The Sword and Laser discussion

92 views
A pet peeve, am I the only one?

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments OK, I know that this is used in probably 2/3 of all fantasy novels, but find books that tell the story of the protagonist as a child or young teen simply tedious. I am reminded of this again reading Name of the Wind. I am plowing through this part because so many speak highly of the book, but if I could find a way to skip it and not lose the story I would.

I think there are two reasons why this turns me off. First, it is SOOOO predictable. Kid comes from humble surroundings, discovers he has some ability, is mentored in some way, suffers some great tragedy, heads off on adventure (all in no particular order) . . . ugh.

Second, children as protagonists are utterly uninteresting to me. Get back to me when you grow up. :0)

Now, telling the backstory through short and efficient flashbacks or storytelling, fine, but a narrative walk-through is, for me, like having to wait around for the real story to get started.

Maybe I am just getting old!


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I recall thinking some of these things when I read this book, though I did end up liking it more as Kvothe got older. I generally like the hero's journey plot, but I'm now avoiding anything that has a young character going to school to learn supernatural skills. A mentor is ok, but school life is too much awful.

And I don't like flashbacks, as so many authors overuse them and include them at the oddest places, so if an author feels that there are scenes we absolutely must see, I'd rather get the childhood over with so at least I know that future books will be better.


message 3: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments I just hate when the protagonist turns out to be "special" -- whether he has magic super powers or is the long lost heir to the throne. I can understand with YA fiction where it's every kid's fantasy to find out they're the most awesome person on Earth, but it seems pretty silly for adults to be interested in such plots. Just once I'd like to read a book where a young peasant rises from the muck, overthrows the king, then legitimizes himself by making up some BS about being the rightful heir.


message 4: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments Sean, that would be perfect (but I would still skim through the "rising from the muck" bit!)!! Sounds like something Abercrombie would do. :0)

Mauve, the whole "school for specials" trope doesn't appeal to me either. But at least with many (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson) that is the boundaries of the entire story, not just a foundational story to something else. Those ones I will give a pass (but leave them for my kids!). But you are right, a "school" as part of the "hero's journey" just makes that journey even longer!!


message 5: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments You know, in putting some more thought into my "pet peeve", I think that part of it is that as I get older, I have less patience and just want the story to move. I want the actions and events that are the core of the story to be engaged immediately.

So often, the early part of a fantasy book is about the development of the character, his or her growth, education, discovery, etc, and all of this is foundational to the "real" events of the story. They are personal to the character, and sort of prologue to the "Events", and often involve an entirely different set of characters and settings that don't even come into play during those "Events". I prefer the story skip all of that and just get to the events! :0)

Also, I like my adult characters with a bit of mystery, an ambiguous past we may get glimpses of as we go along.

Wow, i really am becoming a grumpy old man at just 45!


message 6: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 1081 comments Vance wrote: "OK, I know that this is used in probably 2/3 of all fantasy novels, but find books that tell the story of the protagonist as a child or young teen simply tedious. I am reminded of this again readi..."

Could not agree with you more, a lot of people hate when you don't like The Name of the Wind. I know, I speak from perwsonal experience from certain people from other book clubs here on Goodread.


message 7: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 1081 comments What bothered me with the story is that it took him so hard to wget the money to stay in school, then at the end to throw it all away for one single mistake. Plus, why is the story around him? Why him?


message 8: by Tamahome (last edited Feb 22, 2011 11:38AM) (new)

Tamahome | 6352 comments Welcome to Epic Fantasy. Some people seem to like it. So first I'm only 33% into The Way of Kings audiobook, and I'm not sure if I'll finish. I can recommend Joe Hill's Horns, in that he gets his horns right on page one. There is a flashback later, but it is quite eventful. Some dark themes though.


message 9: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 1081 comments Tamahome wrote: "Welcome to Epic Fantasy. Some people seem to like it. So first I'm only 33% into The Way of Kings audiobook, and I'm not sure if I'll finish. I can recommend Joe Hill's [book:Horn..."

Felt the same way, read it when it came out. I am a big fan of his work, but the book, certain characters worked and certain did not. Hated the bridge builders, bridge, to me so boring.


message 10: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 1081 comments Tamahome wrote: "Welcome to Epic Fantasy. Some people seem to like it. So first I'm only 33% into The Way of Kings audiobook, and I'm not sure if I'll finish. I can recommend Joe Hill's [book:Horn..."

Also, some people, if you are talking about The Name of the Wind, its more like at least 3/4 of the pople who read it love it, I mean LOVE it, it so happens there are the few, the brave who hates. It is just one of those books that the massive lovers of the book overshadows the people who hates it I fell kind of like into hiding, not allowed for the book to be basted. I even have heard from one person one goodreads to be shocked that I hated the book, she has never ever know a person to have hated the book. But this is the kind of book that cults are build upon.


message 11: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments So far, I can't say I don't like the Name of the Wind (too early in the story), the writing is good and the pacing is fine. But it just pushes my "pet peeve" button in this early part of the book. I am still assuming it will be great once it gets past this childhood part. How long does that take? Is it about half the book?

Tamahome, I will check out that Horns!


message 12: by Larry (new)

Larry (lomifeh) | 88 comments If it makes sense in the story then I am all for it. Name of the Wind fits since it ties into the whole book well I think. I don't really have this pet peeve, I have others though ;).


message 13: by Brad Theado (last edited Feb 22, 2011 02:01PM) (new)

Brad Theado | 217 comments sounds like you need to read some of the Warhammer 40k books from the Black Library. They are action start to finish with a scrap of story thrown in.

