Literary Impatience

I’ve read some real crap in my time.  I’ve read awful D&D books, really bad Star Wars stuff, junky fantasy and sci-fi, bad action thrillers, you name it, I probably put eyeballs to it.

But I was usually pretty stubborn about it.  If I started I book, I had to see it through to the end.  No matter how much it assaulted my sensibilities, no matter how clumsy the plotting or ham-fisted the dialog, dammit, I’d made a commitment.  So I’d plod through 300 pages of something I wasn’t particularly enjoying just so I could say I hadn’t given up, a literary Iron Man triathlon without the benefit of being in better shape at the end of it.

Lately though, I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting more impatient or selective as I get older, but I have no problems jumping ship.  It could be the fact that I have so many unread books that, if I want to get to all of them before I die, I need to start picking my battles.  One book I gave up on was The Crimson Sword by Eldon Thompson.  Now I wasn’t expecting much going in.  In fact, I bought the trilogy this book kicks off specifically because I was looking for lowbrow old-school epic fantasy, complete with all the requisite cliches.  I didn’t want Tolkien, I wanted the diverting fun of Dragonlance or Shanarra.  But good grief this book was wearying.  I was hating it.  But I kept on, mostly because I’d bought all three books and to give up on this one was to give up on the other two.  But finally, something snapped.  Don’t know what exactly, maybe one more argument between characters going over the same ground they’d gone over in four previous arguments, but I couldn’t take it anymore.  Trilogy be damned, I was done.

I figured, “If I’m looking for something like Dragonlance, why not read something by the people who wrote Dragonlance?”  So I turned to Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis’ Well of Darkness, the first book in their Sovereign Stone trilogy.  If I wanted junk, why not go to those who can at least pull it off with a little bit of panache?

The damn book is a 500 page introduction.

Seriously, the second book, Guardians of the Lost, takes place 200 years after the first one with pretty much a whole new set of characters.  A good prologue could have covered what the first book did.

Now, let me digress somewhat — I hate the trend of every fantasy series having to be a trilogy.  Especially if you’re a first-time author.  You shouldn’t be asking me to commit to three books right out of the gate when I don’t even know if your first one is any good or not.  That’s why I love Brandon Sanderson.  Yes, he’s written a trilogy, and he’s taken over the never-ending Wheel of Time series, but his first book was a great stand-alone novel that made me want to read more.  Not a Book One that made me feel like I had to.  But hey, The Lord of the Rings was three books, so I guess every fantasy after it has to be too.

Okay, digression over.  So I’m plugging along through the second book, more out of a sense of being halfway done and feeling I’d reached a point of no return rather than out of actual interest.  And some character mentions having knowledge of something else, and instead of just letting that character be smart and know this, we get some pointless flashback to another character we haven’t met yet telling him all this so we can then read about him telling it to the current characters.

Out comes the bookmark, back goes the book on the shelf.

So now I’m in that delightful period where I have no idea what I’m going to read next and plenty of choices to choose from.  I just hope the next one doesn’t piss me off, or if it does, it does it a whole lot faster than halfway through.  I got trilogies to finish.

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