Disappointing Books (warning spoilers allowed)


Books

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Rhianna Pratchett will probably not write Discworld novels herself. She recently clarified in an interview that she'd only be responsible for managing Terry's work when he dies, not for continuing it.

Your list matches mine almost perfectly, by the way. I'd add Small Gods and, yes, Jingo to it.


Fabius Maximus wrote:

Rhianna Pratchett will probably not write Discworld novels herself. She recently clarified in an interview that she'd only be responsible for managing Terry's work when he dies, not for continuing it.

Your list matches mine almost perfectly, by the way. I'd add Small Gods and, yes, Jingo to it.

Oh I knew she wasn't planning to continue it, I just thought shed have been the obvious choice to help him at thus stage.

Man, Small Gods, how could I have forgotten that. That's on there too for me. Introduction of Lu Tze and an excellent bit of Discworld history. Plus yet another Dibbler Archetype character. I love that they just keep popping up.

The Exchange

So, having recently finished it, I am sadly forced to add The Dark Tower to the list. I actually like a LOT of the series (and I consider the 3rd book to be Stephen King's best of all times, and one of the best books Iv'e ever read in general), but

MAJOR SPOILERS:

The ending sucked balls. It didn't make any sense and made everything that happened before that seem pointless. It was also unclear - is everything going to play out again the same way? was time reversed? given that King's justification to this pile of crap was that he is giving us "an ending", but also that this wasn't the end of ANYTHING and didn't tie up any loose ends...

Sometimes, the ending of a story can be so abysmally bad it ruins most of the journey, too.


I couldn't agree more, Lord Snow. I read the first book as a series of novellas published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, before they were even collected and published in one volume. I was maybe twelve years old at the time, so take it with a grain of salt, but I thought the last section of Book 1 (Roland and Walter's transcendental campfire chat) was totally fricken awesome. I was expecting some sort of book long version of that at the end of the series, and that's just not how it worked out.


+2 on a series that started off so good, then just seemed to spiral the drain at book five.

Another series that has disappointed me is "The Books of Malazan." Everything I've researched about it screams that I should love it, but I just can't get into them. I had to give the first book two tries to get through it. I have read that the second one is much better but reading the character's dialogue is almost painful to me. It is now sitting under my bed with a bookmark in about page 100. What makes this ironic is that Steven Erickson gets glowing reviews from my favorite author, which is Glen Cook.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

The main character literally spends about half the book just sitting around and waiting for something to happen. From reading the reviews on Amazon, I got the impression that most of the fans were from foreign countries or were born and raised in huge cities, so the descriptions of small-town middle America seemed foreign and exotic; to me, they were completely unremarkable because that's where I grew up.

Anansi Boys, on the other hand, was a lot of fun.

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James Keegan wrote:
Despite my misgivings on King Rat, I also picked up Kraken by China Mieville shortly after it came out. Then I quickly put it down. Willfully weird for the sake of weird without (for me) enough of a center to serve as an anchor and make me care about what actually happened.

I had the same reaction to Mieville. I tried reading Un Lun Dun, then Kraken, and they both focused so much on just moving the reader from one cool idea or set piece to the next (and they were cool), that the story itself got lost in the shuffle, and I got bored with them.


RainyDayNinja wrote:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

The main character literally spends about half the book just sitting around and waiting for something to happen. From reading the reviews on Amazon, I got the impression that most of the fans were from foreign countries or were born and raised in huge cities, so the descriptions of small-town middle America seemed foreign and exotic; to me, they were completely unremarkable because that's where I grew up.

Anansi Boys, on the other hand, was a lot of fun.

I gre up in a small town in the Australian countryside. Admittedly not a 100% match for American small towns, but close enough that I got a sense of familiarity with the setting. What made me love the book was the characters. I liked Shadow and the gods, really enjoyed seeing how they tried to survive. Anansi Boys was actually, while still good, the disappointing one for me as it didn't live up to the first book in my eyes.

Still, to each their own :)


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I was quite disappointed by "Game of thrones". It's a very average book to me. Characters range from boring to despicable, with the few I have any reason to get attached to (despite the boring/despicable) getting quickly killed. The world isn't sufficiently developed for me to have any attachment to it.

I read the first book and thought, maybe it gets better. Read half of the second and was like "what's the point?" and stopped. Very disappointing considering the endless hype around the book... Writing a book so that it has the same randomness as history with light fantasy elements bores me. I'd much rather read an actual history book (and I do quite frequently). Less engaging than most fiction, but at least with a history book you don't expect it to be.


RainyDayNinja wrote:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

Anansi Boys, on the other hand, was a lot of fun.

Other than "The Season of Mists" from Sandman, which I think is brilliant, I've found Neil Gaiman to be one of the single most consistently overrated authors I've ever read. (Of course, I don't in the least like Terry Pratchett, either, so ... it may just be a stylistic thing. I've never been much for irreverent twerpitude.)


williamoak wrote:
I was quite disappointed by [A] Game of Thrones ... Characters range from boring to despicable, with the few I have any reason to get attached to ... getting quickly killed.

Yeah.

Quote:
The world isn't sufficiently developed for me to have any attachment to it.

