Tag: Robert Jordan

Guest Post: Paper Idols, or: You Should Never (Re-)read Your Heroes

Posted September 8, 2013 by Guest Post in Guest Posts / 2 Comments

Pawn of ProphecyAs a teenager, I was a voracious reader of fantasy. My father – a religious conservative who believed the only kinds of books worth reading were about religion or science – forbade me to indulge my habit, but undaunted, I would sneak novels about swords and sorcery home from the school library, hidden between my Physics and Chemistry textbooks; volumes about enchantresses, faeries, forbidden forests and knights in shining armour (with complimentary damsels in various degrees of distress, of course). I read on the bus to and from school, at lunchtime, under the covers at night, sometimes even in class under the desk, devouring every heroic epic, every saga of fallen heroes from far off, fantastical lands. My favourites I would borrow again and again, re-reading them until they were like old friends, the twists and turns of the tales within becoming worn and familiar, a comforting escape for a teenage girl who didn’t always understand or know how to deal with the everyday realities of her life.

Chief amongst those favourites for many years were the collective works of David Eddings. Eddings, a legend in the fantasy world, is a trope-codifier on par with the likes of Robert Jordan and Raymond E Feist – Christopher Paolini, of Eragon fame, credits him as a chief inspiration. With his wife, Leigh, Eddings co-authored almost half a dozen fantasy series, several companion novels and a standalone novel, The Redemption of Althalus, a high fantasy adventure about a thief who unwittingly becomes a kind of god. My younger self saved every spare penny from school lunches to buy Eddings’ books, including an omnibus edition of one of his trilogies, The Tamuli, a mammoth tome of more than 1500 pages, which I’ve read cover-to-cover at least half a dozen times. My first love, a boy I met in medical school, was a fan of Eddings – we would discuss his books between classes, savouring the best quips, the sharpest shows of wit, as I imagined myself the Velvet to his Silk.

Eddings is known not for the originality of his stories – which, in fact, rely heavily on standard high-fantasy tropes (something which is acknowledged with a nod and wink by the author) – but for his characters and their excellent banter. Their witty repartee transforms Eddings’ work from derivative cookie-cutter high fantasy into something special, something with heart: stories about people you want to meet and befriend, people whose lives and struggles seem relatable regardless of the fantastical setting in which their adventures take place. Ask any fantasy fan what they love about Eddings and they’ll gush enthusiastically about the lovable rogue, Prince Kheldar (alias Silk), daring international spy and man of many faces, or the deceptively brutish and incredibly dry Sir Ulath, equal parts hulking ur-Viking and deep-voiced philosopher. They’ll quote the banter between Belgarath and Polgara, the legendary father and daughter sorcerer team. They’ll acknowledge an argument lost with a wry, “that’s one for your side.”

Indeed, Eddings’ legacy – for he passed away in 2009, to the dismay of fantasy readers everywhere – is not his stories, nor even his prodigious body of work, but the wit with which he transformed fantasy archetypes into living, breathing, loveable characters. Their cleverness is timeless, enduring.

Or so I remembered.

In recent years, I’ve become less of a reader, burdened down by the trivialities and time-sinks that make up life in the digital age. But last year, bedridden with some kind of flu, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in years – I took down the five books of the Belgariad, Eddings’ first (and perhaps most celebrated) fantasy series from my shelf and decided to give them a re-read, for old times’ sakes. I opened Pawn of Prophecy, eagerly awaiting a return to that world of fast-talking con-artists with royal titles and wisecracking sorcerers disguised as tramps. I remembered with great fondness the sharpness and wit that animated the characters and slavered with anticipation at immersing myself in their world, delighting in their banter and sarcasm.

I think it was about a hundred pages in that I realised something: twenty-two-year-old me didn’t find David Eddings nearly as clever nor as witty as fifteen, or indeed, seventeen-year-old me had.

There’s an old saying: you shouldn’t meet your heroes. Perhaps you shouldn’t re-read them either. As I trudged down the worn and familiar paths of the Belgariad, I felt comfort – the comfort one feels upon returning to an old haunt and realising nothing has changed. But I also felt a little sadness, because the vim and vigour that had so delighted my teenage self-seemed somewhat stale now. The lines I once quoted and re-quoted to my friends and emblazoned upon my forum avatars didn’t seem to have the ring they’d had when I first read them, all those years ago. Try as I might, I couldn’t summon up the same sense of joy and wonder I’d felt when I’d first cracked open those pages in my school library at lunchtime, completely unaware of what surprises they might hold.

I finished the entire Belgariad, all five books, in a day. I enjoyed the series and will probably re-read it again in a year or two. But some of the magic – some of what made Eddings so special – is gone now. Perhaps I am too old, too jaded, too cynical to see it. Perhaps what was funny to me when I was fifteen years old just isn’t as funny now. Or perhaps Eddings’ famed wit was never all it was cracked up to be, and my younger self just bought into the hype more easily. Either way, whilst I still enjoyed visiting my old fantasy companions in their world of high drama and impossible adventure, the Eddings of my teenage years – that paragon of acerbic wit and humour – is forever gone to me. Perhaps he is waiting to be discovered by another teenager longing for an escape from a life she finds dull and dreary. I like to think so. I like to think that there will be others – perhaps even my children, some day – who will read his books and find him incredibly droll in the way I and so many before me did. But the magic, as it were, seems to have an expiration date, and for me, that date has come and passed.

