The Emperor Has No Clothes! - When you just don't get the hype

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Thor, Oct 19, 2008.

  1. Thor

    Thor Registered User

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    Have you ever had your expectation built up to Olympian heights about an author either by critical acclaim, or popularity or both, only to read with incredulity and ask: what is all the hype about?

    Here is my top 5 list, what's yours?

    5. George Martin
    Except for Hodor. He redeemed this series. If he dies, I'm done.

    4. Robert A. Heinlein
    Too much talk, too much irrelevant talk, none of which truly attains to insightfulness or cleverness - you grok? On the bright side though, he did provide the impetus for a wonderful showcase of Denise Richards' ... acting skills.

    3. Stephen R. Donaldson
    I AM A LEPER. Aah, yes. Indeed. But aren't we all lepers?

    2. Orson Scott Card
    Fart eater. Wow those kids are so ... lord of the flies. My innocence is lost Orson all thanks to you.

    1. Guy Gavriel Kay
    Aww shucks this country bumpkin has seen the world now! I'm a sadder but a wiser man. And my feelings. Would you like to hear about my feelings? They put the P in Poignant. Oh yes, I am practically the perfect personification of poignancy. Feel it baby. POIGNANT!!!
     
  2. Erfael

    Erfael Lemurs!!! Staff Member

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    Short answer to your question, with no examples at the time to back it up (hey, it's late on a Saturday night): Yes, I've certainly read a few very highly-hyped books over the last few years and not seen what the fuss is about. In fact, most (with but one exception) of the highly-hyped secondary world fantasy I've read over the last few years has left me feeling pretty blah.

    Then again, there are an even larger number of books I've read in the same span of time that make me wonder why there aren't more people talking about them, more people buying them, more advertising dollars spent on them. The short and somewhat facetious answer I have to that is that those particular books just don't have enough swords in them.
     
  3. Ranke Lidyek

    Ranke Lidyek Guest

    Can't say I agree with Card. Donaldson's series is an odd one. I didn't like it until I finished the third book. I think the ending is one that redeems the series in many ways... though I don't want to go into it. Martin deserves his acclaim--the problem is that in the last novel he lost what narrative drive and plot he did have. Now the seams are showing; his series is a glorified soap opera at heart. That said, he's a scintillating writer when he's on.

    For me, the biggest disappointment recently was Scott Lynch (way, way too smug and self-congratulatory with poorly written characters and little substance. It's rare I can't finish a novel.) Also, Jon Armstrong who wrote an abysmal one-note SF novel called: Grey. I'm not a big fan of Gene Wolfe (Free Live Free is awful, and so was The Knight). Though his New Sun books are must-read material. The poorest writer of the lot is Christopher Paolini (Eragon). I'm amazed he's published, though I admit rooting for him early on due to his "age". That's about all I can think of at the moment...

    Still, there are many great writers out there and some novels don't hit our sweet spots. I don't begrudge anyone their success. It's a way to get more people interested in the genre, which I love.
     
  4. Whiskeyjack

    Whiskeyjack sapper-in-chief

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    Dragonlance Chronicles is it

    Definitely the first book in the Dragonlance Chronicles series fits the bill. Nine cardboard cutout characters introduced within the first 3 chapters, half of them indistinguishable from the other half. A new creature or race seemingly introduced in every chapter (robed monks, forest ghosts, white stag, unicorn, centaur, pegasus). Plotlines that meander back and forth across the landscape. And all that within only the first half of Dragons of Autumn Twilight. The characters and story arcs seemed to be picked ad lib. In fact, the story reminded me of that South Park episode where the writers of the Family Guy turn out to be manatees who pick jokes at random from a tank of floating balls. Hmmm, maybe Weis and Hickman are actually manatees, too? That would explain things.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2008
  5. Alex

    Alex Registered User

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    Jonathan strange & Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke.

    I can not finish this book no matter how hard I try to like it. I've tried 4 times and the farthest I've made it is halfway through.

    Gene Wolfe - His tedious writing style makes me want to lie down and cry every time I try one of his books.

    Those are the 2 authors who spring to mind first when I think about overrated authors=)
     
  6. Thor

    Thor Registered User

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    OMG I couldn't agree with you more - I think if I'd recalled that repressed memory, it might have topped my list. A very earnest and admittedly close friend of mine loaned it to me with high praise and good intentions. I got through the first third before I had to skim the rest at one line per page to avoid being sucked into a black hole where all originality of plot, setting and character ceased to exist. He must have bought a "Teach Yourself" book for sci-fi and fantasy: Guileless country lad discovers magical object, meets wise mentor who is more than he appears. Gradually discovers his innate powers and learns that he is the chosen one destined to thwart the forces of darkness...
     
  7. Erfael

    Erfael Lemurs!!! Staff Member

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    One of the things that always amazes me when threads like this crop up is how much it seems to bother people when they don't like a book. (Not necessarily saying that's applying to anyone so far here, but something I've observed over the years.) This seems exacerbated when the book is popular or has a great deal of marketing behind it.

