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A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)
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2014 Reads > WoE: To Lem or not to Lem

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Derek (raistlinsghost) | 81 comments I have long been a fan of magic, and tales of wizards and magical forces. From Dragonlance to Dresden, if there's magic in it, I'm in for at least one book, and in the case of those two brands, all of the books.

So I expected the comparisons between this book and the first Harry Potter book to mean that this was going to be a really great origin story. Unfortunately that hasn't been my experience.

The style of this story, told more like an orated history of the title character, can be summed up in one word: Boring. OK, three words: Really, really boring. So little real character development is done here that I am only halfway through and I couldn't care less what happens to him. He's neither likable nor hateful; just dull as paint.

And the way action is told in this story is also poorly done. Know how to make an epic battle between a wizard at the height of his powers and not one but, what, 6 dragons uninteresting? Ask Ursula K. Le Guin. That entire sequence just seemed so banal, and felt rushed to the point of being glossed over. What should have been awesome fell completely flat to me.

For now, I'm putting this on hold awhile versus lemming it outright. I just don't know if I can get interested enough to bother coming back to it. Am I the only one feeling like this?


Isaiah | 74 comments I haven't found it boring so much as very fast paced, almost to the point of feeling rushed. I see what you mean about Ged as character, I'd love some more development. I do really enjoy the world she has created, though. I plan on finishing it, since it is only about 200 pages long or so. But if you end up leming it, I wouldn't worry about it. There's no point reading something you're not enjoying.


Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments I think I'm about where you are. I haven't opened the book in a few days and feel completely unmotivated. It's definitely got a first novel feel. I find it surprising from the author of The Left Hand of Darkness.


Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments Honestly, if find the pacing dull and not homey (like I did), then you should probably drop it. There's this long section of not much action before the climax. Maybe skip to the end so you can still listen to the wrap-up? Increasingly, my opinion is that there's so many entertaining and interesting books to read, don't spend too much time on the ones you aren't liking. Although I do realize that some books and series get better as you go.


Derek (raistlinsghost) | 81 comments I'm glad to see from the responses here and some of the other threads that I'm not alone in finding this a hard read. I've never skipped to the end before. I've either given up entirely or struggled through. Sounds like a wise course of action. Because as little there is left to read, it just isn't a good enough book to bother.


message 6: by Terje (new)

Terje Meling | 10 comments I agree with joanna, if you don't enjoy a book, don't read it. I've certanly lemmed quite a lot of books. :)

It's been a while since I read this book, but I've nothing but fond memories from it. I had just given up on the wheel of time series (I had made it to book 10) when I read this book, and I felt the spartan writing was a nice change from the more 'description-y' WOT books.

I'm a fan of the old norse king sagas and LeGuins modest storytelling always reminded me of those.


Paul Harmon (thesaint08d) | 639 comments I'm not sure why youd lem a book this short though. You should finish before you get bored of it. Easy enough to finish in 2-3 days.


Derek (raistlinsghost) | 81 comments Paul wrote: "I'm not sure why youd lem a book this short though. You should finish before you get bored of it. Easy enough to finish in 2-3 days."

Part of the issue might be that I'm listening to the audiobook. Rob Inglis is a good narrator, but its taking longer than I'd like to get through this snoozefest.


Kristina | 588 comments I pushed through, hoping it'd pick up and it really didn't. If it was longer I probably would have lemmed it.


Kristina | 588 comments That said, I may have to check out this Left Hand of Darkness everyone keeps talking about.


Jason (macshaggy) | 73 comments The couple of things to hold in mind. This was written a while ago, and it was written for preteen/teenagers. I know the YA is all the rage but I don't even consider this so much as YA as a book for a 12 or 13 year old just starting to read. Also, at that time, YA was not a particularly large market yet. (Read the afterword by LeGuin it was really enlightening).

The book is a fast read and I did enjoy it even though it's not overly complicated (I'm thinking Anne Lemke's Ancillary Justice -- which was a great book!). I wish I had read it long ago when I was young. What really makes the book for me is that ethnicity, though not being really spelled out, in the book was a brilliant reversal at that time. I found a lot of the notions in the book a bit subversive without going into details. Hats off to LeGuin pulling that off.

I can say this that the failed SciFi (before SyFy) channels' mini-series didn't compare to the book. But it was that failed mini-series that made happy this was a book club pick! I finally read it and I'm very interested now to find out the rest of Geds' story.

So I'd vote not to Lem.


message 12: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Harmon (thesaint08d) | 639 comments Yeah I enjoyed the book myself, obviously everyone's taste is much varied. The second one I didnt enjoy as much but liked the third. Listening to audio books can be hit or miss depending on whos reading of course but it also takes longer to listen to the book then to read it so if your not enjoying the narrator it can be grueling.


message 13: by Tina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tina (javabird) | 710 comments I just listened to the audiobook and I enjoyed it- but maybe it helps to have the right narrator - Harlan Ellison's reading was fantastic!


message 14: by Tina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tina (javabird) | 710 comments Tina wrote: "I just listened to the audiobook and I enjoyed it- but maybe it helps to have the right narrator - Harlan Ellison's reading was fantastic!"

