Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hernia-Inducing Fantasy

Most of what I read is science fiction, and occasionally nontraditional fantasy that falls under the New Weird moniker (Mieville, VanderMeer, Ford). However, I've never completely turned my back on what brought me into the world of reading in the first place--the doorstop fantasy. I got the urge recently to delve into some epic fantasy and decided to break my own rule of never starting a series until all of the books have been released. I picked up George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, and away I went.
The quick and dirty? I like it. It's not full of elves and magicians and scullery boys who turn out to be players in a great prophecy to bring down the Dark Lord. It's very political, with various Houses vying for control of the kingdom's throne. It's not reinventing fantasy by any means, but it's fairly well-written and has some very clever concepts. Telling the story from various points of view also allows us to see more of the motivations of characters, helping us realize that even heroes have unsavory sides and that villains have motivations other than the need for some nebulous "power." I'll likely continue with the series. I won't be buying any volumes while they're in hardcover, however. It's escapist fantasy...something I need on occasion.

The board game based on the books is quite good, though. It's the sort of game I stink at, but I enjoy it all the same.

In contrast, I just got Gene Wolfe's latest collection, Starwater Strains. Reading Wolfe will likely make me rethink my estimation of Martin. Wolfe makes nearly every other writer look...well, pathetic. He's a wonder.

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