You are full of win.
You are full of win.
This conversation is heating up and already quite hilarious.
I think some people get hung up on grey characters being so content with their struggle... perhaps it's a bit too realistic, and some people want Swordy Heroguy waggling his giant pointy metal stick and saving the world with fervor. Glokta was my kind of character right down to his witticisms and fouling the bed.
Frankly, I enjoyed the internal dialogue aspect probably the most out of everything in First Law ... and my only (minor) complaint about LAOK would be that I wanted it to be longer (which isn't really a complaint at all).
I was enjoying what you had going, Joe, and it ended way too soon. BSC can't come soon enough.
Oh, and my wife refers to your books as "the pretty ones," which I thought you might find mildly ironic.
No, no, don't do that, TD. Sometimes, you don't like the characters. And it's not because those characters are flawed or naughty. It's because you don't like them, can't get into their dilemmas, the author's writing style, whatever. It doesn't mean that another "gray" character won't do it for you in another book. So let's not say that some people can't handle gray, as if we were in a bunch of teams -- the go dark team and the how dare you team.
Frankly, I've never read a black or white character in fantasy fiction except for demons, and even a lot of them are gray. All the human, elf, and such other ones are always gray. Conan the Barbarian is gray. Buck Rogers is gray. Bob the happy elf is gray. When people say a character is not gray, it usually means that they missed stuff, possibly because they were bored or annoyed. As long as a character thinks, a character is going to be gray. (Protozoas are usually white/good.)
Am into Kings and Joe is setting up his clockwork again. It's like watching the beginnings of a car crash. :) Incidentally, the conversation can continue without me. You can use Spoiler boxes, which I'll avoid or put KINGS SPOILER in big letters at least, so that I won't read it.
Honestly, maybe that didn't come out all that well. While I agree that not liking a character could be attributed to just not liking them, I think the depth that Abercrombie provides through style/prose gives us a much better foundation to decide whether we like/hate them. I definitely don't want to start splitting people into teams (and I'm not saying this just because I have a complete and utter distaste for organizing).
While your definition of "gray" is very "black and white" (ha ha, raucous laughter), perhaps I just haven't read as much fantasy fiction as you have. The black/white/gray-ness really comes in for me when I can attribute a character's actions to the phrase "because it was the right thing to do."
That being said, and while Abercrombie and Martin throw characters at us who scoff at "the right thing to do," my point is that -- regardless of their likeability -- a character who is so conflicted and has so much going on in their head may lose appeal to people who watched He-Man as a kid (or an adult).
Glokta is an extreme example of humanity and, as such, he is irascibly complicated. That's why I enjoy him, but I think that's why others can't "get into" him, not necessarily just because they "don't like him." Fair?
I only wrath those I like to discuss things with. :)
Take Mage, who tells us he's 16 and has a remarkable vocabulary. He had a problem with the likability of Abercrombie's characters and found Glotka's character voice -- Abercrombie's sing-song inner refrain which some love or hate -- annoying, to paraphrase. But that doesn't mean he's not interested in unlikable characters -- or even Abercrombie's book. He liked Bakker's book, which has only two characters who are not villains and even they are not very likable and plenty conflicted. He liked it even though he didn't find the characters likable. It's not the likability that's the issue, not the "getting" of the characters, but the characters and author's voice, which will either draw the reader in or will not. If it doesn't, Glotka is going to seem awful annoying. If it does, Glotka is a masterpiece (and for me, he is.)
Where people get confused is when they don't like a character/story, they try to figure out why, and then they state that rationale like that's going to be their criteria for every novel. Except it usually isn't. So there's no point in saying that some people don't get Abercrombie's characters because they are light, medium and dark/black gray. Or Bakker's because his are medium to dark/black gray. Or He-Man where the main characters are light gray, and so on. Grayness is only critical on an individual basis and often a minor factor in reader reaction. So there's no point in having the teams of gray/not so gray in figuring out readers as the players won't stay put. :)
Separately, when is Best Served Cold coming out again?