I think you may be unique in this perspective.

Quote:
I read the first book and thought, maybe it gets better. Read half of the second and was like "what's the point?" and stopped. Very disappointing considering the endless hype around the book...

You did the right thing getting out when you did. I've read 'em all. Now I'm sorry. One friend finished the last book, A Dance with Dragons. His subsequent review? "F+!@ you, George R.R. Martin."

The hype has to do with the modern reader equating "gritty" and "dystopian" with "realistic" and "intelligent." Um ... NO.

Insofar as Martin's literary skills are concerned, in my opinion he's talented. Seems to use his powers mostly for evil, though.


Someone mentioned Asprin's Myth series. That disappointed me mostly because he hit us with a massive cliffhanger and then unfortunately passed away (which is the thought currently terrifying every GRR Martin fan). I was not too thrilled with the last book, though. It was obviously very personal for Asprin, who had Skeeve deal with many of the same issues he himself faced, but the quality of the writing and the humor were not up to the same level of previous books.

The other series that disappointed me only because it was left unfinished was David Gerrold's War Against the Chtorr series. So wrong to tease several more volumes and then never write them!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Just keep in mind people one essential fact.

That there isn't a single book in all of history or creation that someone hasn't labeled a "disappointment", or called much worse.


LazarX wrote:

Just keep in mind people one essential fact.

That there isn't a single book in all of history or creation that someone hasn't labeled a "disappointment", or called much worse.

Some would say that proves there's no accounting for taste.

I disagree. Some people just have objectively crappy taste. :)

The Exchange

Jaelithe wrote:


The hype has to do with the modern reader equating "gritty" and "dystopian" with "realistic" and "intelligent." Um ... NO.

I don't know, Martin's description of Westeros is at time far less bloody and complicated than some of the history books I read. In that respect, his is one of the most realistic fantasy books Iv'e ever read.

Also, there's nothing "dystopian" about A Song of Ice and Fire, not sure what you are referring to here.

A third point is that you'll be hard pressed to find a more intelligent book in the fantasy genre. The characters are all VERY well developed, the world is VERY reach and detailed, and the political intrigues are practically unrivaled in any other book Iv'e ever read.

Maybe your notion of the story being unintelligent comes mostly from having your most recent memories of it affected by the TV show? a LOT of the brains in the story are replaced there by gore and sex.

Finally, about the whole "everyone I cared about died" thing,

Major Book Spoilers!!!:

A surprising number of good guys lived through the first 5 books, and some potential bad guys turned good eventually (A certain J. Lannister comes to mind, and Theon seems to be headed for redemption, though of course with Martin you can never know. The Hound also stopped his violent lifestyle). Good guys still alive:
Arya, Sansa, Bran, Varys, Daenerys, Jorah Mormont, Barristan, John Snow (probably), Sam, Brienne (probably), Tyrion, Osha and Rickon, Davos, some people I'm probably forgetting and many, many minor characters.

The books are brutal, and good guys are not protected from harm, but they are also not just cartoonishly slaughtered for no reason.


eakratz wrote:

+2 on a series that started off so good, then just seemed to spiral the drain at book five.

Another series that has disappointed me is "The Books of Malazan." Everything I've researched about it screams that I should love it, but I just can't get into them. I had to give the first book two tries to get through it. I have read that the second one is much better but reading the character's dialogue is almost painful to me. It is now sitting under my bed with a bookmark in about page 100. What makes this ironic is that Steven Erickson gets glowing reviews from my favorite author, which is Glen Cook.

Its and odd series. It either immediately clicks with you, at least engaging you enough that you want to figure out what the f#+$ is going on since it drops you in and is like "Here's literally 200 characters doing a thing that is not adequately explained for places we have no context of".

I liked them while I was reading them but for the life of me I can't recall WHY.


Where do I start?
I'll ignore bland books or anything plain bad. To be disappointing it has to have some sort of expectation that it should be better, either from hype or previous experience with the author/setting.

Just about anything I've read by Stephen King. I liked the first thing of his I read - "Pet Sematry" - but everything else I've read has been seriously disappointing. He is so massively popular and I can't see why. After PS I borrowed a lot of stuff from friends and boy did he disappoint. He can usually set it up well engagingly enough, but at some point about half-way, after dragging things out a bit, it seems he has no clue how to take it from there and pours on the gore and other excessive stuff to bring it to some sort of half-arsed conclusion. It doesn't help that I feel he has half a dozen stock characters he uses in everything.

Weis and Hickman's "War of Souls" trilogy for Dragonlance. I suppose I should have known where it was headed after Dragons of Summer Flame, but DoSF at least had some good character moments, even if the story was s@@+. WoS was a trainwreck from beginning to end. These days I can reread the Chronicles but will ignore everything else they did.

Drizzt stories. The Crystal Shard and Homeland (and to a lesser extent Sojourn) are still enjoyable. Problem is, they got worse. At Legacy they started to go from 'not as good as the last one' to 'not very good'. Past "Siege of Darkness" they were firmly in 'bad' territory. Fool as I was, I couldn't stop in bad country and read (but didn't buy, thanks to more foolish friends) to the end of the Thousand Orc thingy. That was really, really bad.

