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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Traditional Fantasy, pt 2: Robert Jordan, Michael Moorcock

During my last months in Central America, I spent time reading/sampling some of the new and classic fantasy series: Michael Moorcock, Kevin Hearne, Robert Jordan, and Terry Goodkind.  I'm still processing  Fritz Leiber, Michael Chabon, Andre Norton and Robin Hobb.

I tend to avoid long series. What if the ending reeks? I've been burned by a few. But these books are so popular, I thought it time to give them a spin.

Part 1 is here.

Here's a brief overview of my assessment:

Robert JordanEye of the World
  1. Characters: Jordan knows his people. You get the sense of history of the people. There's not just good guys and bad guys, but a number of groups working to different ends. Three young men--one or all of whom might be involved in a prophecy--not to mention the girlfriend who breaks ties with magical group to join another.  Yet another surprise member initially tries to pry the girl away. It's easy to see the series' popularity. 
  2. World-Building: Likewise, probably for similar reasons/methodology, you sense the richness of the rituals and abilities of the peoples, prophecies and so forth.
  3. Dynamic plot: Jordan knows how to engage readers with danger, spooky and powerful enemies and cool allies.
  1. Opening: Why start here? This relates to the next problems (is this one problem or four?)
  2. Plot and scene and ending: The books don't seem to know what to exclude. One book in the series most readers roundly slam because no new territory is covered. You can read the opening scene and guess something like this might happen. This makes me leery of reading the entire series. Where's the Reader's Digest condensed version, especially for later books? 

Michael MoorcockSailor on the Seas of Fate*

  1. Eyeball-kicks/Speculation: These are the highlights. You've got to read it for these. When Elric engages his enemies, they are far cooler than he is. That he can defeat them raises his esteem.
  2. Time: It is a fluid substance where past and present can meet, and it's hard to tell how it flows.
  3. Other dimensions: Elric not only meets his manifestations from other dimensions, but he also goes to battle with them.
  4. Character: Explanation for his ever-present woe: Death of someone he cared for--a death he is implicated in.
  1. Character: A bit too much woe. You'll understand later, but maybe he should have been given more reason for his ever-present melancholy earlier.
  2. Plot/World-building: I lump these two together as this is an episodic novel, so Moorcock isn't trying to build a place or build a bigger arc, so it isn't fair to critique on this account. Nonetheless, they would have supplied a more satisfying conclusion. 
* This is the second in the series, but I'm not sure it matters where you start. I read the first several times some time ago and can't remember much of it, except for appreciating the language.

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