April 1st, 2005, 05:07 AM #1
April 05 BOTM: Sailing to Sarantium by GGK
3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . discuss!
April 1st, 2005, 06:03 AM #2
Well I read the book and will post, but later today after work. Don't have enough time this morning.
April 7th, 2005, 06:00 PM #3
- Join Date
- Apr 2000
- NSW, Australia
I've been pretty busy lately and haven't had as much time to post, or read for that matter.
I read Saling to Sarantium in June last year, and haven't had a chance to re-read for this discussion. I read both the books in reasonable proximity of each other, and recall liking Lord of Emperors more.
For me though, the part where I really got interested was the scene where Crispin had his "bird" taken from him. It wasn't at all what I was expecting and the scene carried a great gravity.
I did a search back through my old posts and noted a comment I made while reading Lord of Emperors that at some stage it had dawned on me that GGK was creatring a mosaiic with his writing. Very clever.
That's all I've got for now - it's been a while since I read the book but maybe a bit of discussion will trigger my memory (BTW - why's it so quiet in here?)
April 8th, 2005, 04:44 AM #4
Lets see, I am a fan of GGK, and had high hopes for this book, but I found it a slog, that was at times almost boring. It was long, and I thought awkwardly written. I don't know if all his books are written the same and I never noticed because the stories took me away, but when this one didn't I was stumbling over the words. It seemed like he was writing backwards. He would right the outcome or reaction and then write what caused it, and often at the sentence level. I never noticed it before, but found it very annoying.
Besides the mechanics, I also had no involvement with the main character, Crispin. I don't know why, he seemed like a nice person, and an interesting character - but I never cared about him. No interest in whether he lived or died, I also never felt sympathy for his loss of his wife and daughters, nothing. I didn't hate him mind you, he was just there. I could have been more interested, if GGK had actually spent time on the intricacies and mysteries of laying a mosaic. But for a mosaicist Crispin does very little in that area. What the book does have in abundance is chariot races. I found them to be tedious and the actual races pointless to the plot, even though the idea grips Sarantium. I felt it was an excuse for GGK to dump his research on us.
The story itself seemed to be unsure of what it was. It seemed to be a journey/quest story, but then it seemed to peter out. Once they arrive in the city nothing of much interest takes over to fuel the plot. Perhaps the message from the queen of the Antae was supposed to bring a purpose and some urgency, but GGK blows it soon after Crispin meets the emperor/ess. Once that was out in the open there seemed to be no purpose to the story.
The characters aren't much better focused either. When Crispin is on the road he is given the 'bird' so that he can have something to relate to, and we the readers can get the story (think Tom Hanks and the beachball). He doesn't spend much time with the 'bird' and then he finds more interesting traveling companions and he ditches the 'bird'. GGK spends a several pages making Vargo and Kasia into interesting characters and loyal people, and then he drops them too. He trades them in for the soldier Carrullus, a few pages after making them interesting, and he does nothing much with them for the rest of the book. Carrullus is interesting, but he too is sparsely featured for the rest of the book. It is like GGK doesn't really know what story he is trying to tell, or how to go about it. The book just meanders along, highlighting different characters, and situations. Sometimes 'fly on the wall' stories, where you just watch the flow of life unfold are very good, but nothing about this book is interesting enough to carry the whole weight of the story.
I liked Carrullus, and the Emperor and Empress, the queen of the Antae, the green dancer, the blue cook and his apprentice, and though I didn’t like the racing, I enjoyed the story snippets set in the enclosure for the racing teams, and the driver Scortius. I felt this group of characters could have been a good group for an actual story set in Sarantium. I don’t think GGK ever really figured out what it was he was trying to say in this book, other than using it to set up the story in the second book. Though who knows if it is even needed.
I never felt with the descriptions that for most of the book I was in the past, or in anyplace that was magical or special. The chapel with the huge mosaic was an exception. Some of the descriptions of the palace did seem amazing, but the rest of the city was a let down. I also thought the city where Crispin lived was pretty mundane.
I also have to say that I found the whole mystical/magical thread strange. I have no idea afterwards what its purpose in the story was. The magic sparks in the city were a perfect metaphor for the story – unexplained, aimless and having very little bearing on anything. I thought the magic man in Varena was a non-entity, and his birds were only mildly interesting. When it became known what the birds actually were, it seemed sick and cruel. I thought the birds and what they represented was given very little development, and was done very unrealistically. When Linon described how they were sacrificed, it appalled me that they were all drawn as calm, matter-of-fact, sane people who were not filled with pain, shame, and hatred. The idea that they even felt they belonged to the Zubir, as though violence and degradation was ok, is very disturbing. I also thought that when the Zubir was shown it lost the element of mystery and terror that its appearance on the road generated.
As unfocused and confused as I thought Sailing to Sarantium was, I thought the second book Lord of Emperors was a return to GGK’s list of awesome books. The story was wonderful, and the characters were better, starting with a new and more compelling POV character. The second book had me weeping about 2/3 of the way through until the end, and was just amazing.
These two books bring up a question I always have in this situation: does the incredible intensity of the second book require the first apparently poor book ? I don’t know if you can read the second book and get the same effect without the first, or if you are getting the impact in spite of the poor book, or if it would be even better if the first book were better.
April 8th, 2005, 07:51 AM #5
I can to an extent see where you are coming from Ficus , though this book had alot more meaning for me . I thought Kay gave us more of an insight into the world of which our story was taking place in ie. politics , religion and superstition . Also I feel the book captured nicely the mood of Crispin , perhaps Crispin's mood captured the book for you Ficus . It certainly had an aura of darkness to it that diddn't lift until Crispin stepped under the huge dome .