Karen Travis' Star Wars books. I like "Republic Commando: Hard Contact". She, like me, seems to have a thing for big warrior guys in heavy armor. Except you can't hear my orgasms in your head when I talk about them. I swear I couldn't get them out of my head when she wanked Mandalorians. The later RC books and her work on Legacy of the Force was just plain offensive, not just in her blind adoration of the Mandos but her complete disregard for the spirit of Star Wars and the Jedi.

I could probably go on a long time here, but these are the three that popped to mind first.

Scarab Sages

A Song of Ice and Fire (don't stone me). I just didn't enjoy it enough to finish it. I have quite enjoyed some of Martin's other writing, but this one didn't grab me. I usually prefer my fantasy stories with a bit more overt magic, and I also prefer to follow just one or two characters rather than jump from character to character with a large cast. I wanted to read about Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Daneirys (sp?) and perhaps Arya Stark, and not anyone else.

I am a great fan of Gene Wolfe and loved his Urth of the New Sun series. But I couldn't get involved in the Long Sun books. I tried twice to read the first one, Nightside the Long Sun, and couldn't finish it either time. I don't know what was missing from that book that the New Sun books had.

The Wheel of Time books. I read the first three when they were newly released, with the impression it would be a trilogy and that was all. When I got to the end of The Great Hunt and realized there would be more books I was very disheartened. I also found some of the characters rather irritating. It's been so long since I read it I don't remember who it was that annoyed me, though. The series has become so bloated that I have no desire to give it another try. I think book series should end. I don't want them to go on forever.


The Wheel of Time books.

The first book was fantastic. he second and third were boring and confusing and spend most of their time introducing or focusing on characters I didn't care about. The fourth on was forgettable. Then came the 5th and 6th books which really felt like a return to form. They were awesome and set up some great stuff for later. I was excited again. Then it was all downhill until I finally just gave up with Crossroads of Twilight. Then Jordan died.

I figured the series wasn't going to be finished, and I was fine with that. I had long since stopped caring about it.

Then they had to go and get Brandon F@+%ing Sanderson to pick up where Jordan left off.

I'm pissed. Sanderson is an amazing author. I like him so much that I want to read his version of the ending. I know he'll edit out a lot of the annoying BS Jordan would have included. The problem is I don't really remember what is happening in the story anymore and I really don't want to slog through Jordan's 4000 page wordmire again just to be able to read Sanderson's stuff.

/fanboy gripe


Just read a synopsis online. Huge fan of WoT myself (though books 8-10 were uuuuuuugh, I like 1-6 just fine though and though 7 was okay), and you're right, Sanderson kind of cuts out a lot of the stuff Jordan hyper focused on for whatever reason.

You've got Jordan's vision (from his copious notes), plots, characters, etc., but without 3 page descriptions of Nynaeve's outfit.


While I considered wheel of time decent, I got bored after a while. It gets to be a slog after a while.

Though I did read through most of the series twice, so there must be sometime there.


Another one that bugged me-

Empire by Orson Scott Card

It was recommended by a friend, so I read it. I was pleasantly surprised at first. Then by about a third of the way in, Card completely loses his mind.

The villains are hippies in mechs who decide to overthrow the US government. I'm not even joking. Card used Left Wing political activists in giant anime robots as his villains.

I'm pretty sure he didn't intend for the book to be a comedy, but it was.


Oh jeez I remember that. I picked it up from a Goodwill one day for like a dollar, and was like "Hey, I loved Ender's Game, and the sequels, so let's give this a try!".

About halfway through I was fascinated. Couldn't put the book down. It was like a train wreck, and my eyes were locked on the carnage left in this man's psyche.


I was... really confused by it, too.

It seems that it was supposed to be a story for something else, that he adapted. But... I never saw the "something else" that went with it.

My strong impression was that it was a project that he signed on to do, but didn't feel comfortable with because, ultimately, he more or less apologized in the front, trying to make sure that any blame didn't go further than himself.

The assassination of the main character was... interesting, and could have been really great... but I just don't think Card was feeling it. It felt too forced, too... odd.

In fact...

Quote:
Empire is not an original Orson Scott Card project, but rather stems from the development of the Empire video game. The game was being developed by the brothers Donald and Geremy Mustard, founders of the Chair Entertainment Group development studio until it was canceled. Card was contacted by Donald Mustard and offered the chance to develop the game's storyline as well as a novel to set the series into action.[11] The Xbox Live Arcade Game Shadow Complex was announced by Donald Mustard to be a tie-in to the second installment of Orson Scott Card's Empire Trilogy and is a prequel to the Empire novel that is developed by ChAIR.[12]

... so, there we go. It was a book for a game that was never made. It felt too cartoony, to me, even from the beginning, even compared to other Card work.

Oddly, I now want to read the sequel (of which I was not aware) just to see... how deep does the rabbit hole go?

(That said, I'm still a fan of most of Card's works that I've read in general. Yes, I know, but I haven't read it. Yes, I know that, too, but I haven't read it.)


Tacticslion wrote:

I was... really confused by it, too.

It seems that it was supposed to be a story for something else, that he adapted. But... I never saw the "something else" that went with it.