    Why do you think that is? Do you feel robbed? Cheated? Like somehow you're missing something? I don't have an answer to this...just throwing some stuff out there.

    I've been lucky such that over the last few years I've not read too many books that I just don't like. I tend to be very selective in what I'm reading, though, and don't tend to "read with or per the masses." When I do read something I don't like, I tend to just put it aside and think nothing more of it.
     
  8. Thor

    Thor Registered User

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    Yes ($10-$15), yes (a week on average), and yes (if it's popular). And violated. Definitely violated. I mean, I've let this person into my mind only for them wreak havoc and wanton destruction on my sense of umm good taste. This mind molestation plunges me into a downward spiral of drugs and depression culminating in a Cobainian climax ... all because Christopher Paolini thought it was cute to write his sister into the plot. Some people are so irresponsible these days.
     
  9. Ranke Lidyek

    Ranke Lidyek Guest


    Hell yes, I feel cheated. More so than with a bad film (because reading requires more of a precious commodity--TIME). And books cost a pretty penny too. The point is not blaming the authors. It's not easy to write; but some responsibility lies with the publisher, editor, hype machines and so forth who choose to hype undeserving novels... When a well-known editor proclaims a certain book "the best fantasy I've read in 30 years" and that book (I'm looking at you, In the Name of the Wind) ends up being a run-of-the-mill fantasy novel, her opinion and integrity begs questioning. It's also unfair to the author to be saddled with unreasonable expectations. I managed to enjoy Rothfuss' novel for what it was, but for others I think the book may have fallen below the bar set for it and it hurts fantasy as a whole. It worked for sales, but it kills the genre and people's respect for it. The fact that Paolini sells tons of novels does us no favors.

    You act as if readers aren't "selective" enough or as "informed" as you are when we choose what we read. That it's "our" fault. But I'm willing to bet most people on this site only tackle books recommended by people they trust. I spend a long time before deciding on such an investment. But now we have little we CAN trust. Few people are willing to be honest, as most are afraid to point out obvious flaws because the business has become so confined and insular they fear they might upset someone's little feelings.

    This bothers me precisely BECAUSE there are other novels out there being ignored/neglected (a point you make earlier). The fact is that a good story is quantifiable, despite what people think. A middling book does not deserve high praise just because it comes with a "brand" or a swoosh mark printed on it's label. But people here and elsewhere are more reluctant to call a spade a spade. Should we be dishonest? If a friend were to ask my opinion on a novel, I think he'd expect an actual response. As a lover of the genre, I feel it is my duty to provide one.
     
  10. DailyAlice

    DailyAlice Registered User

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    Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, of which I actually bought the first two (unusual for me). I guess I'm driven to mention them because they're the kind of book I usually like and had been recommended by people I usually trust. I have no "quantifiable" objection to anything in these just-there-to-be-liked adventures, but they just kind of...laid there, actively not inspiring me to pick them up. I forced myself to finish them, but it was a chore, and that ain't right.
     
  11. wolfbane19

    wolfbane19 Registered User

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    Oh yes I have.
    1) The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Well the only one I've finished was The Gunslinger, but it was pretty awful so I don't feel to inclined too try out the rest. I just don't get the fascination, I thought it was poorly written and I found myself not caring about any of the characters.
    2) The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. I'd always heard this was one of the great series in the realm of fantasy and really I couldn't have been more disappointed (and yes I read the entire thing, including the short story). I had the same problem with Richard as I have with Superman, he's just too perfect with virtually no flaws or weaknesses. Being a normal, flawed human I found it was near impossible to identify with the character at all. And maybe be it's because I've always identified myself as a socialist, but I was really offended by the political commentary directed at the "Imperial Order" which was essentially a socialist state.
    3) The Dragonrider's of Pern series by Anne McCaffery. Nothing against the book series itself, I just found it really boring.
    4) The Eragon series. Need I say more?
    5) A Song of Ice and Fire by G.R.R. Martin. I like this series, I really do but some people talk about it like it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Its a good series, I'll even say its a really good series, but definitely not great and not one of my favorites. (maybe in my top 20)
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2008
  12. FinnMacCool

    FinnMacCool New Member

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    I'd recommend you at least try the next book, The Drawing of the Three. The series changes drastically in terms of style, plot structure, and characterization after The Gunslinger. Not saying any of the later books will necessarily be to your interest, but they're a very different animal.
     
  13. Michigan

    Michigan Registered User

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    Didn't his parents publish his book? Might explain it.
     
  14. Hoodwink

    Hoodwink contains traces of nuts

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    I have to say Glen Cook. I ordered the first three books of the Black Company series off Amazon, full of faith in the myriad fantasy fans who recommended him to me. Instead of the fresh, original intriguing dark fantasy I was craving, I found an indulgent, repetative, amatuer effort.

