My relationship with this book mirrors the relationship between one character and another... At the start, both seemed like sleazy and manipulative enMy relationship with this book mirrors the relationship between one character and another... At the start, both seemed like sleazy and manipulative entities set on taking advantage, but quickly their earnest character showed through.
This book wasn't perfect, but it was pretty close. I've seen many complaints that it was overly bogged down in detail, but it was that very detail that made it so good. The author makes a concerted effort to give the scenario a sense of realism, developing a world with a realistic political climate. It's the sort of book that wouldn't have worked if the characters were not as strong as they are, the world not as developed as it is. Even at 750 pages, it really didn't feel long at all.
I'd reccommend this to any fans of realistically developed sci-fi, or any good story in general....more
Awkward prose, pages of melodrama with no actual substance, cardboard characters. Subtle sexism. Overt sexism. Is David Baldacci always like this? HavAwkward prose, pages of melodrama with no actual substance, cardboard characters. Subtle sexism. Overt sexism. Is David Baldacci always like this? Have I just failed to notice it?
I've read some of the authors later books, and I remember finding myself generally pleased with well plotted and easily digestible thrillers. Perhaps Baldacci got better with age and experience, because I've never noticed the glaring errors in his writing before. The prose in Absolute Power was sloppy, often taking entire pages to say very little. Entire scenes and chapters could have been skipped with little or no damage to the plot, and many others could have been summed up in a fraction of the space. Baldacci seemed to be trying to draw out certain sections in order to create tension. This is fine, to a point. Mishandled, this technique easily makes that very tension seem stiff and artificial, as is the case here.
Similarly, Baldacci continually attempts to imbue his characters with a degree of emotional ambiguity. Unfortunately, he continually misshandles this, failing to realize that, often, when it comes to character, what is left unsaid is more powerful than what is said. His tendency to continually tell rather than show (cliche advice for a reason) doesn't help the matter. In introducing his characters, Baldacci tends to take a few sentences for the character to walk into the room and then info dump for the next half dozen pages.
To give an example, within a chapter of Jack Graham's introduction the reader knows his relationship history, how he feels about his current engagement, and his frustrations with his current career path. We know details of several friendships, past and present, and we have had a detailed account of his entire past engagement. All this after only a single scene or two involving the character, and he is certainly not the only character to be introduced this way.
Don't get me wrong, some telling is certainly necessary; it is in the very nature of the medium, and character backgrounds are often necessary in order to understand early scenes in a novel. However, to default to this with every single character introduction is sheer laziness on the part of the author, and doesn't do the book or the reader any favours. Baldacci misunderstands the purpose of characterization in fiction. Readers (at least most readers) wish to see characters who seem like people, as unique and real as they themselves. The reality is, most of our coworker and friends are largely mysterious to us, and often to themselves. Simply stating all character traits outright does not reflect this fact at all.
I was going to say something for the plot, originally, but it occurred to me that the plot is rather predictable. The entire storyline of the book hinges on a single, implausible idea. An interesting one, to be sure, but there really isn't enough to justify a six hundred page novel, especially with the lack of interesting characters. It basically goes exactly how you expect it to go. And, as I said, entire sections of the book could be skipped without any damage to the story.
I finished it though, so I suppose something has to be said for it. I just can't figure out what that something is....more
I feel like this might have been a good book with some interesting ideas... But the first one hundred pages were incredibly slow, and with so many othI feel like this might have been a good book with some interesting ideas... But the first one hundred pages were incredibly slow, and with so many other books demanding my attention I couldn't find the will to keep reading. The author is obviously very knowledgeable about Ancient Rome, and he seems to have thought out the world he has created quite well. Unfortunately, he tends to take a whole page to describe things that could have been conveyed in a few lines. His prose is crisp and effective, but it lacks substance, and thus the story feels stymied. After a hundred pages, it feels like I was only just getting to the meat of the story....more
As someone who occasionally dabbles in words, I appreciate good writers.
Not just people who understands word choice and syntax (an important and oftenAs someone who occasionally dabbles in words, I appreciate good writers.