I couldn't agree more with your asessment on the bird/Zubir part , I kept thinking at the end that I missed something important but I don't think I was alone in this fact
I also have to say that I found the whole mystical/magical thread strange. I have no idea afterwards what its purpose in the story was.These two books bring up a question I always have in this situation: does the incredible intensity of the second book require the first apparently poor book ?
April 9th, 2005, 08:20 PM #6
I'm only halfway through the first book, sadly, so I doubt I'll be contributing (properly) to this thread any time soon. I am enjoying what I've read so far, but I've also heard people say that the first is a little slow, but that the second book in the series is amazing.
I've loved the other GGK books I've read, so I think I'll persevere.
April 10th, 2005, 07:14 AM #7
I read Sailing To Sarantium and Lord Of Emperors a couple of years back. I liked the books very much.
I read both books almost back to back and I'm a little puzzled as to why you would prefer the one so much over the other. I don't remember any sharp line between the two. To me they float together as pretty much one tale.
What I liked best, I think, was actually the character Crispin. For once, the POV wasn't a mighty swordsman or a powerfull magician or a long lost heir to a throne, he was just a clever artist. I liked that.
I haven't read anything else by GGK, except the Fionavar Tapestry, but I keep meaning to do so. I've heard plenty of good things about them.
April 12th, 2005, 08:11 PM #8
- Join Date
- Jan 2005
- Reno, NV
Mistri, I'm not even as far as you! I'm trying to avoid spoilers, so yours is the only post here that I've read. I'm having a difficult getting into this. I had already started Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, and it's a much lighter read, and I'm finding that I'm not picking up Sailing to Sarantium on a nightly basis.
April 16th, 2005, 11:41 AM #9
I managed to get both Sailing.. and Lord... from the library. I would describe myself as a G G Kay fan, but i didn't think this was anything special at all. I returned the sequel unread.
What I liked best, I think, was actually the character Crispin. For once, the POV wasn't a mighty swordsman or a powerfull magician or a long lost heir to a throne, he was just a clever artist.
I thought he might be interesting when i started, G G Kay is a writer that is good enough to have a grieving protagonist that doesn't get whiny, but his inconsolable greif didn't last 2 minutes when he got the slave girl into his bedroom. I thought that whole scenario was pretty week and predictable - like something out of one of the (better-writtem) conan stories:
'Hero saves beautiful slave girl from human sacrifice (for entirely altruistic purposes, of course), she's grateful, he shags her, she follows him around even though he frees her and shows no interest in her life.'
And the metal-bird thing fizzled out to nothing too. It seemed to be heading for a doomed romance, and could have provided a point to the book, but nothing happened.
Oh, and i really didn't like the obsession with chariot racing. The fanatical supporters could have been interesting, but the whole thing was pretty simplified - maybe more research into football hooliganism and less into the roman empire would have helped. It wasn't important to the characters, the city, or the plot (such as there was). And horse racing in any day or age is simply boring.
On the whole the plot wasn't good enough for me to enjoy it - and i didn't notice any great writing. Basically Crispin gets a summons to the emperor, goes to see the emperor, a few boring things happened, the end.
Anyone interested in this author should head for Tigana or Lions of Al-rassan or many others.
Hmmm. for once i agree with almost everything Ficus has said, so maybe i'll put the sequel back on my to read list.
April 16th, 2005, 01:24 PM #10
I too thought the second book would be more of the same and only read it because I knew if I put it off, I never would. Boy was I wrong. It was fabulous and hooked me right from the start. I loved the POV character, and the story thread that he had as well as the story going on in Sarantium. Crispin only plays small parts until the end.
The second book seemed much tighter in terms of story, and plot, and the book just flew by. It was also very moving. I loved it, and I would put it up there with Lions of al-Rassan .
I just found an interview with GGK on the SF Site, mid-April edition.
The link is here Interview
Last edited by FicusFan; April 16th, 2005 at 01:35 PM.
April 16th, 2005, 11:15 PM #11
I'm really going to post in this thread....have just been pretty busy so far this month.
April 17th, 2005, 09:27 AM #12
I haven't read the book yet, but I just recently bought it (along with about 4 other Kay books). It's next on my list.
So it sounds like everyone thinks the second book (Lord of Emperors) is much better. That's good, I won't mind the first one being slow if I know the follow up is good. Don't they kind of go hand in hand, isn't the second one so good because it builds off of the first book?
April 17th, 2005, 12:44 PM #13
Thats one of my questions, but there really isn't anything in the first book that can't be started and explained in the second book. It is one of the problems IMO of the first book, it doesn't really do anything in terms of story, setting or character. But you may have a different take. In any case enjoy.
May 12th, 2005, 01:18 AM #14
Just thought I'd pop in and say that I have recently been reading a non-fiction book called The Greek Way of Death (2nd Edition) about the ancient Greeks and their beliefs and rituals surrounding death. It actually very interesting and not morbid at all.
But the reason I am posting here is that it says they actually used curse tablets. For a very long time. They had magicians make them and they used the graves of the dead who were recently killed to put them into. The very young and murder vicitms were prefered because their deaths were the most potent. I knew GGK used a lot of history and research, but I thought his curse tablets were part of the fantasy, not the history. Just goes to show history is as wacky as fantasy.
May 19th, 2005, 08:24 PM #15
It's been at least five years since I read Sailing , so I'm not going to critique. I just noticed a lot of negative reaction to the book, so to rebut I have to mention how I enjoyed my read. I started with the Fionovar Tapestry and couldn't get enough GGK so maybe this opinion is colored.