Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Written Word Wednesdays, Chapter 1

If you've glanced at my profile, then it should be pretty obvious that my genre of choice is Fantasy, followed closely by SF. I tend to go through cycles where I read non-stop for a month or two, and then read hardly anything at all for about the same amount. This non-reading cycle has lasted a little bit longer than usual recently, thanks to mental burn-out from my Masters degree. Even when I was able to get myself motivated to read something, it would usually be only a book or two before my brain would rebel in its own funny way: "If you're reading something, it should be something for class!" it would seem to scream at me. And yet, lounging in front of the tv watching my Babylon 5 dvds till 3 in the morning never seemed to phase it . . . but I digress.

Since finishing up my final class this summer (T-minus 5 days till Capstone exam and counting!), I've gone on a bit of a reading jag.

Make Love! (The Bruce Campbell Way) by Bruce Campbell: A fictionalized autobiographical novel by B-movie legend Bruce Campbell, best known to horror film buffs as Ash in the Evil Dead movies, and to everyone else as the snooty usher who wouldn't let Peter Parker into the play in Spider-Man 2. Following on the heels of his actual autobiography If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor (an entertaining read in and of itself), Campbell now ventures into the world of fiction, concocting a story of how his (imaginary) role in a (non-existent) A list film co-starring Richard Gere and Rene Zellweger somehow infects the cast and crew with a B-movie mentality. Campbell's self-deprecating view of his career is amusing, as are most of the scenes revolving around his research into the (still imaginary) role of an advice-giving doorman. A nice, light read (finished it in a day) that will probably be appreciated more by Campbell's fans than anyone else.

Restoration by Carol Berg: the final book in Berg's Rai-Kirah fantasy trilogy delivers a great ending to a great series. Although I had a hard time getting into some of the early chapters dealing with the political problems facing Aleksander, once the book moved into Seyonne's journey to find out the true origins of his people, I was hooked. By the end I was sad that this was going to be the last time I got to read about Seyonne and Aleksander.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling: Without going into too much detail (since I know at least one faithful CoIM reader has yet to finish it) I'll just say that I really enjoyed the penultimate Potter book. My one complaint is that the complete refusal of every single character to lend any credence to Harry's concerns about Malfoy was unbelievably annoying. The ending, however, has me totally jazzed for the final installment in the series, which promises to be quite a departure from all of its predecessors.

And last (but most certainly not least), the latest reason for me to stay up till 3 in the morning:
The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King. I can't really do justice to my feelings towards the series without recounting my experiences with the books over the years. Yes, that's right, I'm the Harry Knowles of blogs . . . except, y'know, thinner. Much thinner. Much, MUCH thinner. Umm, where was I? Oh, yeah.

This epic fantasy series started over 30 years ago, when a young King decided to try his hand at a Tolkienesque saga by way of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I read the first two installments (The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three) back in 1987, and then eagerly awaited the next book . . . for four years. But my waiting was not in vain, because when The Waste Lands finally arrived, it was even better than I had hoped. I was a little disappointed that it ended on a cliffhanger, but I was sure that I wouldn't have to wait nearly as long for the fourth book. Fast-forward another 6 years to 1997, and the publication of Wizard and Glass. Once again, I was more than willing to forgive the long wait because, once again, the latest installment was an improvement over the last. However, I had learned my lesson, and no longer fooled myself into thinking that the next book would be making its way to the local bookstore anytime in the near future. I had even started to wonder if King would ever finish the series. So, when I heard about King's near-fatal accident in 1999, it's no wonder that one of my first thoughts was "Aw, crap, no he's never going to finish it." Not exactly proud of that thought, but I am mollified somewhat by the fact that I wasn't the only one to have that reaction, and that it was these similar reactions which prompted a recovered King to finally sit down and write the last three books in the series, which were then published in a year and half timeframe. Even though the last three books in the series (Wolves of the Callah, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower) were published in 2004, I wanted to make sure I had the time to sit down and read all seven books back to back, so the long-awaited conclusion had to wait a little bit longer until I finished my classes.

So, how did it go? Well, it took me a while to re-read the first four. I was still enjoying them, but there was something holding me back from diving into them head first. Maybe it was just the fact that I'd read them all before, and I was missing that general need to rush through and see how it all turns out. Or, maybe I was bit worried about what I was going to find when I got to the final three books. After all, I had heard some negative things about the conclusion to the series (such as how King had worked references to his accident into it) and, to be honest, while I'm a big fan of King's work, he doesn't always know how to end his work effectively (I'm looking at you, Storm of the Century!). Still, I slogged my way through those first four books over the course of a couple of months, taking a break between them to read other things. Finally, I started Wolves of the Calla . . . and finished the last three books in under a week (Song of Susannah in a single day). The final verdict? Excellent. Truly, truly excellent. I've read some of the criticisms of the final books of the series, and while I can understand where they're coming from, none of those things bothered me at all. As for the ending . . . it might not suit everyone, but for me, it felt right. Do I wonder how the series might have turned out if King hadn't been nearly killed by a reckless driver? Definitely. But that doesn't lessen what was actually produced.


Dudbud said...

Don't know if anyone else thinks this way; but I've given up on any book series that isn't already complete. It's just too frustrating, and I am liable to forget about the series if I can't read it straight through. Other than Dark Tower, what completed series do you recommend?

Cap'n Neurotic said...

I go back and forth on the "waiting for the series to end" idea. There are at least two series that I've given up on until they're completed (Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind), but there are other on-going series that I can't stand to wait for, like George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice.

That being said, off the top of my head some completed series that I've really enjoyed include:
The Belgariad and its sequel series The Mallorean by David Eddings.

Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams.

I think I read that the excellent Runelords series by David Farland is finished now, but I haven't read the last book yet.

The final volume of Kate Elliot's Crown of Stars series hasn't been published yet, but will be out within a year.

Finally, I've recently been pushing the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust on all of my friends. While not technically finished, the Taltos books are more a series about common characters than a series about an overarching quest. Another of my favorite series like this is Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.