My strong impression was that it was a project that he signed on to do, but didn't feel comfortable with because, ultimately, he more or less apologized in the front, trying to make sure that any blame didn't go further than himself.

The assassination of the main character was... interesting, and could have been really great... but I just don't think Card was feeling it. It felt too forced, too... odd.

In fact...

Quote:
Empire is not an original Orson Scott Card project, but rather stems from the development of the Empire video game. The game was being developed by the brothers Donald and Geremy Mustard, founders of the Chair Entertainment Group development studio until it was canceled. Card was contacted by Donald Mustard and offered the chance to develop the game's storyline as well as a novel to set the series into action.[11] The Xbox Live Arcade Game Shadow Complex was announced by Donald Mustard to be a tie-in to the second installment of Orson Scott Card's Empire Trilogy and is a prequel to the Empire novel that is developed by ChAIR.[12]

... so, there we go. It was a book for a game that was never made. It felt too cartoony, to me, even from the beginning, even compared to other Card work.

Oddly, I now want to read the sequel (of which I was not aware) just to see... how deep does the rabbit hole go?

(That said, I'm still a fan of most of Card's works that I've read in general. Yes, I know, but I haven't read it. Yes, I know that, too, but I haven't read it.)

Huh. Didn't realise that Shadow Complex had anything to do with Card. Damn good game.


Swearing in church time: Ender's game. Or rather, the ending of it. Up until the big baraboom, it's a wonderful, thought-provoking book written through the eyes of a child (which is beyond the skill of most authors). It has gotten its fair share of rewards, and is continually placed very high on various best SF lists.

But, man... the ending. If he had just skipped it, it would have been amazing. Instead he had to write some wonky epilogue about what happened afterward. Reading it felt like the entire writing style foundered and died.


Next one of mine is Otherland, of which I have read the first book, City of Golden Shadow. It's a decent yarn, a virtual reality story with okay characters and so on... but plagued with a very central problem: The writer clearly doesn't understand how virtual reality would work. Things like there is a law that states you're not allowed to lie if asked if you're a puppet (what we'd call a bot), or when someone is lowered into a plastic-gel tank for a full environment 3D VR experience, they have tubes in their mouths for food - the sensation of which fades after a while in the virtual reality, for some reason.


Dotting for for my own follow up.


Doomed Hero wrote:

Another one that bugged me-

Empire by Orson Scott Card

It was recommended by a friend, so I read it. I was pleasantly surprised at first. Then by about a third of the way in, Card completely loses his mind.

The villains are hippies in mechs who decide to overthrow the US government. I'm not even joking. Card used Left Wing political activists in giant anime robots as his villains.

I'm pretty sure he didn't intend for the book to be a comedy, but it was.

Hahaha I read that too, and pretty much had the same feelings. I bet in Cards mind it all is perfectly logical.

The Exchange

Sissyl wrote:
Next one of mine is Otherland, of which I have read the first book, City of Golden Shadow. It's a decent yarn, a virtual reality story with okay characters and so on... but plagued with a very central problem: The writer clearly doesn't understand how virtual reality would work. Things like there is a law that states you're not allowed to lie if asked if you're a puppet (what we'd call a bot), or when someone is lowered into a plastic-gel tank for a full environment 3D VR experience, they have tubes in their mouths for food - the sensation of which fades after a while in the virtual reality, for some reason.

I finished reading City of Golden Shadow about two weeks ago, and after a week of recovery I started on the second book. I actually really liked the first book, and the second book is fine so far- I don't mind so much about the unrealistic idea of the virtual reality - I treat the story as if it's a fantasy epic, and not a science fiction. That makes this kind of thing more acceptable.

The only thing I am struggling with in these books is the plodding pace. The story moves SOOOO SLOWLY. I mean, you just read the first book, right? think just how little you actually know about the story...

MAJOR OTHERLAND SPOILERS!:

We don't know what the Grail Project is - though I strongly suspect it has something to do with finding eternal life or something.
We don't know why Paul Jonas is in Otherland, why his memory was wiped, or why it's important that he escaped.
We don't know who the magical bird woman is, or why she is important, or what exactly is her relation to Paul.
We don't know why Stephen and the other kids are put in a coma.
We don't know who Sellars is, why he's eating soap, why he's imprisoned in a military base, how he connects to Otherland with no equipment...

When you look at it, we don't really know anything about the story. Given that we already read like 800 pages of it, you'd expect we'll at least know what the good guys are trying to accomplish, exactly, but even they don't know.

However, the pieces of the story that we do get are cool and rewarding, and worth the time it takes to get there.


Okay, without having a single clue about the reality:

Spoiler:
The people in the Grail Project are old and want new bodies to live in. One of them will eventually end up in the body of the kid with progeria.

The Exchange

Sissyl wrote:

Okay, without having a single clue about the reality:

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:

Yeah, I agree that the Grail Project is very probably about eternal life.
However, my theory is that the "kids in coma" thing is less about finding a vessel for the old people to possess, and more about powering the Otherland system. It is mentioned several times that simple money is not enough to provide such an incredible leap in technology, and that the worlds are too lifelike to be entirely computerized. My best bet is that the minds of young children fuel Otherland somehow. I'm betting the creepy clown, uncle Jingle, has something to do with that too (given that his name begins with a J).

