Personally, I like it when authors give out background information a little bit at a time as the book develops. They need to catch my attention with the story and the characters first, so that I'll be interested enough to read about the world, etc.
However, sometimes this isn't possible because the background and the world affect how you should see the characters. I think that's what happens in Kushiel's Dart. If Carey didn't give you the background of the world, and how they look at sex and courtisans, then you would probably think Phedre is simply a prostitute, but it's not so simplistic in the world of the story. As a result, a lot of the background type information had to be give up front so that you would see the characters in the proper light.
If it's not necessary to understanding the story or the characters up front though, as I said, I prefer the background to be given after the plot and the characters have started being developed.
July 23rd, 2003, 09:21 AM
All three books AuntiePam mentions I thoroughly enjoyed!
It seems like I do not really have a preference on that. I try to deal with everything that comes along, only if there is no background at all or it is illogical and unbelievable - that's no good thing. And too much background without story and/or character developement . . . ah, no good either.
July 23rd, 2003, 12:26 PM
This is an interesting discussion. For one thing, I'm convinced to try again on Kushiel's Dart.
I do prefer the way Flewelling provides background, but I guess it depends on the story. Some creations will just need more exposition than others.
July 23rd, 2003, 01:31 PM
The story at hand should always take top priority over the historical causalities of how the main character arrived at the point in time at which the books starts. If it doesn't, then the author is writing the wrong story.
That being said, I think having an historical frame of reference is almost always a good idea, and adds yet another dimension to the main storyline and makes it much more realistic and enjoyable. Authors range in their talent, so some of them can manage to squeeze more of this info into the story without making it boring or incidental, so the question of "when is it too much?" really depends on who's doing the writing.
Personally, I think Carey did a pretty good job with Kushiel's Dart, though it was really too much to digest in the beginning so you have to just read through a lot of it. After a few more chapters though, the names and characters start falling into place, and it's not difficult to keep track of what's going on and how the past relates to the present.
July 23rd, 2003, 06:36 PM
I like a good mix of detail about the background and meeting the character(s) up front. I liked Kushiel's Dart and didn't really think she spent a lot of time on background, but:
1. It was a while ago that I read it
2. I love historical ficiton, which her book reminds me of (like Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of al-Rassan), and if the background interests me I don't mind.
I have not tried Erickson, so I don't know about him. (Though I did get the first book in the series, because many people on the board recommend him).
In terms of Flewelling: I actually didn't like her opening of Bone Doll's Twin. I liked the book eventually, but thought the first part a bit boring, and not really having to do with the story of the young boy/girl. Even the two wizards at the start bored me, and didn't really have anything in depth to contribute to the story until later. Another example the 'Bowl' had no real part in book one, or book two for that matter, yet it was a rather important presence (I am sure it will be explained at some point). Hidden Warrior was better, as was her Nightrunner Trilogy in terms of not giving you useless detail. That said I am still a fan of hers.
I guess What I don't like rather than lots of background explanation is background that to me is not needed and doesn't really make the story better or more interesting.
I know that sometimes the author just throws you into the world and life in progress and it can be hard to figure out without any background at all.