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  1. #1

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

    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. #2
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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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. #3
    Ranke Lidyek
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thor View Post
    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!!!
    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. #4
    sapper-in-chief Whiskeyjack's Avatar
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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 by Whiskeyjack; October 19th, 2008 at 01:48 AM.

  5. #5
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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. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Ranke Lidyek View Post
    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...
    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. #7
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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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. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Erfael View Post
    Do you feel robbed? Cheated? Like somehow you're missing something?
    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. #9
    Ranke Lidyek
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erfael View Post
    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.

    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. #10
    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. #11
    Registered User wolfbane19's Avatar
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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 by wolfbane19; October 19th, 2008 at 07:34 PM.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by wolfbane19 View Post
    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 to 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.
    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. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Ranke Lidyek View Post
    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...
    Didn't his parents publish his book? Might explain it.

  14. #14
    contains traces of nuts Hoodwink's Avatar
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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. #15
    Gloriam Imperator kged's Avatar
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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.

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