This is all speculation, of course.

Liberty's Edge

I think A song of ice and fire was written specifically to appeal to the reality T.V. schadenfreude kind of viewer/reader. I personally enjoy books where I can get into the main character and follow their progress and root for them.

When I'm presented with a group of characters as deplorable as any on your typical reality T.V. show I have to pass.

The Exchange

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Mike Dalrymple wrote:

I think A song of ice and fire was written specifically to appeal to the reality T.V. schadenfreude kind of viewer/reader. I personally enjoy books where I can get into the main character and follow their progress and root for them.

When I'm presented with a group of characters as deplorable as any on your typical reality T.V. show I have to pass.

This comment is just so silly I can't even start to find it within me to give a serious, thorough answer. Suffice it to say that A Song of Ice and Fire has *nothing* to do with reality TV, not either in style or tone. Obviously not in content. Of the MANY fans I know of the series, literally not one of them is a regular reality shows fan. Unlike reality shows, ASoIaF is intelligent, and the characters have great depth to them, unlike the usual participants of reality TV.

Reasons to like A Song Of Ice and Fire other than "the characters are deplorable": huge, epic setting. Interesting characters (not saying "nice" or "good hearted", just interesting and complex). GREAT story with amazing, unpredictable twists. Witty, believable dialog. Enjoyably stylish writing style. Hard impacting violence that's handled well. Brutal deaths of main characters keeping you on your tows and tagging some heart strings. Amazingly cool battles.

You can dislike the books because the characters often range from problematic to vile in nature, but don't go around comparing them to something as base as reality TV. Honestly, it's insulting.


Sooooo... In spoilers... What main characters of Song of Ice and Fire actually die? Seriously. Apart from the obvious one at the end of book 1. Hit me. Everyone says it is so many. At my count it is two or maybe three to five up to mid book 5. Note... Not counting mutilations, torture, thought to be dead, disappeared or otherwise not dead. Not counting intro chapter characters or such.


Most recent disappointment: Murakami's 1Q84. How he managed to take an interesting premise and then proceed to show me how little I care about the outcome is incredible.

Regarding Stephen King, I got through The Dead Zone and Misery and decided that was enough. I enjoyed them, but felt I'd read what I needed to.

China Miéville, I enjoy. Iron Council stopped being important after a while, I'll admit. But The City & The City is absolutely fantastic.

I did have a disappointment with All Tomorrow's Parties. Basically, everyone is rushing around for the trilogy, something big is going to happen.... then a convenience store invents the Star Trek replicator. Yup, that's big. Yup, that's the world's game changer. Yup, that's a deus ex machina. Whatev.


Sissyl wrote:
Sooooo... In spoilers... What main characters of Song of Ice and Fire actually die? Seriously. Apart from the obvious one at the end of book 1. Hit me. Everyone says it is so many. At my count it is two or maybe three to five up to mid book 5. Note... Not counting mutilations, torture, thought to be dead, disappeared or otherwise not dead. Not counting intro chapter characters or such.

I am inclined to agree with you. The death toll is exaggerated, though it might be due to certain key characters (not going to spoiler) biting the dust.

Nobody bothers recalling how many Red Shirts have died, but any character with a name and at least five or more pages of story that dies WILL be considered a notable loss.

As to the question itself, I'm not going to answer it since I am not sure you and I would have the same definition of a main character to begin with. TvTropes would help you, though.

The Exchange

Sissyl wrote:
Sooooo... In spoilers... What main characters of Song of Ice and Fire actually die? Seriously. Apart from the obvious one at the end of book 1. Hit me. Everyone says it is so many. At my count it is two or maybe three to five up to mid book 5. Note... Not counting mutilations, torture, thought to be dead, disappeared or otherwise not dead. Not counting intro chapter characters or such.

SERIOUS SONG OF ICE AND FIRE SPOILERS!!!:

dead major characters:
1) Eddard Stark
2) viserys targaryen
3) Kahl Drogo
4) joffrey baratheon
5) Tywin Lannister
6) Robb Stark
7) Catelyn Tully (I do consider this a death...)
8) Jorah Mormont

Now, this is only counting the most central characters. Once you start factoring in characters that were either very important (like, for example: Renly Baratheon, Gregor Clegane, Syrio Forel, Lysa Tully, etc.), or cool characters that most authors would have kept alive (like, for example: Qhorin Halfhand, Rodrick Cassel, the Red Viper, Yoren, Lady (the wolf), etc.)

Add to that the astonishing number of minor characters who meet a grisly end, and the number of main characters getting crippled or taken out of the story in a violent fashion (The Hound, for example) and you get a very, very bloody book where no one is quite ever safe.

So while the books are VERY ruthless towards all characters (both main character and minor, both "good guys" and "bad guys"), the reputation it has is still exaggerated. Another aspect of the book that is being SERIOUSLY overstated is the sex elements it has. Unlike what most people say/think, sex in the books is usually very not pornographic, and is not all that common either. Like Martin himself said in an interview Iv'e once seen - "I describe an ax cracking a skull and spilling brains all over the place, people are fine with that. I describe a penis entering a vagina and suddenly it's considered distasteful porn". Or something similar, anyway, I don't remember exactly.