    On Guy Gavriel Kay, I've enjoyed some of his works, but I couldn't get through Lions of Al Rassan, because I just never cared for any of the characters.
     
  15. kged

    kged Gloriam Imperator

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    Martin is the best thing to happen in fantasy for as long as I can remember. He punctured all the pomposity and silliness of the genre, and reminded us that life in a feudal society is a brutal thing, not a hey-nonny-nonny dance around the codpiece. As many have often said, I can barely even look at the likes of Tolkien now.

    Now Erikson - there's an over-rated writer. Lots of clever ideas, many splendid visuals, and not one character. I read his books like they were recipes, but with less interest in the outcome.
     
  16. benh

    benh benh

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    I agree with wolfbane on Martin. He's good, just not amazing. I really thought the first one... what is it... the crown of kings? I thought that was excellent. I really invested in those characters and I really cared and when so and so happened toward the end (you all know what I'm talking about), I thought to myself wow! Here's something sweet.

    I'm halfway through the green one... steel and snow, and really, the only reason I still care about the characters is because I connected with them in the first one. I just don't give a crap. Sorry, it's interesting, but yeh.

    My biggest one is a book by Vonda N McIntyre, called The Moon and the Sun. I bought it because it won awards, scored good reviews, etc. I just, once again, wasn't interested. It was okay. Nothing more.

    Anyway thats me.
     
  17. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    I still contend that Heinlein, and the majority of his generation of pulp/s.f. writers, were short story writers who floundered mightily at novel length. Some, like Alfred Bester and Fred Pohl, found ways to write novels, some didn't. The majority of the novel-length works from that generation, though, are mighty thin gruel.

    I'd heard a lot of hype on Ender's Game by the time I read it. I felt that the young Fred Brown of the 1940s could have produced something like it at 1/10th the wordage, maybe less; it ended up reading like an over-long Twilight Zone episode.

    That said, I found Speaker for the Dead a much more textured, engaging novel in spite of the cliff-hanger ending. I haven't read any more in the series, though.

    Randy M.
     
  18. Wulfa_Jones

    Wulfa_Jones Gentleman and Scholar

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    Erikson and Bakker for me.

    I managed to read Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates, but really struggled with them. Gardens of the Moon was alright and I enjoyed the ideas behind Deadhouse Gates, but Erikson’s prose and characterisation just didn’t capture me.

    I’ve attempted Bakker's The Darkness that Comes Before about five or six times now and never make it past the first quarter of the book. Just can’t see what the fuss is about.

    I’m reading GRRM slowly but surely. The first few books really got me and I sped though then, however, when I reached Sword of Storms I started to drag and haven’t finished it yet. I enjoy the story, but get frustrated and sometimes feel like Martin needs to just get on with it.
     
  19. Cranky Hamster

    Cranky Hamster Registered User

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    Wow, you guys already got all of mine.

    Seconded on Bakker and Erikson. I stalled out around 50 pages of Bakker's first book and 100 pages of Erikson's. I really don't understand the praise for Bakker; I do understand the praise for some of Erikson's concepts, which are pretty awesome when people tell me about them as just pure ideas, but the execution doesn't work for me.

    And Heinlein, oh man, yes. So overrated. Terrible like brainmelting and woah. His female characters are just annoying and offensive beyond my ability to express. This isn't the SF board so I wouldn't have thought of him ordinarily, but since he's been mentioned, I will just co-sign any and all disses thrown in that direction.

    Re: Rothfuss -- as a previous poster mentioned, I would probably have liked his book if I had approached it as a standard fantasy novel. Since I was expecting it to be the Second Coming of Martin, it was something of a letdown and I really didn't get very far (plus, as I've ranted about before, I am not a fan of Kvothe at all). I will give it another try after I've thoroughly hammered my expectations down, and I expect I'll like it a lot more then. That's definitely a prime example of a book that's probably fine on its own merits but just doesn't stand up to the hype.
     
  20. Trinuviel

    Trinuviel Registered User

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    I've had a few disappointments whit books that have been touted, on the internet, as the best fantasy in decades:

    Steven Erikson
    - I found Gardens of the Moon almost unbearable reading. Plot and action was jumbled to the point of it being almost incoherent, the characters was rather bland and the author uses magic and god-like creatures to the point of overkill. I struggled through the whole book, but cannot muster enough enthusiam to continue reading the series since I really don't care what happens next.

    Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself was another disappointment. First and foremost, because I found his world-building exceedingly poor and secondly because I didn't really find the characters interesting enough to keep on reading. While I did enjoy some of his deadpan humour, I just felt that his book was posturing as a "dark" and "gritty" fantasy by simply making every character deeply unsympathetic but without portraying the kind of harsh and brutal world that would produce such characters.

    Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing trilogy was not exactly a disappointment to me. I quite enjoyed it, but find that his internet reputation as a new master of epic fantasy is somewhat undeserved. His novels deals with some interesting themes, but they are also hampered by some serious flaws, especially when it comes to structure, pacing, and to a certain extent, characterization.