Yeah, I see your point now, I think. In fact, maybe I'm over-thinking this entirely. Having thought about it some more, I think the piece I'm working right now is probably a glaring example of a character that many won't "like," and, more than that, they may especially dislike his internalizing and attitude. It works for the tale, but I see what you mean as far as how it might be received.
BTW, it really is a good example, I'm not pimping myself, and I'm definitely not giving any specifics... :o
I know I'm a little late, but thanks to sffworld, I just ordered The Blade Itself and I'm pretty dang pumped.
After Rob B directed me to an interview of Joe Abercrombie describing why I should buy the book (had me cracking up the whole time), I had to have the book.
Now I can't post on here anymore cause there're way too many spoilers.
Separately, when is Best Served Cold coming out again?
That'd be June 2009 in the UK, and July in the US, courtesy of Orbit. Least that's what I recall.
As to the question of "grayness" and people's desire to roll with it in their reading or lack thereof, I think I pretty much agree with CatG. I mean, sure there're probably going to be some people who just don't want too much moral complexity cluttering up their leisure entertainment, [and it is called "entertainment" for a reason, after all, so that's cool], but for the most part I agree that it's more likely to be a matter of presentation. Glokta is stylistically brilliant in my opinion; his voice is simultaneously amusing, engaging, and deeply, deeply cynical. Other people find him ... clumsy? ... I guess? I really can't relate on this one, but to each their own and all that. Abercrombie is a writer who it seems to me certainly has some querks which are just going to not work for some people: that tendency toward a lot of internal thought process written out as monologue is one of them. [Richard Morgan actually does this a bit in The Steel Remains, too.] Another is his clever use of repetition; say one thing about Joe Abercrombie: say that he's got a few phrases he likes to use over and over and over again. But only where they're going to be effective, and drive home something about the narrative. There: that's me liking Abercrombie's technique, while someone else is going "Grrr! Stop saying that, why don't you?"
IMPLICIT KINGS SPOILER
In fact, there's a very strong argument to be made that Abercrombie's tendency for artistic repetition and circularity, [is that even a word?], extends fairly deep into his plotting and the thematic underpinnings of the series, given the end of Last Argument of Kings.
END IMPLICIT KINGS SPOILER
I have my own story to add to the anecdotal evidence for presentation rather than grit specifically as the cause of antipathy when reading something new: I like grit. I also like not grit. But I like 'Crombie and Bakker and stuff, and I picked up Miller's Empress, which is another novel with some grit to spare. I got about half a page. Couldn't do it. It wasn't the cruelty of the world Miller'd created; it was the artlessness with which the style beat the reader about the head with that cruelty. Again, just a question of writing style and reader preference. [In this case opinion seems to be quite divided, as while Empress has done quite well commercially I believe, I recall that Rob B ... didn't like it very much at all. There you go.]
I'll be very interested to hear what you think of LAoK, CatG. I'm still not quite sure what to make of my own reaction to it. I mean, I enjoyed it very much, ... but I'm not sure how soon I'll be reading it again, whereas I might pick up The Blade Itself or Before They Are Hanged any old time and thumb back through them.
YAMAHA PHAZER SPECIFICATIONS
I loved all the characters. Joe Abercrombie has said he wanted the characters to seem real, have real ambitions, desires, and conflicting emotions. I feel he has hit the spot dead on.
I'm sick of characters making the morally right decision every time. Bayaz was perfect in that aspect. He did what he had to do to keep his interest in tact. Just like a ruthless businessman.
I really enjoyed this trilogy. For those of you who were not able to enjoy Joe's characters it is a shame. I appreciate their subtle and realistic aspects. Sand dan Glokta was a great character. He reminded of the character "Soltan Gris" from the series written by L. Ron Hubbard titled "Mission Earth".