---

That sounded snarky but it isnt intended. I blend these into my reading when I want just a pure action sci fi story.


message 14: by Vance (last edited Feb 22, 2011 02:12PM) (new)

Vance | 362 comments Brad, the Abercrombie books fit that bill (although it has a story to go with it), and I have some Black Company books saved up as well for when I am in that mood! :0) But I will check out Warhammer as well, for sure.

I also just started Gridlocked, which is sort of James Bond in space, and hits the ground running!


message 15: by Brad Theado (new)

Brad Theado | 217 comments I loved the Abercrombie books.


message 16: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Vance wrote: "Sean, that would be perfect (but I would still skim through the "rising from the muck" bit!)!!"

I actually wrote it up as a short story (or perhaps novella) a couple years ago. I got around the boring childhood stuff by making it a mystery where a detective investigates the murder of an historian who had discovered the truth. I should clean it up put it on Amazon or Smashwords.


message 17: by Been (new)

Been | 125 comments While reading about people becoming great heroes isn't an uncommon theme I really enjoy reading about how already established heroes got to be where they were. Less Harry Potter and more Belgarath the Sorcerer.

The Name of the Wind falls into a strange sort of middle-ground where there's clearly a hero but nothing too much is known about him beyond a few rumours here and there, but I ended up enjoying it immensely.


message 18: by Martin (last edited Feb 23, 2011 06:55AM) (new)

Martin (mafrid) | 50 comments Tamahome wrote: "Welcome to Epic Fantasy. Some people seem to like it..."
I'm not sure that this is the definition of Epic Fantasy, but I'll agree with that they often enough are the same. This is also the reason that I 'fell out of love' with Epic Fantasy about a decade ago and switched to Urban Fantasy instead. However as UF is currently suffering from a similar 'cookie-cutter' issue where the different author/series just blend together into an indistinguishable mess, I'm trying to rekindle the affection of fantasy.

The thing is that the 'young protagonist grows up and goes out into the world to create his destiny' is an easy way out for an author to present a completely new world to the reader. By letting the reader see the new world through the eyes of a 'youngster' they will discover the world together.

I'm not that experienced with SciFi, but I haven't really seen the same thing there, which is a bit strange. What I've read of SciFi you're usually just thrown in at the deep end and expected to either swim or drown. Perhaps it's the advantage of the SciFi author that they can use 'today's phrases, changed enough to make a difference but not to the extent that the basic concept is lost, that makes the difference - or is it that I haven't read enough SciFi to find the bad examples yet. :-)
Why else would there be a difference, or what do you think?


message 19: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments Martin, that is an interesting observation about using the stereotypical scullion-becomes-hero path as a means to introduce a world. It definitely does do that in many cases. I wonder also if it is a populist, democratic urge in seeing the humble rise and the proud get their comeuppance. It is probably a combination of a number of factors that make it appealing.

And you are right about science fiction, I don't recall any book where that was a major factor. Interesting.


message 20: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments The two major methods for conveying exposition to readers are incluing and infodumping. Incluing is the use of subtle cues to deliver information to the reader in a piecemeal manner, and is rarely used in science fiction or fantasy. (The Book of the New Sun is a great example of this method.) Infodumping, as the name implies, is a big block of text that tells you exactly how the world works, sometimes in excruciating detail.

In the olden days, infodumps in SF were handled with clunky "As you know Bob," dialogue, which would be like a modern novel where the hero stops to explain to his friend how the Internet works. As people realized how stupid that is, methods of infodumping have changed. In science fiction today, it's usually done by the narrator -- David Weber, for example, is notorious for long passages explaining how various weapons function. Fantasy usually goes with the neophyte approach, where the view-point character is either a kid or a visitor from our world who needs everything explained to him. The problem with the neophyte approach is that after a while it makes the hero look dim -- it makes sense for Harry Potter to have questions about the magical world in the first book, but by the seventh it's ridiculous.

The neophyte approach has been used in sci-fi on occasion, such as Wells' The Sleeper Awakes where a man from the Edwardian era awakes in the future. Personally, I find the neophyte approach works better when it's a guy from fantasyland who visits the real world, such as in The Drawing of the Three.


message 21: by aldenoneil (last edited Feb 23, 2011 10:33AM) (new)

aldenoneil | 1000 comments Sean wrote: "Personally, I find the neophyte approach works better when it's a guy from fantasyland who visits the real world, such as in The Drawing of the Three. "

Or Masters of the Universe, although that didn't work in any sense of the word.

This was a staple of 80s fantasy movies, where fantasy heroes or creatures invaded our world. I assume it was done so often only because it was cheaper, as it rarely made for a satisfactory story. That's not necessarily the trope's fault, though.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

The only SF that I've read where a child with profound abilities is plucked from his normal life and trained for something is Ender's Game.


message 23: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments mauve1976 wrote: "The only SF that I've read where a child with profound abilities is plucked from his normal life and trained for something is Ender's Game."

"The Corps is mother, the Corps is father."


message 24: by Noel (new)

Noel Baker | 364 comments mauve1976 wrote: "The only SF that I've read where a child with profound abilities is plucked from his normal life and trained for something is Ender's Game."

I think it has been used quite a lot in SF. Things like Heinlein's 'Have Spacesuit Will Travel' , 'Space Cadets' and 'Starman Jones' off the top of my head.


message 25: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6352 comments Or, in Old Man's War, an old man is plucked from his normal life and trained for something. :)


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

I've been wanting to read Old Man's War, but my library only has the second and third books (Ghost Brigades and the Last Colony, I think). Do I need to read the first book first?


message 27: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6352 comments No but I think it's the best one.


message 28: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments I just heard that Old Man's War was being made into a movie! I have not read it, but it was recently recommended to me.


message 29: by Curt (new)

Curt Taylor (meegeek) | 107 comments Vance; I had the same problem with The Name of the Wind. It just seemed a bit too light for me. Not sure I am going to go on to the second book or not at this point.


back to top