I’ve read myself into exhaustion and eye strain over the past few days, working my way through Patrick Rothfuss’s doorstoppers, The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear. They’re a whole lot of book, the first one ran to over 700 pages and the second to 1100, so it’s taken me an Easter’s worth of ridiculously late nights (I can only read after Petra’s gone to bed) and much more staring at the ereader than is at all comfortable to finish them off.
After 1800 pages of book, I’m not quite sure what I think. It all seems like so much preamble, the story before the real story. I’m much more interested in the protagonist as he is in the framing narrative, broken and mysterious and lacking, than in the cocky, improbably brilliant and skilled protagonist of the main narrative. (The older version of the protagonist is narrating his story to a scribe, preserving it for posterity, hence the double time frame.) I want to know what happened that left him so damaged and that’s not going to happen until the third book, so in a sense I was marking time even as I rushed my way through the books wanting to find out what happens next. I’m like Petra “what else?” she says, “and then what happened?” She’s so eager for the next piece of the story that she often misses what I’m saying about this piece. I have the same tendency myself.
Lack of time has turned me into a difficult reader to please. I want momentum and lots of it. I don’t want to grind through lots of atmospheric or philosophical stuff. I want plot and readability. I don’t want highfalutin writing. And most of all I want economy of expression. I want to be able to finish the book in a couple of sittings. Poor authors having to contend with demanding readers like me.
Luckily, they also have readers like Jo Walton over at tor.com. She’s doing a chapter-by-chapter reading of The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear because she thinks they reward that kind of detailed attention. I’ll read along and hope that I don’t find out that I’ve missed the whole point of the books.