Lori's Book Nook

Archive for August 2007

I feel positively inundated with books!

Glorious!

I am a volunteer book reviewer, and the real joy of that is the periodic packages of books that arrive in the mail. One arrived this last week, and I’m still reeling from the fabulousness of that day’s mail.

Wanna hear what they are? Keep in mind, I have yet to read them. If any of them are familiar to you, give me a shout.

Some non-fiction:

Running with Swords: The Adventures and Misadventures of the Irrepressible Canadian Fencing Champion by Sherraine MacKay (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)

The Rage: Reflections on Risk by Steve De Maio (Rocky Mountain Books)

Mental Traps: a Field Guide to the Stupid Mistakes that can Ruin Your Life by Andre Kukla (Doubleday Canada)

And some novels:

Zed by Elizabeth McClung (Arsenal Pulp Press)

Mallory by Margaret Gunning (Turnstone Press)

Certainty: a novel by Madeline Thien (McClelland & Stewart)

The Best Way You Know How by Christine Pountney (Penguin)

Gotta Find Me an Angel: A Novel by Brenda Brooks (Raincoast)

I’m reading the fencing one first…then a novel. Then another non-fiction, maybe with a novel…

Joy!

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A co-worker and I have discovered that we both read fantasy novels. She took it upon herself to lend me a rather silly series, by a writer I’d never heard of before — Tamora Pierce. A quick Google search tells me that she is a fantasy author who writes books for young people. That just tells me that publishers don’t think young people can handle any richness to their writing. Here’s her motivation for writing, from an interview (quoted here):

I got into this to write about girls who kick butt. In the mid-’70s, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Sheri Tepper, C.J. Cherryh, that crowd particularly, started to change the field. For me, there was a problem that a number of these characters were gay or celibate female warriors, and I was neither. So I wrote fantasy with female warrior heroes who like guys. Robin McKinley and Barbara Hambly both started to publish their fantasy at the same time, so I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

Is she comparing herself to Robin McKinley? Author of The Blue Sword? Funny though, how Pierce’s heroine, Alanna — who isn’t a lesbian, no way no how! — has a series of adventures very similar to those of Harry/Harimad-sol in McKinley’s book. Desert adventure, finding her powers…

Thank goodness, she’s not comparing herself to Bradley, Tepper, or Cherryh!

What problem do I have with this writer?

  • She takes absolutely no time to develop her characters beyond the bare minimum.
  • She tells, and tells, and tells, and never once shows.
  • The plot points are so transparent it’s annoying — since she doesn’t take any time to develop the world or the characters, when someone blinks, you know it’s significant.
  • Three words: Deus ex machina. Magic is unexplained, it just bang! is there to save the day.
  • Each of the 4 books in the series I read (oh yes! All 4…I’m not complaining on the strength of only reading one — not too onerous, they were quick reads), had enough action for 3 or 4 books. Huge quest material, dealt with in 4 chapters. Move on to the next with a “And they all went back to the city.” Come up with another 3 adventures, some innocent shtupping (’cause remember, she’s not a lesbian. NO. Not a lesbian!), some more ways for Alanna to be utterly wonderful and perfect and strong and the best fighter and . . . ingredients for one more Tamora Pierce book, 3 more for any other writer with a modicum of talent for exposition.

I wish I could say I was exaggerating. But if I’d been introduced to this as a pre-teen, I would have been scarred for life, my ability to appreciate good writing forever damaged.

I’ll go back to Lois McMaster Bujold (or Sheri S. Tepper or . . .) any day.

I interrupted my reading of this tripe to pick up one of Bujold’s latest, that I’d been trying to ignore, trying to prolong the anticipation — The Sharing Knife: Beguilement. (Read the first couple of chapters here!)

Bujold really takes the time to develop her characters, and their world. In one sequence, 2 of the characters ride 3 hours into town…it takes 15, beautifully written pages.

Pierce would have done it more efficiently: “They rode three hours to town.”

Gads. I don’t usually write negative reviews, but I need something to show for the wasted time!


Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!