BTW, that's the version on Overdrive.


Dwayne Caldwell | 141 comments I agree the fight with the dragons seemed glossed over. I think Ged took out two of them in one sentence without lifting his staff and he certainly killed all but the parent before the end of the page. I understand this was meant to be a children's book, but honestly, wouldn't you want to capture the imagination of a child with a thrilling narrative rather than describe what amounts to a bullet item in an outline?

And the inevitable confrontation with the Shadow isn't going to be much better should you decide to keep reading.


message 16: by Zach (new) - rated it 2 stars

Zach Chapman | 35 comments Since you're listening to it on audio, I'd up it to 2X speed and breeze through it.


Kellios Even taking the age of the book into consideration, it's really not a good book. It's very flat and boring. I don't think it's a good first YA fantasy book either. As others have pointed out, the character development is non-existent and the action bits are glossed over. I didn't lem it because it was so short, but it was a near thing.


message 18: by Louise (last edited Feb 11, 2014 05:31PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Derek wrote: "Paul wrote: "I'm not sure why youd lem a book this short though. You should finish before you get bored of it. Easy enough to finish in 2-3 days."

Part of the issue might be that I'm listening to ..."


I'd be tempted to say read it instead of listening to it. Part of what makes this book so good is the prose, and I'm not sure how that works when someone else is setting the pace. I have to stop, re-read sometimes, take the time to appreciate what is being said.

But if you're after the kind of action that appears in a lot of later fantasy, I think you're going to be disappointed. That's not what it's about. So just give up. I say that as someone who had two favourite books as a child, the Earthsea Quartet being one of them. If it's not your kind of thing, stop reading it.

That being said, I don't get the arguments about lack of character development. Ged's character hardly ever stops developing. He starts off curious and innocent, goes to fearful, becomes overconfident and proud, suffers a fall and spends the rest of the book developing the character that eventually allows him to make up for that and achieve the balance and wisdom required to be the archetypal wizard character found in early fantasy fiction. It's in essence the story of how Gandalf became Gandalf.


message 19: by Cliff (last edited Feb 14, 2014 11:52AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cliff | 69 comments Kristina wrote: "That said, I may have to check out this Left Hand of Darkness everyone keeps talking about."

Oh, if you were looking for more action in A Wizard of Earthsea, then the Left Hand of Darkness is definitely NOT up your alley.


Cliff | 69 comments Dwayne wrote: "I understand this was meant to be a children's book, but honestly, wouldn't you want to capture the imagination of a child with a thrilling narrative rather than describe what amounts to a bullet item in an outline?"

At one point, I thought this way as well. But when I started re-reading some of the books I enjoyed as a child, like the Chronicles of Narnia, I found that the majority of those books were written in this exact simplistic style. I couldn't help but conclude that it's exactly that childhood imagination which allowed us to expand upon the text. As adults, we've become accustomed to greater description and to have the scene presented to us in elaborate detail. And so, when we go back and read these books, we now feel that the text is too simple.


message 21: by Derek (new) - rated it 1 star

Derek (raistlinsghost) | 81 comments Cliff wrote: "At one point, I thought this way as well. But when I started re-reading some of the books I enjoyed as a child, like the Chronicles of Narnia, I found that the majority of those books were written in this exact simplistic style. ..."

That is a very interesting observation Cliff. Coincidentally enough, I am currently reading my 8 year old daughter The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as our bedtime story. And while I'm translating some of the larger or more outdated words and phrases, I'm finding it a great read, and so is she. I don't see the same sort of 'and then he did this, and then he went here' like A Brief History of Ged was going in the first Earthsea book. The language is concise and character development is nil, so there are parallels, but I find Narnia much more fun to read.

Maybe if I were reading Earthsea to her, I might find the experience more rewarding. As it is, I decided to bail on Earthsea. I could have read it a few times now due to its short length, but I've moved on to other books that I actually wanted to read.


message 22: by Rick (last edited Feb 16, 2014 11:10AM) (new)

Rick | 2869 comments Cliff wrote: "At one point, I thought this way as well. But when I started re-reading some of the books I enjoyed as a child, like the Chronicles of Narnia, I found that the majority of those books were written in this exact simplistic style. I couldn't help but conclude that it's exactly that childhood imagination which allowed us to expand upon the text. As adults, we've become accustomed to greater description and to have the scene presented to us in elaborate detail. And so, when we go back and read these books, we now feel that the text is too simple.
t..."


/headdesk. You do realize that you're saying that, as adults, we can't use our imagination to create a world in our heads, but instead need it presented to us in detail? That's not a good thing, it's sad and lazy and depressing. But then... TV generation.

