December 15, 2006
Snooze Fest of Crows: A Digression on the State of Science Speculative Literature in the World Today
I've read all of George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice books thus far. In fact, I read A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords in three days they were that riveting.

That's a total of 3,120 pages, people. Three thousand, one hundred and twenty pages.

I picked up these books as my Return to Fantasy books. I had read a LOT of fantasy (and Sci-Fi) as a kid, C.S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffrey, Asimov, various comic books, some Conan the Barbarian, the list is quiet inexhaustible and I loved every single one of them. I was not an outgoing child, preferring to spend most of my time either with my nose in a book or out running around the woods. I didn't make friends easily, was PAINFULLY shy, pretty smart in school (which is a stigma for kids in middle school, and to a lesser degree high school, for some reason), not athletically gifted, and completely not cute or pretty in that oh-so-awkward way--all skinny arms, knobby knees, a nose that my face had yet to grow into, and incredibly bad hair.

And on and on and on. Books were, and still are, some of the most reliable friends that I had.

But, for some strange reason when I entered college, I switched to reading high brow fiction and non-fiction. I traded my old friends in for new, academically prescribed friends. Sure, I'd pick up an old favorite now and again, but only during the summers when I "had time off" to read "fun stuff." But I saw less and less of these make believe worlds and more and more of stories grounded in reality.

And then, this semester, I decided I had enough. I've discovered in the course of my MFA studies that writers take themselves, and other writers way too seriously. If the book isn't on some magical list somewhere, and at the top of that list, then we scorn it. We turn up our collective nose and sniff.

We need fantasy people, be it on some fictional as-yet discovered moon or some fictitious realm, or (shudder) some rent-controlled apartment in the East Village, we NEED it. We need to stretch our imaginations, to not look so diligently for hard facts, to wander away from the stress of every day life (as cheesy as it sounds) and fiction, whatever genre it be, at $7.99 per paperback it is one of the cheapest highs one can get.

I'd like to digress here (again) and rant about other forms of fiction/fiction in general.

I'm not a fan of chick-lit, lets just throw that out there now. I find it to be patriarchy reinforced dribble: every single woman in these kind of stories is only whole/complete/fulfilled when she has found the prefect man/job (which is usually in some smarmy field like pediatrician, or fashion editor, or reformed social lite...PLAYER PLEASE!). I like some crime, but not a lot. I like some horror (Stephen King, Anne Rice) but not a lot. I'm not a fan of bodice rippers. I like realistic fiction--I love, for example, Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper, and Mystic River. And Memoirs of a Geisha rates on my Top 10 All Time Favorites list. Any book, if written well, is worth stopping and experiencing. However, I feel as though there is a plethora of crappy ass fiction out there that continually makes people money and I just don't get it. Take Candice Bushnel for example. She wrote a crappy ass book, it got made into a crappy ass T.V. show (note to reader: I have only recently, come to despise this show. It encourages women to be every single negative stereotype you can imagine. If they all didn't end up with men, for example, would they still be fulfilled females? According to SITC, nope.) AND wrote another crappy ass book aimed at her shifting demographic--after all the 30-somethings that loved SITC are now entering their 40s. Seriously, she' s only getting published on the merit of her name. Sometimes, I feel that the less talent you have, the more likely the public will eat you up. Not literally eat you up, of course, because then that would make us ookie cannibals. You know what I mean. But the point is, Bushnel's books, and others like her, are what the market buys. So, if I, an aspiring writer, am faced with a dilemma: either write the types of fiction that I love or write the fiction that sells.

But I digress. Back to Feast of Crows. I'm about 75% of the way through this book, and it's a HUGE book. And I'm not impressed. Sure, the story picks up where the last one left off, but I feel as though George R.R. spends a lot of time moving his characters through minimal amount of space and drama. For example, every time Queen Cersie pops up, the reader gets a tiny more information about her growing paranoia (and, incidentally, middle section), alcoholism, etc. All fascinating stuff, but continually retold the same way just in slightly different scenes. Every time we see Brienne, the Maid of Tarth, Martin is sure to let us know that she's big and ugly and loyal, like some big and ugly and loyal Great Dane. Jaime's storyline continually reminds us that, with the loss of his hand, he's struggling with his identity. I'd like to point out, by and large the charater development is amazing, and, having done my research before hand, I know that George R.R. Martin bit off more than he could chew with Feast of Crows and thus had to split it into two books, but seriously, do we need 20-some chapters about Cersie's descent into madness? I've started to skip over them.

Furthermore, my most beloved characters (Jon, Arya--though she's in FOC a little bit, Daynaeres, Tyrion, Lady Catelyn) aren't in the book at all. I feel severely cheated in that respect. I liked the multiple character feel of the preceding books, Martin has a real knack for switching between voice/tone and place yet retaining his narrative authority, but FOC focuses mainly on one place, and, as a result, is incredibly boring. Too many minor and not enough major characters are given playing time.

I'd like to conclude by saying George R.R. Martin is a MASTER at what he does and I have the utmost respect for him. Juggling multiple characters, plot lines, details, settings, etc. is not an easy task and I am humbled every time I read a chapter, paragraph, sentence. His characters are flawed and tortured, they love, they fight, they scheme. Martin is, and this book is, amazing. Just maybe not as amazing as the others. It has, after all, taken me nearly two weeks to get as far as I have...

Over all Grade: B-

posted by Tina at 12:30 PM
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