Friday, June 03, 2005

Learning to Enjoy Fantasy. Again.

Not a big fan of fantasy-fantasy. This as opposed to modern-fantasy and science-fantasy. I'm not a big fan of sword and sorcery, or really any medeival fantasy. I can enjoy the Wheel of Time becuase Mat and Perrin are truly amusing characters, and because "Aes Sedai" is just such a fun word to say. I vaugley enjoy the Valdemar novels becuase I can never really remember a time that I DIDN'T like them. They were my first introduction to big fantasy worlds. So I have a special place in my heart for them. That place is right next to my enjoyment of Romper Room; largley nostalgic, and somehow diminishing every time I partake of it. Though there IS something satisfying and final about Vanyel's habit of ending all problems with the magical equivilant of a tac-nuke, and the fact that the recurring villain of the series is the equivilant to a super-villain lineage: same schemes, same costume, different guy.

But damn...George RR Martin is teaching me to enjoy fantasy again. I first met the man through Wild Cards, and the fact that he's a gamer really caught me on. He has a very natural style of storytelling, and he created the Great and Powerful could I not learn to love his stuff?

So people have been hounding me for a few months now to put down The Wheel of Time and pick up A Game of Thrones. First it was Joel, who spent half an hour explaining the concept of the Night's Watch to me, and how this was a viable way of getting rid of the Changeling criminals of Winter's Discontent rather than throwing them into the Endless Trod, that hole in space time which has an annoying habit of spitting people back out, horribly insane and dreadfully more powerful than before. Then Ryon, one of my Winthrop Academy players, and the VST Requiem for my local Camarilla Domain, telling me about how he loved the books. And then there was the fact that a third of the fantasy conversations in the domain (especially when Joel is involved) revolve around the damn books.

So picking up the first book was inevitable. I put off reading it for a month or so while I read "The Fires of Heaven" (WoT Book 5), but once I finished that I decided to give Martin a try. It took me a few pages to get into it, but his style of storytelling is MUCH more natural than Jordan's, and he doesn't constantly perform the terrible offense that my good friend Fiona calls "info-dumping" (a crime of which I'm slowly breaking myself from the habit of performing). Martin's stuff flows, and it flows really smoothly.

The story is intriguing. Its a pretty stock setup: a noble family who are friends with the king who usurped the throne from the older, established monarchy because the old king was insane, and who are now being plotted against by the queen and her family who want to own the throne rather than being married to it, while the youngest children of the previous king are living in exile and plotting their revenge. Standard stuff, but Martin puts some nice twists on it. The Starks are a genuinly interesting family made up of individuals, rather than the more stock families in stuff like the Valdemar novels where there's typically a whole bunch of faceless clones and one black sheep. Presently I think my favourite characters are the direwolves, with Tylerion Lannister and Jon Snow coming in at a tied close second. Least favourite being Sarsa, who's primary use ought to be scullery maid to the more useful characters.

Now, I have to argue with Ryon on the point of character comprehension. He had me believing that the number of characters in this book was equivilant to War and Peace. Nah. This is no more complicated that Jordan, and just a bit more than Lackey. This is old hat.

But yes...I am enjoying the book. I shall purchase the other three for reading while in England. And I shall enjoy them.

Thank you, Mister Martin, for teaching me to enjoy fantasy again.


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