeks before buying. It's a big, shambolic, gritty, audacious book, and the author is a great loss to historical fiction. It let my guard down for Storm of Swords; guard is now firmly back up.

That said, some (most?) of the 'Arthurian' novels I read are pretty much fantasies ;-)

At 3:18 pm BST, Blogger Carla said...

It's possible that Book 1 Part 1 might have been easier to get into, since the author would know that all his readers were starting from scratch and may have made an effort to engage and not confuse, whereas by Book 3 he may be assuming that everyone reading is an established fan. Or it may be the genre. I've had similar experiences with mutli-volume Epic Fantasy and now largely avoid it.

You might like The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. I've nearly finished it and I'll post a review soon. I think it might be the sort of book you hoped Storm of Swords would be.

50 pages of character names??? I first read that as 50 names, which sounded like a lot, but 50 pages!! I have quite a lot of character names (about 40, I think), but only about a dozen are important.

It is odd how the categories work, isn't it? For some reason almost all Arthur stories seem to feel obliged to include Druids, priestesses and magic. I tend to be wary of them for that reason. Did Mary Gentle write historical at one time? I've heard of her as a sci-fi author.

At 5:25 pm BST, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

I tend to like the 'Arthurian' stories that don't have druids, etc. in. After all, my sympathies lie with the Romano British and they'd be Christian, or should be at that point ;-)

Gentle has an MA in 17th century studies, and another in War Studies (where it seems she looked into the historical role of women in war) She can't the write stories she'd want if she went purely historical, hence her alternate histories. To my knowledge, she's always written sf.

Will await your verdict on Gavriel Kay. Again, he's another oft recommended, but I'm now cautious.

At 7:49 pm BST, Blogger Stephen said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who hasn't got on with George RR Martin. Everybody raves about him, and I just found it hard to get into. Mind you, I'm struggling with Labyrinth too.

Mary Gentle's stuff I love. The straight SF is high quality, but the Rats and Gargoyles and Ash stuff is just brilliant. 1610 was also v good, but not quite that good.

At 10:42 pm BST, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

We are of an accord then Stephen, right down to 1610 being good, but not fantastic. I haven't read Rats & Gargoyles yet. Labyrinth I had to stop to review a book, but I couldn't see why it is supposed to be as brilliant as people say ... And I haven't hurried back to it.

At 9:42 am BST, Blogger Carla said...

I haven't read Labyrinth but my guess would be that it's probably quite a good book that's attracted hype because it presses some fashionable buttons - female action heroes, vague connections with Templars/Holy Grail/Cathars/religious mystery, unravelling a 'code', and so on. Throw in a capable publicist and some advertising dollars, call it 'the distaff side of The Da Vinci Code' (which is a catchy phrase), and bingo. I'll read it at some point, or at least give it a go to see what the fuss is about, but Mary Gentle is now higher up my list!


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