16 August 2005
Yesterday I read Diana Wynne Jones's Conrad's Fate, which was one of my birthday books. I enjoyed it extremely. It was definitely in the DWJ mode, but I haven't read a lot of her stuff lately, so I wasn't tired of that mode, and the details were not at all a retread of previous stuff. It was sort of an upstairs-downstairs book. Fit very well with the "Jeeves and Wooster" episodes we've been watching lately.
I also read Patrick O'Brian's The Nutmeg of Consolation. Number fourteen, I think, in this series, and still going very strong indeed. I think it's O'Brian's ability to have plot arcs of differing lengths that really keeps this series moving for me. If each book was entirely self-contained, it might all start to feel choppy and too easily wrapped up. Instead, after this many books, I have faith that by the end of each volume, something (several somethings!) will have happened, the characters will have grown and changed, but not everything will be all packaged with a bow. It's a good balance. It makes me nervous about the last whole book, though, since there's a partial after it making clear that it wasn't intended to be a definitively last book. Most of my friends who've already read this series reassure me that this will not be a problem.
Today I read the new Scientific American and Isabel Glass's The Divided Crown.
Sorry about that. I got interrupted Sunday night and have not gotten back to this since. At any rate: The Divided Crown. I think whether I would recommend this book to someone who was not a devotee of high fantasy in its current form would depend greatly on why they didn't like it. If they didn't like the tropes of high fantasy getting passed around again on the guitar, I'd tell them to steer well clear, because these are those tropes in spades. (Reminded me very much of Robin Hobb in terms of which notes got played.) If they didn't like high fantasy because it goes on so interminably long, this is the book for them. It hits the same notes as a lot of other high fantasy series, but -- and here all analogies with music are going to become really awful, so I'm going to quit -- everything goes on in much less space. You never reach the end of a chapter and think, "Is that ALL that happened? In thirty @#$&% pages?" This book is neither padded nor (gulp) self-indulgent, and for that it stands out.
(I've been following an internet kerfluffle about the use of the word "self-indulgent" in reviews. I think it's perfectly justifiable to use it, though I don't think it's always a negative term. Dumas, for example, was not what one could reasonably call a disciplined writer. Nor would he have been so delightful to read if he had been. This does not mean that all self-indulgence is delightful to read, however.)
My main gripe with The Divided Crown, since I have no problem with high fantasy tropes in the slightest, is that many of the characters are stupid. The author clearly knows they're stupid, and they're convincingly stupid. They are more convincing when they're being stupid than they would have been if someone in their circumstances had magically been intelligent and thoughtful. But the fact remains that if you are going to read this book, you're going to have to read about several stupid people along with the heroes and the villains.
(If you've ever complained about hypercompetent teenagers and massively incompetent adults in fantasy and SF, this is definitely the book for you: the words learning curve get applied fairly hard to the heads of the younger characters.)
Oof. I haven't even caught up to the present on books, but having such a small puppy means that when I have computer time, I'm not using it for long journal entries, I'm using it for actual work, and a good deal more of my time is spent down on the couch where I can more easily watch her play out of the corner of my eye while I revise a manuscript on printout or read a book or something. More tomorrow.
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