Monday, March 17, 2008


I followed that nice Mr. Vandermeer's advice on writing: read the things you don't like, and work out why you don't like them. I bravely battled my way as far as halfway through chapter four of "The Outstretched Shadow" by Mercedes Lackey and That Other Guy. One thing I forgot to add to the list of advantages that ebooks have is that I couldn't hurl the book into the bin, mainly due to it also being my phone. Maybe that should go on the disadvantages list. Some books need a good hurling.

The embarrassing infodumps didn't stop after chapter one, nor did the book become any better. I've come up with a new rule for classifying fantasy novels: those that use the word "magicks" (with a fucking "k", because then it shows the author once saw a sample of faux-olde-englishe from way back before they invented spelling) and those that don't. The first set is a subset of bad books, the other set can also be, but that's not guaranteed.

Besides the extra "k" and the misguided belief that the word "magic" can have a plural, the things that turned me off the novel were its setting and the narration.

You never get the feeling that the city Ametholihathehathoeoh (or something) is a real one. I'm comparing it to the great fantasy cities that I've read: Ambergris, New Crobuzon, Ashamoil, even Ankh Morpork. All these places feel like real places, as if there are far more stories taking place there than the just the one you're reading. Armehthholieathotl reads like most of it was assembled from flatpacks from Ikea's new range of Crappy Fantasy Cities.

Every character is accompanied by narration that explains every single thing they do, the history behind every institution or custom, and the motivation behind their actions. There's a reason you're told to "show, don't tell", this is what happens when you ignore it. There's no scope for letting the reader experience the unfamiliar, which would give them some investment in the story and a feeling that they've been dropped somewhere strange and new. This is fantasy, don't make it feel tedious and mundane.

That's enough of that. I've spent enough time on that book, more than it deserves.

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