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Precisely.

Answer:
Yes, that's the list I'd use myself. You could probably add in Robert Baratheon, too. Still... it's five bricks of books. Several thousand pages. I would also make the claim that Viserys and Robert needed to die from the very beginning, more like people who die in someone's backstory, even if it happens in the story. Drogo approaches that as well. The rest, I agree with you, but that's still not much per book, especially not for such a violent conflict. Add to this that only Eddard and Catelyn had point of view chapters, and it's even less impressive. Truth be told, I think its reputation for killing major characters stems from the fact that Martin wrote Eddard's death the way he did: Chance after chance after chance, first so as not to get involved, then so as not to be outwitted, then so as not to be killed. He wrote them believably and skillfully, so people managed to forget that the first thing Eddard did in the book was execute a man - and the book fulfills that symmetry admirably. It's still surprising to them.


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I still stand by my dislike of SoI&F. It may be better written then I believe (and I think it's pretty average), but the "darkness-induced audience apathy" (at least that's the best reason I can find") just completely shut it down for me. I've rarely heard the "too many deaths" thing myself; my own opinion is "most deaths feel meaningless, and most cruelties unnecessary".
I also read it pretty early (a while before the show started) and since then I have had a lot of people trying to say that I just HAVE to read it, violently disagreeing with the notion that it can be bad. It has been grating. And I may have been reacting more aggressively than is proper because of it.

As a counterpoint to SoI&F, I have "Chung-Kuo, the middle kingdom" (it's sci-fi). A very long series (that ends disappointingly, but apparently the authour is re-writing the last book that was rushed out by publishers, so...), that has similar violence, death, weirdness & cruelty. However, death (in this series) feels meaningful; you can see the effects "trickle down" in the rest of the world. If somebody (even a nobody) suffers in the book, it's reflected in whichever character arc we are in, and how it affects the minds of the main character involved. No cruelty or evil feels pointless, and it all enhances.

This has helped me realize how similar in tone those two books are. I might have to analyze more deeply to properly understand how they differ, but I appreciated Chung Kuo SOOO much more than SoI&F. I need to re-read Chung Kuo.

I enjoyed Otherland; it's LONG series, and really slows down at times, but I enjoyed it.


It may be as you say, williamoak, but my impression is that ALL the high-profile deaths do exactly that. The entire map changes. Even many of the minor characters leave traces that are picked up in various ways. I guess it's a matter of perception.

The Exchange

Williamaoak,

As Sissyl said, I can't really recall any death of any major character that was meaningless. Many of the minor characters die in a meaningless way, victims to something as random as the cruelty of of some sadistic soldier. However, the atmosphere of a wartime where the bad guys are unleashed and get to do as they please is strong in the books, and this reinforces it. If you'll think about it that way, the deaths contribute to the theme of the books. And usually, when they involve a major character in the scene of death, they affect that character. Think of Arya, of Jon, of Daenerys, of Sam, even of Jamie and Tyrion - they are all strongly affected by the deaths they witnessed, each in their own way, and sometimes those deaths are pivotal points in these character's story or shift in personality.

So really, it's cool if you dislike the story (I can't understand how or why, but that doesn't invalidate something as subjective as an opinion), but if the reasons are really the ones you described, than maybe you should give the series another try - it's really worth it if you can overcome whatever negative impression it gave you the first time.


Sissyl wrote:
But, man... the ending. If he had just skipped it, it would have been amazing. Instead he had to write some wonky epilogue about what happened afterward. Reading it felt like the entire writing style foundered and died.

OSC wrote Ender's Game so he could write Speaker For the Dead. I think that last chapter was him getting impatient with young Ender and wanting to move onto something new.

Anyhow, books that have disappointed me recently?

Out of the Darkness, by David Weber.
I really wanted to like this one, because it's like Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series done better.

In the Worldwar series, lizard aliens with technology that's an almost exact replica of our modern day technology invaded during World War II and lose because they're creatively sterile and horribly outnumbered.

In Out of the Darkness, coyote aliens with advanced technology invade during the modern day, and get their butts handed to them because they were expecting to fight knights armed with bows and polearms. Their technology is better realized, because it's more realistic for an alien species that has only ever had to fight primitives. For example, they have hovertanks with lasers that can explode a house, but those tanks are underarmored and have zero underbelly armor. Mines? IEDs? What are those? Also, their aircraft aren't stealthy because they've never fought anybody with radar, and they don't have anything that can detect stealth aircraft.

But they're quite good at precisely dropping meteorites onto cities, airfields, ambush sites, etc.

Another comparison is that in the Worldwar series, the aliens were terrible at fighting because they had not fought each other in thousands of generations. Something about how their planet had no major oceans allowed one empire to rise up and last long enough that the lizards revere the very idea of the Emperor. Hell, they don't have standards or flags, because those arise as a way for nations to distinguish themselves from other nations.

