Monday, March 8, 2010

Whats wrong with the Multi Tome Epic?

After reading on another site, which was against the 90's fashion of "doorstop" fantasy.. It made me start wondering.. what exactly is wrong with it? I mean I realize that you get your occasional unfortunate circumstance like Robert Jordan dieing, or an NFL game distracting George R.R. Martin. But generally speaking these sorts of series that just go on and on and don't finish are not the norm. Terry Goodkind Finished his "Sword of Truth" series. Kate Elliot Finished her "Crown of Stars" series. Tad Williams finished "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn" and looks set to finish his Shadowland series in the next year or so. And the series which followed up the post in question, David Drakes Lord of the Isles, Just finished up.

Tor books was more or less responsible for the " Doorstopper trend ".. but Daw picked it up and ran with it too. Which considering that they previously published only shorter novels.. that was a bit of an odd swap. Oddly Del Rey never really had that many large books.. the remarked upon Sword of Shannara being a bit of a singular example.. I don't own to many Del Rey's that are more than about 350 pages at the most.

Yes, Terry brooks is still going with his "Shannara" series, but his books are interconnected trilogies rather than one huge series. And no one really knows if Dennis Mckeirnan will ever finish the "Mithgar" series.. and It dosen't seem to be popular enough that anyone but me will really care either way.

The complaints seemingly were specifically directed at character interaction and dialogue driven story telling.. Whats wrong with that?! Whats wrong with knowing what motivates characters beyond " Wizard bad, Thongor Smash! " all the time.

Its become obvious to me lately with the number of trilogy omnibuses out there that even 250-300 pages is too short for some readers.. and with the average price of a paperback book being in the range of 9$ I can see why.. If I only have 10$ to spend on a book.. do I want one thats going to take me 2 days to finish or one thats going to take me all week to finish?

Now I'm certainly not trying to tell anyone what they should and shouldn't read or like. I love short stories.. But I prefer them when they are presented like the Lankhmar series... In Chronological Order.. so I can read them as a larger series rather than sporadic episodes. People may hate me for saying it, but I actually prefer the 12 volume Ace Conan series because of this. I just wish that Howard had been alive in order to do what Leiber did instead of having some one else do it for him.

And I admit that some of the stuff in the Wheel of Time series and these other multi-tome epics is a bit gratuitious.. the endless descriptions of clothing and re-iterations of what characters look like as if anyone would just pick up volume 10 on a lark and read it.

Perhaps in this particular case my attention span is too long for a 15 page short story of a 80page novella to really keep me interested, I'm obsessed with Chronologies and what order I should read things in. And I'm also obsessed with getting the most for my Money. The resent Omnibus versions of Glen Cook's Black Company are great, For 15.99 you get 3 complete novels. Vs the 7.99 you'd likely pay for each of them if you bought them separately. The same holds true for all the various David Eddings books.

Alright I'm done rambling now, continue with your regularly scheduled Wenching and Wizard smashing.


Trey said...

I've got nothing against the multi-volume epic, and have enjoyed many of them.

I do think its a shame that that's become the standard. I also lament that the "doorstop" length has done likewise.

Some fantasy sub-genres (like Sword & Sorcery) work better I think in slimmer novels or even novellas.

Lagomorph Rex said...

Oh absolutely, it is a bit of a shame that is just about all you can get I agree.

But unfortunately that seems to be what sells, even now, and since publishers are in the game to make money they print what sells.

I think thats partly what I like about those novella collections as well, It meets the length and girth that people are expecting in a modern book.. but allows for the re-print of material thats in a lot of ways considerably better quality.

I personally feel a lot of it has to do with two things, the changing demographics of book buyers, and the constant "amount" vs "price" perception.. if I can get a 900page book for the same price as a 400 page book..

I forgot to mention that Steven Erikson has also finished his Malazan Empire series as well.. so there are quite a few of these MTE's which are finished.

Gabriele C. said...

Almost finished - the last book, The Crippled God, is scheduled for a late 2010 release.

I admit I like me some juicy fat Fantasy series. Could be because I read stuff like War and Peace as kid - we could only take 3 books out of the library, and so I picked big ones. I still remember the slighly shocked expression of the librarian when I got The Count of Monte Christo and The Karamassov Brothers one weekend. I bet she thought the combination was a bit odd. ;)

Lagomorph Rex said...

I've not yet read any of the Malazan books, I intend to however. But since I made the mistake of reading all the Wheel of Time books last year in the lead up to what was supposed to be the last one (before they announced the 3 way split) I felt a bit disappointed that I would have to re-read them all when the last one did eventually come out in 2011.

So I opted to wait on Malazan, However now that hes finished the series I intend to start reading them. I hope they are good as they are made out to be, as the last MTE I really enjoyed was Tad Williams Memory sorry and thorn, The Sword of Truth left me unimpressed even if the TV show was better.. Though that has unfortunately been canceled now.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, most readers on the Fantasy forums I visit agree that Goodkind sucks big time.

I loved Memory, Sorrow and Thorn as well. Malazan is very different, a wild ride with a lot more, often very ancient, races, characters, battles and whatnot. The world started out as a game between Erikson and his friend Cam Esslemont. I'm not a gamer myself, but I've heard people talking about it enough that I can tell that Malazan doesn't have strength points and typecast characters like Paladins or Healers.

Too bad there are so many unfinished series arount right now for those waiting for a finished series before reading. But I would nevertheless recommend the first three books of GRR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire - there is some closure after the third, and they can certainly take a rereading or two, much like Tolkien.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I didn't hate them like some of the people on seem too.. and a lot of that had more to do with dislike of the author himself than his books.

I've got the four Martin's but haven't read them yet. I just have such a huge backlog of books to read that I figured I could put off reading an unfinished series.. but whether finished or not i will read them before I watch the HBO series.