Incidentally, can we quit creating "I'm lemming [book]" threads? They really hold no value as I can't imagine that anyone but the poster cares if the poster continues or not. I'm *not* saying don't post contrary opinions, but the "I'm lemming..." threads seem more like passive-aggressive "I'm jumping off this cliff unless you pay attention to meeeeee" topics.


message 23: by Zach (new) - rated it 2 stars

Zach Chapman | 35 comments "TV generation" mocks the guy who has Stewie as his good reads profile pic. Ha.


Reader Reborn (readerreborn) I've never heard of anyone who finished this book and regretted it. Considering how short it is, the first time I read it took me a long time, but eventually something clicked and I devoured the rest of the series. Reading the first book again, I appreciated it much more.


message 25: by Rick (last edited Feb 16, 2014 11:09AM) (new)

Rick | 2869 comments Zach wrote: ""TV generation" mocks the guy who has Stewie as his good reads profile pic. Ha."
:) Good catch. I still find the argument that adults can't use their imagination to build a world inside their heads sad, though.


message 26: by Cliff (last edited Feb 17, 2014 12:12AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cliff | 69 comments Rick wrote: "You do realize that you're saying that, as adults, we can't use our imagination to create a world in our heads, but instead need it presented to us in detail? That's not a good thing, it's sad and lazy and depressing."

I wouldn't have said that we can't use our imagination as adults, I think we just use it differently.

If we were to present just a single sentence:
"The wizard fought off the dragon."

I would contend that a child may be content with that sentence and mentally visualize an entire fight sequence.

Whereas an adult would not be content with such little text. He would want to know more to fill in the "blanks": Where did the fight take place? Did the wizard use magic or something else to fight? Was the dragon a small horse-sized creature or a castle-sized monster?...

If the adult isn't presented with enough information, they find themselves at a loss. And it comes off as "Well, this clearly wasn't a very imaginative book."


Cliff | 69 comments Derek wrote: "The language is concise and character development is nil, so there are parallels, but I find Narnia much more fun to read.

Maybe if I were reading Earthsea to her, I might find the experience more rewarding. As it is, I decided to bail on Earthsea."


While I can only speak of my own impressions of the book, I will say that I remember that I found "The Tombs of Atuan" to be a far more rewarding book than "Wizard of Earthsea." Maybe it's because I felt that Wizard just seemed to be a lot of world-building and less plot-driven.

But I would agree that Narnia is far more likely to be interesting to a child. The text is just as sparse, but it's more action-driven than Wizard of Earthsea was.


message 28: by Derek (new) - rated it 1 star

Derek (raistlinsghost) | 81 comments Rick wrote: "Incidentally, can we quit creating "I'm lemming [book]" threads? They really hold no value as I can't imagine that anyone but the poster cares if the poster continues or not. I'm *not* saying don't post contrary opinions, but the "I'm lemming..." threads seem more like passive-aggressive "I'm jumping off this cliff unless you pay attention to meeeeee" topics. ..."

I had to respond only because of how hard I laughed at the 'meeeeee'. I don't know why others post Lem threads but I started this one to get a feel for how others in our book club were approaching what I see as a really crappy, boring book, short as it is. Their feedback helped me decide to dump it. Of course we all could have read through this book in no time (in a lot less time than we've spent talking about it, likely). But that's not the point at all in being part of a book club, right?

And for the record, I also don't social post pictures of my dinner. Just in case that's the brand of narcissism you were implying. ;)


message 29: by Rick (last edited Feb 19, 2014 10:27AM) (new)

Rick | 2869 comments Cliff wrote: "If we were to present just a single sentence:
"The wizard fought off the dragon."

I would contend that a child may be content with that sentence and mentally visualize an entire fight sequence.

Whereas an adult would not be content with such little text. ..."


Please don't speak for all adults. Your example basically reiterates what I was saying -you contend that adults won't or can't use their imagination to fill in the details, instead relying on the author to provide them. I think it's the result, especially in fantasy, of books that describe everything in mind-numbing detail - unused, imagination atrophies.

Derek - :)

Just to be clear, I think it's fine to have a negative opinion of a book and to me it's one thing to say, basically, "I didn't like this book and couldn't even finish. I thought [reasons, start of discussion]." But almost every month there's someone who does the 'should I or shouldn't I finish this....?" thing and for whatever reason that just pushes a button for me. We're all adults. We can and should be able to decide whether or not to finish a book without asking permission or something.

To me, being in a book club is about discussing the book and, if you disliked it, why. "I don't know, should I stop reading this?" is boring. "I stopped reading this because..." is potentially the start of a new, fun discussion.

BTW, for me the action in the book was less the point than her language which was beautiful. I can totally see how the simple story wouldn't be attractive and if you don't care as much about the writing and language itself, the book wouldn't impress.


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