In Out of the Darkness, almost all intelligent aliens have a herd instinct and defer to the group in order to protect themselves and the herd. The Coyotes are one of the few that simply have a pack mentality. The strongest rule or are challenged, but they are much more willing to fight and take risks. Overall, though, there's not much difference between the herd and the pack. Show enough force, and they back down.

By the galaxy's standards, Humans are insane. We have a family mentality. We fight to protect our family units, and once those families are killed (By, say, an opening salvo of meteorites onto our largest cities) we aren't going to stop fighting. The escalating feeling of "Oh, crap, what did we get ourselves into" on the part of the Coyotes is absolutely delicious.

This book was David Weber at his finest. The characters and the fight were foremost, while the dry politicking hardly reared its head.
Up until the last chapter.

No, I'm not going to spoiler tag it. You deserve to know.
The Coyotes pull back their forces, their ships are ready to bomb Earth back into the Precambrian era, and they're stopped by vampires. Vampires.
"Hello, my name is Vlad the Impaler, and I can transmute my body into fog and ride spaceships into orbit" vampires. I don't care if it WAS foreshadowed here and there, this is ostensibly a science fiction novel, and I wasn't looking for vampires any more than I was looking for foreshadowing about rainbow-farting Pegusi.

The second part of the last chapter has all the surviving main characters at a barbeque talking about how unlikely the whole thing was.

That's it. I'm done with Weber.


williamoak wrote:

I still stand by my dislike of SoI&F. It may be better written then I believe (and I think it's pretty average), but the "darkness-induced audience apathy" (at least that's the best reason I can find") just completely shut it down for me. I've rarely heard the "too many deaths" thing myself; my own opinion is "most deaths feel meaningless, and most cruelties unnecessary".

I also read it pretty early (a while before the show started) and since then I have had a lot of people trying to say that I just HAVE to read it, violently disagreeing with the notion that it can be bad. It has been grating. And I may have been reacting more aggressively than is proper because of it.

As a counterpoint to SoI&F, I have "Chung-Kuo, the middle kingdom" (it's sci-fi). A very long series (that ends disappointingly, but apparently the authour is re-writing the last book that was rushed out by publishers, so...), that has similar violence, death, weirdness & cruelty. However, death (in this series) feels meaningful; you can see the effects "trickle down" in the rest of the world. If somebody (even a nobody) suffers in the book, it's reflected in whichever character arc we are in, and how it affects the minds of the main character involved. No cruelty or evil feels pointless, and it all enhances.

This has helped me realize how similar in tone those two books are. I might have to analyze more deeply to properly understand how they differ, but I appreciated Chung Kuo SOOO much more than SoI&F. I need to re-read Chung Kuo.

I enjoyed Otherland; it's LONG series, and really slows down at times, but I enjoyed it.

Who is the author of Chung-Kuo? You've caught my interest.

The Exchange

@Quirel,

I read the short story version of the book you mentioned, and I actually rather liked it - like you, I found the increasing frustration of the aliens really fun to read about, the fight scenes were amazing, and the entire thing made me almost feel patriotic for being a human. I actually did like the ending though - I liked the sudden genre mixing, and it's not as if the twist came from nowhere - there was some foreshadowing sprinkled in the story. It even inspired me to run a version of the story as an RPG in a convention - the game plays out like a sci-fi war adventure, and in the finale the players have to choose if they will allow their characters to become vampires and carry on the fight.

However, I was hugely disappointed by the Honor Harrington series - or at least, I found the first book nearly unreadable. No character had any depth or reason for me to care about them, and the story was moving rather slowly. Not what I expected at all, and it caused me to give up on Weber for now and go read some great stuff that's on my waiting list.

Liberty's Edge

Sorry Lord Snow,

It might be insulting but the same sort of schadenfreude in the books (which is the only thing I can see people getting out of these books) is what I see people getting out of reality T.V. Dialogue, world and story don't change the fact that the main thing these books seem to supply is misery. and schadenfreude is happiness at the misfortune of others by definition.


Doomed Hero wrote:

The Wheel of Time books.

The first book was fantastic. he second and third were boring and confusing and spend most of their time introducing or focusing on characters I didn't care about. The fourth on was forgettable. Then came the 5th and 6th books which really felt like a return to form. They were awesome and set up some great stuff for later. I was excited again. Then it was all downhill until I finally just gave up with Crossroads of Twilight. Then Jordan died.

I figured the series wasn't going to be finished, and I was fine with that. I had long since stopped caring about it.

Then they had to go and get Brandon F*!%ing Sanderson to pick up where Jordan left off.

I'm pissed. Sanderson is an amazing author. I like him so much that I want to read his version of the ending. I know he'll edit out a lot of the annoying BS Jordan would have included. The problem is I don't really remember what is happening in the story anymore and I really don't want to slog through Jordan's 4000 page wordmire again just to be able to read Sanderson's stuff.

/fanboy gripe

This about sums up my opinion too. We were playing the D20 Wheel of TIme game because one of my friends was a MASSIVE fan. So I ordered the first 10 books or so... I think it would have been a great story told by someone else... it was just to... bloated. OUt of those 10 books, that story could have been told in about 6.

Then it was a couple years I think till the rest came out and I was just too bored to go back.