Not just people who understands word choice and syntax (an important and often undervalued skill) or the mechanics of plot, but individuals who understand the unique power that words and stories can hold. In just a few marks on the page, writers have the power to change lives and alter realities, create worlds from nothing. Worlds that are very much real.
While many mediums achieve this goal, writing is uniquely collaborative in the way it does so. Without the input of the reader, writing does not work. The reader is imperative to the creation of a written story, and, as such, each reader’s experience with that work will be different. Middle-Earth would not exist without Tolkien, but neither would it exist without readers to interpret his words and bring his world to life in their minds.
No two readings of a novel, short story, or poem are the same.
When a reader engages a piece of literature, they bring to it their own experiences, their own biases, their own preconceptions. The reader cannot divorce themselves from the context in which they are reading, just as the words themselves cannot be divorced from the context in which they were written. The written work, as it exists in the writer’s head, is not the same as it exists in the reader’s head.
The true nature of the written word, any writing, is in constant flux, existing somewhere between the intentions of the author, the interpretation of the reader, and the context in which the words are written and read.
Neil Gaiman understands this fact better than most.
The View from the Cheap Seats is like an extended conversation with Gaiman, one of those discussions that ranges far from the original point, but from which both parties emerge with a far deeper understanding of one another.
In these essays, introductions, and speeches one is given the impression of knowing Gaiman intimately. He ruminates on all aspects of life, from writing and art, to the power of love and death. Rarely does he state his opinions and beliefs outright, yet they come through loud and clear. Gaiman does not condescend to his reader by assuming that they will share these beliefs; he is an observer, merely explaining the world as he sees it.
Incredibly astute in these observations, Gaiman puts things in terms that are often startlingly simple, yet all the more profound for that simplicity. What shines through in all these pieces is an incredible compassion for and insight into the world around him. Gaiman understands people, what drives them, and the profound power of art and writing.
Gaiman understands the potential of story, and he understands the power of words. Indeed, his particular love of writing, driven by a passion for art in all forms, is the message behind all these works. His understanding of art and life’s intimate love affair is unrivalled.
For those wishing to understand the creative mind, this book is perfect. For those wishing to know that they are not alone the world, this book is perfect. In many ways, this book is perfect, one that everyone should read.
Lev Grossman, adding in an angsty main character doesn't make your shameless rip off of Harry Potter and Narnia any better: it just makes it that muchLev Grossman, adding in an angsty main character doesn't make your shameless rip off of Harry Potter and Narnia any better: it just makes it that much more frustrating. Obviously, you don't pay attention to how stories work, as the pacing in this book is completely off and you spend far more time telling than you do showing. I know this is a cliched critique, but The Magicians is a textbook example of this mistake. There are pages and pages of heavy exposition that could easily have been worked into the fabric of the story, rather than jutting out as awkward interludes.
Also, Mr. Grossman, I think you need to work a bit on your juvenille approach to depicting female characters. I understand that the main character is a lonely teenaged boy, awkward in his interactions and fueled by raging hormones, but your reader really does not need every single depiction of a female to involve detailed descriptions of her anatomy. Almost every time a woman walked into the room, the adjectives"pretty," "attractive," and (quite hilariously) "gropable" seemed to be used. I know you're trying to give the reader a sense of your character, and that is fine. But as with your exposition, the manner in which you describe Quentin's attraction to these characters simply causes them to stick out, painting you, the author, as a dirty old man.
I didn't have huge expectations for this book, but I can't believe how shamelessly this ripped off from better works. The magical world described, Fillory, is quite literally Narnia, and the stories of the children in follow the books rather closely. Quentin's school of magic is a rip off of Hogwarts, though far less interesting and far less developed than the original.
Anyone reading this review... don't give The Magicians a go. Read Harry Potter or Narnia if you want to experience real magical worlds. If you want an angsty main teenager as a main character, read the Catcher in the Rye, as that book gives you what you're after, rather than a cardboard cutout of what a forty year old man telling you what he thinks an angsty teenager should be....more