Eddings will rightly be remembered as one of the titans of contemporary high fantasy – a man who took the old and familiar and breathed new life into them, a man who turned stories as old as time into something new and exciting. I treasure his books and always will. But they no longer occupy the place in my heart they once did. I no longer see them as the rare and spectacular works of wit that I did in my teenage years. They’re just stories – good stories, comfortable stories, even fun stories, but just stories nonetheless.

When you place someone on a pedestal, you allow them room to fall. So it was for me. I still pull out my favourite books and re-read them every now and then, but with fewer expectations. Not every novel has to be the best novel one has ever read in order to have value. Sometimes, a story’s value is in the memories of a time when it helped you escape, when it was your refuge from a world that was too cold, too real for you. These days, Eddings’ novels are a reminder of a time when I needed just such an escape, and whilst they’ll never be the best I’ve ever read, I’ll always be glad I read them.

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What Books Have Been Trending – January-March 2013

Posted March 29, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book Trends / 0 Comments

It seems to me that 2013 has been off to a great start in the world of literature. I have already managed to read a fair few books released this year and for the most part they have all been wonderful. Most of you will already know how much I enjoy this series, so I hope I do not disappoint. I know I will have missed some books but for the most part this is just the five books that I think have gotten the most buzz each month. I do try to offer a cross section of different genres, so if you feel a book has more buzz then one I’ve picked, chances are that I cut it for already picking something in that genre already.

January

The Wheel of Time series finally comes to an end with A Memory of Light. Brandon Sanderson has been praised for his job in finishing the Robert Jordan series. Now we can finally have the conclusion for this extraordinary saga upon us; fourteen books later.

 

Gun Machine is the result of Warren Ellis’ reimagining of New York City as a puzzle with the most dangerous pieces of all: GUNS. This blends Ellis’ humour and takes on crime novels with another quirky mystery from this twisted mind known mainly for his graphic novels.

 

Tenth of December is another collection of short stories from one of the biggest living legends in this medium, George Saunders. The collection sees the return of the thought provoking and satirical style that this man is known for. Deliciously dark while packed with some clever humour.

 

The Aviator’s Wife pulls back the curtain on the marriage of one of America’s most extraordinary couples: Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. This is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows.

 

Y by Marjorie Celona is the highly acclaimed and exquisitely rendered debut about a wise-beyond-her-years foster child abandoned as a newborn on the doorstep of the local YMCA. The ravishingly beautiful novel offers a deeply affecting look at the choices we make and what it means to be a family, and it marks the debut of a magnificent new voice in contemporary fiction.

February 

Etiquette & Espionage is the latest book from Gail Carriger and a brand new series. It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to the Finishing School series. Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy.

Scarlet is the second book in The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. This is not the fairy-tale you remember, but it’s one you won’t forget.  Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing; the police have closed her case. The only person Scarlet can turn to is Wolf, a street fighter she does not trust, but they are drawn to each other.

 

If you are an Australian, then you would have seen The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion everywhere you look. A moving and comic novel, sustained by a remarkable narrative voice, takes the reader on an immensely satisfying journey as Don seeks to see more within himself than he ever thought was possible.

 

The Storyteller sees Sage Singer befriends an old man who is particularly beloved in her community who asks her for a favour: to kill him. What do you do when evil lives next door? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all – if Sage even considers his request – is it murder, or justice?

 

Bestseller Lisa Gardner returns with a heart-thumping thriller about what lurks behind the facade of a perfect family; Touch & Go. Justin and Libby Denbe have it all: a beautiful daughter, a gorgeous house, a great marriage, admired by all. Arriving at the crime scene of their home, investigator Tessa Leoni finds no witnesses, no ransom demands or motive – just a perfect little family, gone.

March

Calculated in Death sees a well-off accountant and a beloved wife and mother, Marta on someone’s hit list. But when Eve and her partner, Peabody, find blood, the lieutenant knows Marta’s murder was the work of a killer who’s trained, but not professional or smart enough to remove all the evidence.

 

Clockwork Princess has danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

 

Fade to Black by Francis Knight is about the city of Mahala–where streets are built upon streets, buildings upon buildings. A city that the Ministry rules from the sunlit summit, and where the forsaken lurk in the darkness of Under. Because when Rojan stumbles upon the secrets lurking in the depths of the Pit, the fate of Mahala will depend on him using his magic

He makes things disappear. It’s what he does. This time he is tidying up the loose ends after a casino heist goes bad; The loose ends being a million dollars cash. But he only has 48 hours, and there’s a guy out there who wants his head in a bag, if he can find him. They don’t call him the Ghostman for nothing…

 

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is Mohsin Hamid’s spectacular, thought-provoking novel of modern Asia. Fast-paced, vivid and emotionally absorbing, this novel creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.

 

I know there are many more books that have been trending, I actually started out with fifteen books from each month but thought that would make for a very long post, so I culled. Now is your turn to tell me what books I’ve missed and think deserves to be mentioned and also what do you expect from the next few months coming. I suspect Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman  will be on everyone’s radar already, but what else?