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28 April 2008 @ 11:33 pm
Can't sleep, brain will eat me. Can't sleep brain will eat me.

It's warm. And my brain is annoyed. So i will write a silly post before going to sleep.

Every so often i pick up a book/series not because it sounds especially interesting to me, but because it's very popular (within the genre) or acclaimed as an epic or a masterpiece or whatever, and i figure i ought to check it out and see what the fuss is about. So a couple weeks ago i picked up the first book in Tad William's "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn" series, "the Dragonbone Chair."

I'm currently about a third of the way through (240/766) and so far i'm far less than impressed.

The book seems to have two key elements so far. The first is a lazy pastiche of the catholic church. (Our christ figure was hung on an _upside-down-cross_, not a right-side-up-cross! Aren't we original?!) The second is the most annoying protagonist that i can ever recall reading about in a fantasy/sf book ever. Perhaps there's been someone more annoying than him in some past book i've read, but if so the trauma must have wiped the pain from my memory =P He's even more annoying than i remember Lavan Firestorm being! (I foresee a "hierarchy of youthful annoyance" chart coming on =P)

He's called "Simon Mooncalf," and in most such stories one would initially think "they just call him that cause they don't understand him." Well in this case he more than deserves it. Take every awkward adolescent from every fantasy novel and combine all their worst traits while throwing away all the good ones. He's stupid (or at least acts that way,) naive, clumsy, lazy, incompetent, unfocused, and seems to have a rather loose sense of morals. He's only evidenced any kind of specific ambition twice so far. One ambition he achieves, and then whines about it, and the other he undertakes for a very stupid reason and then gives up after encountering his first setback. And did i mention he whines? And he's lazy? It seems that the plot is presented as "things Simon sees or overhears while sneaking about the castle trying to avoid work." This is occasionally interlaced with viewpoints from other characters who are more directly involved in the ongoing political situation, which just makes you regret having to go back to Simon afterwards.

I keep waiting for some event to force him to wake up and smell the coffee, but despite lots of initially promising incidents it keeps not happening. I hope no one will consider it a spoiler, given that the series is billed as epic fantasy, that eventually murders are committed, dark rituals are performed, plots are intrigued, and evil threatens the land. (If you do consider that a spoiler, sorry, and, um, whatever you do don't read the blurb on the back cover =) When Simon is forced to leave the castle after about 180 pages and go out on an adventure (something he at one earlier point bemoaned that he would never get to do) does he mourn for the tragedy that brought his current situation about? Does thoughtfully consider the circumstances and fear the dire consequences of what has been set in motion? Does he selfishly become excited at his chance for adventure? No. He whines about how unfair it is that his that his life has been disrupted and he's been forced to leave the castle. He whines. Then he does something stupid. Then his brain surfaces just long enough for him to become scared of what his stupidity has gotten him into. Then he runs. Then he whines some more, and the cycle repeats.

At this point i don't care about the vague secrets hinted about his background, i just wish he'd die so we could go follow one of the other, more sympathetic and/or interesting, characters around instead =P

But it's a famous fantasy series! It's got to get more interesting at some point, right? At some point he has to grow up and stop being someone you'd like to kill yourself just to put him out of your misery, right? Right?

Okay, it's a bit cooler now, time for sleep.
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
Madman Across the Water: Mugglemadmanatw on April 29th, 2008 07:01 am (UTC)
I actually really, really like that series. (Though the religions do drive me right the fuck up a wall- both Aedonism or whatever, and the not-quite-Norse religion of the northlands, with Dror and his Mallet. *sigh*) But, I rarely reread the beginning of Dragonbone Chair because Simon is, yes, pretty annoying. But, to its credit, one of the things I like about the series is that Simon does grow up and does so, for a fantasy series, pretty believably in some important ways.
DonAithnendonaithnen on April 29th, 2008 11:12 am (UTC)
Well i'll certainly keep on going through the first book at least, but although i wouldn't actually call it a chore at this point it's certainly loaded with a great deal of frustration.
Chaos Never Blinkssithjawa on April 29th, 2008 08:54 am (UTC)
Worst thing abouy Mercedes Lackey writing books about historical Valdemar people: Discovering how damn annoying all the Important Legendary People were.
DonAithnendonaithnen on April 29th, 2008 11:10 am (UTC)
Lavan was definitely the worst. Vanyel had his moments, but he at least was actually mistreated to a degree so he had at least _some_ excuse for being upset. And he had actual ambitions that he was dedicated to and that he put actual work into and showed actual competence at, as little as it all came to in the end.

Are there other annoying historical figures i've forgotten about? Or perhaps haven't gotten to yet?
Chaos Never Blinkssithjawa on April 29th, 2008 06:35 pm (UTC)
I could have sworn there was at least one other, but I can't remember. If it was worse than Lavan, this shouldn't surprise me.
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DonAithnendonaithnen on April 29th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC)
But have you read "Brightly Burning"? Lavan is just as whiny as Vanyel but without _any_ real cause.

Also, along with having at least some vague justification for his complaints, Vanyel got the benefit of not being a whiny teen for the entire series. He was much more likable as an adult.
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DonAithnendonaithnen on April 29th, 2008 08:02 pm (UTC)
That's unfortunate, he really does reform and becomes a reasonable and interesting person in books 2 and 3.

But yeah, i wouldn't recommend "Burning Brightly" =P
Brie2gouda4u on April 30th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
I second what donaithnen says :-) I guess I read the books at a period when I was pretty whiny myself, as I wasn't all that bothered by him; I could sort of relate. But the second and third are a lot less whiny, in any case.
Chaos Never Blinkssithjawa on April 29th, 2008 08:55 am (UTC)
Also, I can't get into Tad Williams except Tailchaser's Song, which I love. I keep expecting that his other books will be good because that one was, and then they're, like, not, that I can tell.
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Kirinkirinn on April 29th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
Hmm. The Tad Williams series *I* keep meaning to read is Otherland, his SF world, since several people around here said it was good. I bought the first volume, but haven't gotten around to it (for, er, several years now).
Madman Across the Water: Dragonmadmanatw on April 29th, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC)
I have a copy and I'm not sure I've met anyone yet who has read the whole thing and didn't find it good but disappointing. So it's on my "read eventually but no hurry" list.
Andrewneonelephant on April 29th, 2008 08:09 pm (UTC)
"Good but disappointing" about sums it up for me, too. Maybe some of the twists were Really Clever when the series was new, but most of them fell flat when I read it a couple of years ago. I don't regret having read it, but it did crank my enthusiasm for finding a copy of _Otherland_ down a couple of notches.
DonAithnendonaithnen on April 29th, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC)
I read the first book and didn't find it annoying, but i never got around to reading any of the others either.
girl scout: old dragonsakurayasha on April 30th, 2008 01:48 pm (UTC)
dragonbone chair!
now, I read this in middle school, and simon was a bit annoying (but maybe not as much as he would be if I read it now). but, spoiler? he gets sense beat into him. if you look at the cover of the second book you see giant scar crossing his face? Yeah, that.

and truth? most teenage boys sneak around trying to get out of doing work ang whine about it. teenage boys are stupid.