Books


(Note: No specific spoilers here – although there are some very vague hints)

Just finished the latest book by George R. R. Martin. One word: disappointed.  With this book, his transformation to Robert Jordan is complete. The story after 1000 pages doesn’t advance much. It does start with a lot of promise. Things happen. Interesting things, and cool things – like finally  a bad guy (although not the baddest of em all) gets taken care off in a way that was satisfactory to me. There is a build-up of unbearable tension in one of the threads, and you start salivating…  Yes its going to be one bad-ass redemption, its going to be so good ….   And then …  (to be completed in the another five freaking years!!!).

Note: “redemption” as in “payback”

Oh and yeah by the way, there is a nasty surprise/twist at the end,  but the effect is about 1/1000th of the previous ones. He has pulled some of these tricks too many times for it to have any effect now. It feels like a cheap, cheap, sitcom season cliffhanger. But still, to me, the book would have been better if that one thread came to a satisfying conclusion. Then the surprise may even have had a better effect. Now it seems like George is throwing surprises, just for the sake of surprise, and sorry, that seems pathetic!

I think George basically likes surprises a bit too much, and thus perhaps he has a problem giving the readers what they want.  So 5 years after Feast of Crows (which was 5 years after Storm), many, many readers  wanted something – and Dance seems to shows us the middle finger and say See’ya in maybe another five years suckers! And then may be….. Or not!.  Although I do realize that George has no obligation to any of us (Someone made a song that he is not our bitch – good point) – but I cant help but rant.  I understand that this is not easy, but he and his editors could have realized what this kind of a book may have on a significant % of the readership (overall rating on amazon.com isnt that good) . To me, either they misread things completely, or didn’t think through or weren’t sympathetic enough.

I will probably have grand-kids by the time he finishes this series, and I find that my patience is not limitless. Surprises are great – in fact that was the main reason why I loved the series. But too many of them, in a very long series is frankly … exhausting. And of course the thought of another five years to see if he is going to rope-a-dope again – that is almost enough to not give a damn!

(This is perhaps cheap, self-indulgent point) His love-affair with wanting to always surprise frustrates me the most w.r.t to the redemption and bad guys (i.e. payback for all the nasty things they have done). I and I would think most readers want the bad guys to go down spectacularly, because we have been gritting our teeth through 4000 pages seeing them stomp all over the good guys.   The nasty surprises w.r.t bad guys still getting a point scored when good guys had them pinned was painful, and even strangely endearing, but we knew – eventually they all will get their proper due. I now realize that this probably isn’t going to happen because that would mean giving what readers want, and that may be exactly what George does not want to do!  All the redemption except the last one in Dance feels like “meh…”  –  and if you think about it, this guy wasn’t that important!  Before that we got to “hear about” a bad guy supposedly suffering through his last days (and that is about as satisfactory as a fat-free, sugar-free, taste-free heath food), another big bad guy going down due to daddy issues (somewhat better, but for what he did – it just wasn’t good enough for me). Also, worse of all, off late, no one wants to stay dead – bad guys included.

Advice: This book need not be read until the next book comes out. In fact, if you have not read Feast of Crows, hold off reading that also,  wait for the next book, make sure people say “finally, the story is moving forward”, and then read Feast and Dance and the next book.  Unless you like being frustrated, and thought of waiting for 5 years to find out if the story moved another inch is something you look forward to.

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A special note: I first want to say that I am shocked and sorry to hear about Robert Jordan’s physical ailments. I sincerely hope he will pull through and (in spite of this post), I consider him to be an excellent writer. His creativity, imagination and writing skills do make him a very unique treasure to the literary world.

(Update on Sep 18th, 2007: It was indeed sad to learn yesterday that he did not make it – he passed away on Sep-16. I am deeply saddened by the fact that he did not get enough time to finish the tale that he had spend so many years carefully building – paying attention to the smallest of the details.  I now am a bit ashamed at having ranted about the things I did not like about the series just a few weeks ago.)

A few days ago, I went to the nearby Borders bookstore to help a guest at our house buy something. It’s been a while since I went there and I decided for “old time’s sake” to check out the Sci-Fi/Fantasy aisle, pretty much convinced that nothing will entice me nowadays. My eyes fell on the latest book on the ma….sssive epic series Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan titled Knife of Dreams, Book #11 in the series. Yes, book #11, and each book is 700-1000 pages. Like I said – ma….sssive epic.

I stood there for a few minutes contemplating Hmm…. should I? Will I be able to get into it again? Will I be able to get through it? I soon decided why the heck not and bought it. I have started reading it – at a very slow pace. Gone through about 120 pages in a few days. With family, I can find only one hour max in a day, and that too not every day.

I used to be a huge, huge fan of Robert Jordan. However, like many of his fans I got disenchanted – e.g. see the reader comments about for any of his The Wheel of Time books on amazon.com. I eventually got too frustrated by the persistent snail pace of the books weaving a slow, meandering tale that seemed to be on cruise-control heading down a barren desert highway.

After book #5 or so, I started having thoughts like – Wait a minute! The story isn’t freaking moving! Why is he saying the same things again and again? The first four books are phenomenal – you will be immersed into a fascinating, rich and complex world that he weaves with exquisite detail. But those details soon can get old for many readers. It got so for me and I actually decided to stop reading.

Until now. For no reason other than to try to rekindle a flame …

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