Honestly, Game of Thrones is about the same way. Too many characters, Too bloated a story. What I read I enjoyed at the time, and a couple of other friends are HUGE fans... but what was it? 5 years between books? Every time a new one came out, I had to reread the whole series... after 4, I dropped out.

The fact that it's become a pop culture 'hype' doesn't make me any more eager for the next one. Maybe someday when the story is over... but I won't read any more till then.


Lord Snow wrote:
Mike Dalrymple wrote:

I think A song of ice and fire was written specifically to appeal to the reality T.V. schadenfreude kind of viewer/reader. I personally enjoy books where I can get into the main character and follow their progress and root for them.

When I'm presented with a group of characters as deplorable as any on your typical reality T.V. show I have to pass.

This comment is just so silly I can't even start to find it within me to give a serious, thorough answer. Suffice it to say that A Song of Ice and Fire has *nothing* to do with reality TV, not either in style or tone. Obviously not in content. Of the MANY fans I know of the series, literally not one of them is a regular reality shows fan. Unlike reality shows, ASoIaF is intelligent, and the characters have great depth to them, unlike the usual participants of reality TV.

Reasons to like A Song Of Ice and Fire other than "the characters are deplorable": huge, epic setting. Interesting characters (not saying "nice" or "good hearted", just interesting and complex). GREAT story with amazing, unpredictable twists. Witty, believable dialog. Enjoyably stylish writing style. Hard impacting violence that's handled well. Brutal deaths of main characters keeping you on your tows and tagging some heart strings. Amazingly cool battles.

You can dislike the books because the characters often range from problematic to vile in nature, but don't go around comparing them to something as base as reality TV. Honestly, it's insulting.

I could see a correlation.

One of the things I heard was so awesome about the series... was that NOBODY was safe... The 'main characters' are morally questionable at best, and hard to identify at worst, and every was darker and realistic for the time period...

Falling off a horse and getting an infection are serious concerns and likely to get you killed in this series...

It was very backstabbing political and manipulative and a lot other things that Reality TV has tried to emulate.

Doesn't take much imagination to picture Westeros as an island people keep getting betrayed and 'voted off' of.


I am certainly not saying the story doesn't have problems.

Spoiler:
After the first book, the story goes into "misery mode", and endless plots going nowhere for most of two books. There are WAY too many characters, way too many point-of-view characters, and the protagonists are too young to really affect the proceedings, are stuck in nowhere land, or the like. Most of the story revolves around villains doing things and the consequences thereof, including unjust rewards. It says a lot that Tyrion and Jaime are two of the brightest shining characters that actually get influence rather than fleeing or being subjected to bad things. Book four was an endless slog that ended with the "high point" of killing off three despicable sellswords - one wishes Martin would have learned what Arya learned after her second assassination demand - those people do not truly matter. Danaerys does things as a force for good... but it doesn't stick, wherever she goes, and she's far too far away to matter to the heart of the series anyway.

The Exchange

Mike Dalrymple wrote:

Sorry Lord Snow,

It might be insulting but the same sort of schadenfreude in the books (which is the only thing I can see people getting out of these books) is what I see people getting out of reality T.V. Dialogue, world and story don't change the fact that the main thing these books seem to supply is misery. and schadenfreude is happiness at the misfortune of others by definition.

There is a MAJOR difference between "enjoyable" and "fun" - if you are a computer game fan, think of "Spec Ops: The Line" - widely considered to be an excellent game, it isn't very fun, and the gameplay is just a mundane iteration of a normal shooter. It's the story that counts in that case. While the game isn't the "Yay, I'm doing things and getting adrenaline rushes and saving the day!" kind of fun, what it is is solid, thought provoking entertainment.

So is it fun reading about the misery of good people? no, not really. Is reading about them handling their grim reality engaging though? certainly, to me and many others. The books do not "supply misery" - they tell a very good story, that is refreshingly different than most of the stuff you can find in fantasy because, as mentioned previously, no character is ever safe, and the reader knows that from experience. It makes the books actually suspenseful.

In other words, it seems that you are just more uncomfortable than other people with reading about characters going through horrible experiences. It doesn't make those who can tolerate that into sadists, or schadenfreude or anything else. Considerably more than that, it doesn't make them into reality TV fans. Again, if you think the enjoyment from the books has nothing to do with their intelligence, great writing, amazing unpreditable story and good setting, how would you explain the fact that many fans of the book series are NOT fans of reality TV? If there is no differece, you'd expect a greater correlation.

I'd ask of you to conduct the following experiment - whenever someone tells you they love the book, ask them if they would still like the series the same amount if they knew that by it's end, all the good characters will die horribly and all the bad guys will prevail. Ask them if they hope and expect that the good guys will pull through and win the day. Ask them if they would want for the main characters to suffer more than they already do. I know my answers to all these questions, and I suspect I know what 99% of the readers will answer as well, and the answers will not mash well with your theory.

By the way, another author that goes to an even greater length to describe misery of the protagnists (to the point where it starts to be annoying) is Robin Hobb. Would you say her fans are all about schadenfreude? Would you also say that about fans of Spec Ops: The Line? About fans of Breaking Bad? Of everything relating to the horror genre?

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