On reading huge fantasy novels on my Sony Ereader

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.

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5 Responses to On reading huge fantasy novels on my Sony Ereader

  1. iamroewan says:

    I’ve started The Name of the Wind twice, not counting the first time in a book store. Something keeps pulling me away to other unread books and maybe that’s what it is – not enough immediacy and momentum to keep me interested.

    • Janettes says:

      Yes. I’m not sure that telling the whole story as a flashback is the best choice. It’s too distancing. And I’ll have to wait years for the final installment to find out whether the pay off is worth the slog of getting to it. Oh well.
      What are you reading at the moment? Anything that would take my fancy? 🙂

      • iamroewan says:

        I just finished Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith. This is one of a grim mystery series starring a morose police detective. Very Russian. Very good. I think that I am in love with the protagonist. Right now I’m in the middle of another edition in a noir-ish urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher starring a wise-cracking detective-wizard with supernatual enemies. Great fun!

        Well…I’m looking at my stack of unread books…ok, next I might read Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay or The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet by Arturo Perez-Reverte or Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson or Stalin’s Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith.

        Or…I might reread A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. This last one has been made into a TV series which is arousing much hoopla in the entertainment pages of the newspapers but I can not watch it unless I pay a lot more money for another premium cable channel. I remember the book as being very complex and political, full of unpredictable plot twists and many many characters to keep track of.

  2. iamroewan says:

    Ugh…I read my reply above…several examples of bad grammar…I want to edit it again but can’t…damn.

    • Janettes says:

      I didn’t notice the grammar – I was too busy thinking about the books. I’ve tried Martin Cruz Smith. You’re right, he’s very grim. Too grim for me. I’ve just read the first of Butcher’s series. It was a fun quick read. I’ve got the next one on my ereader ready for when my eyes feel strong enough to deal with the screen again. I’ve been hearing about George R R Martin – not sure if I have the fortitude to take on such a monumental series right now – but it sounds very interesting.

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