Friday, June 21, 2013

two very different approaches to fantasy

I'm currently reading The Wise Man's Fear, which is the second book in Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicle.

Actually, "reading" isn't the most accurate way to describe the relationship I'm having with this book. Reading brings to my mind a more leisurely activity than what I'm engaged in right now. I'm not really reading it so much as having a wild fling with it. You see, I checked this book out from the library, it's due in a few days, and they won't let me renew it because someone else already has it reserved. The book is over a thousand pages long, and when I found out I wouldn't be able to renew it I had 500 pages left. So now I'm racing through it, and giving it my every free moment, because I know our time together will be brief.

It's an excellent book, by the way. The writing is incredible--full of insightful descriptions of the sorts of things most of us experience but never manage to express so eloquently. It even manages the rare miracle of putting things we've felt and thought into words that make those thoughts and feelings clearer to us, easier to understand. And the story is great, too--full of fleshed-out, engaging characters, compelling action, fascinating ideas. It's really a marvelous book.

But it's not really a book I'd normally race through. It's not a tightly-plotted, edge-of-your-seat, page-turner type of book. It's more of an expansive, meandering book, drifting through one story-arc after another. It's the sort of book you have a long-term relationship with, not just a quick fling.

Which makes me think of another series of books: The Codex Alera by Jim Butcher. Here's a picture of the first book in the series:

Butcher's books are also excellent books. And they're the tightly-plotted, edge-of-your-set, page-turner type of books. He's masterful at raising the stakes, upping the odds, maintaining an ever-escalating tension that keeps you flipping pages quickly, eating the book with your eyes. The Codex Alera books are perfect books for the "wild-fling" sort of relationship.

Ironically, I found out about Patrick Rothfuss through my appreciation of Jim Butcher. You see, I was searching the internet for Jim Butcher information, and I stumbled across a video of him being interviewed by Patrick Rothfuss (click here to go to the video). And that lead me to another video, filmed at the same convention, of Patrick Rothfuss being interview by Jim Butcher (click here to see that one).

If you watch the videos, you'll see that these two guys respect each other. It's obvious that they've read each other's books, and that they appreciated the skills those books showcase. And that brings me to the point of this whole post: they write very different types of books, and yet they recognize value in books that are different from what they write. They seem to understand that there are different types of greatness.

I've been thinking about that because I've been frequenting Amazon recently, hoping to see some reviews go up for my book, and I've ended up reading some of the reviews people have posted for The Wise Man's Fear. A lot of the people that have issues with the book seem to be complaining that it isn't a Jim Butcher book--it isn't a tightly-plotted, edge-of-your-seat, page-turner. It meanders.

Or, to put it in a more confusing way: they're blaming the book for not being what it isn't supposed to be.

I think they're missing the point.

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