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Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Three Most Disappointing Books of 2011 (by Liviu Suciu)

As I presented my favorite books of 2011 HERE, I decided to talk a little of the three most disappointing books of 2011 too. These are not the worst books I read in 2011 by any means, nor the few books which when I finished I wanted to either rip into pieces (this one) or slap myself for wasting time with them (this or this), but the books I had very high expectations - like a possible top five novel - and for various reasons came short, though as all three are series installments, I have some hopes their sequels will be much better.

There were a few other novels I did not like, but where I have quite enjoyed earlier installments and/or work by the author, like The Legacy of Kings by CS Friedman, The Sacred Band by David A. Durham, Extremis by Steve White and Charles Gannon and The White Luck Warrior by Scott Bakker but in all these cases I simply have been moving away from the respective genres (traditional fantasy with ancient evil, kings, emperors, crusades or sf with superior aliens versus the plucky humans and their allies) due to having reached a saturation point, so I cannot say they were really disappointments, but more of a "these books came too late for me" and I would have enjoyed them a few years back.

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Number 1 on the list is The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. A college fantasy book in which almost nothing happened until more than half in and which essentially got really going with some 100 pages out of 900+ left. I simply cannot see how the author can finish the series and honor the implicit promises made in The Name of the Wind about what we will see in it, in only one more book especially at the glacial pace this one went.

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Number 2 is Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright. I stated my motives HERE and I cannot stress how high were my expectations for this book especially after the superb recent short fiction from the author.

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Number 3 is The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. As he is one of the few authors I've read all his novels to date, said novels number 10 or more and I enjoyed to greatly enjoyed all before this one, I was really shocked that I had major reservation about The Fallen Blade not because of vampires but because of the fragmented writing style. Read my joint review with Robert to see more detail.

16 comments:

SQT said...

Different tastes I guess, but I loved "Wise Man's Fear."

Anonymous said...

I've only read the Rothfuss book, and completley agree. Was almost a waste of time.

Cursed Armada said...

Since you have reached this "saturation point" what kind of books have you been reading? Are you getting tired of the Fantasy genre? Personally I thought The White Luck Warrior was one of the best of 2012. I'm just curious, I mean offense!

Mila said...

For me, "The Wise Man's Fear" is one of the best books I read this year. I enjoyed every single page of it :D

..So "The Sacred Band" is not that good? Not sure if I should read it. I did not like "The Other Lands" at all but the end made me curious about the last part.

greetings
Mila

Bibliotropic said...

I wasn't too fond of "The Fallen Blade" either, to be honest. The story itself was interesting, but in the telling, it seemed to not be very well thought out. Things that characters dwell on turn out to be completely inconsequential, while important things get introduced with barely so much as a passing glance. And you're right; the writing style certainly did seem fragmented.

A shame, really, because it could have been so good.

Liviu said...

Thank you for the comments.

As fantasy goes, sure I still like a lot of it (KJ Parker, Martin, Abercrombie, Tchaikovsky, J Carey, Redick, Kate Elliott, Brent Weeks, Micheal Sullivan, Mark Newton, Stephen Deas...) just that I am at the point where the characters and writing started really mattering rather than the subject, while if I see "millennium old evil..." the book better be special

I really liked The Prince of Nothing series but for the characters - Kelhus and the middle aged and sane Achamanian not the shell he becomes in the latter books - and the historical analogies (Byzantines, crusades, prophets); the new series just bores me as Kelhus is barely present - I thought the first volume was too introuctory and slow but the second was worse and I am out of the series

As for TWMF - I liked it well enough, but the college stuff just bored me to no end and the hero became even more annoying and insufferable as the book went.

There is some speculation that Rothfuss will end the series by killing Kvothe (I personally doubt it as Rothfuss a perpetual college student himself, knows well where his bread is buttered and he won't risk his audience) but there were lots of moments I would have cheered a gruesome end for Kvothe myself

As for Fallen Blade - agree about plot inconsistencies and stuff that happened because the author decreed rather than it was natural - gave some examples in the review I think - but still for me the difference in writing between this and a super book like say End of the World Blues was shocking

Michael said...

I'm in complete agreement about Wise Man's Fear. Yes, it's admirably well-written, in that Rothfuss knows how to put a sentence together, it's a detailed, believable world, and the prose many times has a lilt or poetry to it.

Unfortunately, there is far, far too much fluff in this book. We're treated to entirely too many details which simply do not matter. Rothfuss seems more in love with world-building than moving the story forward. I found this book a tremendous disappointment, and hope that the next book has more events happening.

(As a side note, I was amused by FBC's review saying this book contained explicit sex scenes. The book seemed fairly mild to me, and certainly didn't come close to GRRM-levels of sex scenes.)

Liviu said...

As the review goes, "FBC" is just a name Robert chose some years ago, but each of us kind of do stuff pretty independently - even the dual reviews and we sort of each add what we think without really cross-checking.

For what is worth I utterly agree with you about the "explicitness" as for example 1Q84 - which is mild by today's standards too - is way more explicit

Robert said...

Just to clarify Michael, I never wrote that the sex in The Wise Man's Fear was "explicit". I stated it was "surprisingly gratuitous" and went on to describe the novel as mainly PG-13...

Troels Damgaard said...

I do not share your disappointment with the Wise Man's Fear, but I can see why it's not for everyone.

For me, it's probably one of the best reads this year - and ranks among my all-time favorites, in fact. I'm not a genre-buff per se, and that might explain some of the difference in opinion.

It's not (at all) ladden with action, but I distinctly like that it tries to be something different that other fantasy-books. It's a bit like a theater-piece - more interested in its characters and its form than in the scenery or in pressing any story forward. The world was never filled with geography with a Tolkien-esque or GRRM-esque richness. The settings are sketched - with not much connecting them - and merely provide the background for the characters to perform against - in small vignettes or in large extended scenes.

I was entirely charmed by it. But I can see why it's not for everyone.

Liviu said...

@Troels: I would not disagree with what you say, just that while I love a lot of non-genre books, I dislike mainstream academia/college novels and TWMF is very similar to that for a good chunk; when it moves away from the college environment it became considerably better for me.

The other issue is that in TNoW the author explicitly promised quite a lot about Kvothe's memories and as mentioned, i just do not see how we will see that in one more volume

Troels Damgaard said...

Just a quick answer to say that while I do love the book, I agree. I can't really see all the open ends and threads of the story unrolled in a meaningful manner and brought satisfactorily to a conclusion in a single book. For now, though, I'm happy and entertained.

Jay said...

I really lilked TWMF but i agree it hardly went anywhere considering the size. However, his writing sucks me right in. Who wants to have a wager that the 'final' book will be split into two parts :)

I'm going to give Rothfuss the benefit of the doubt and hope he knocks it out of the park in the conclusion.

Michael said...

@ Robert: my apologies for getting the reference incorrect. I'd have to agree, mostly because so much of the book seemed gratuitous.

As Liviu wrote, Rothfuss seems to have painted himself into a corner. Given the current pace of both his actual writing and the story, I don't see how he can possibly wrap this up in one more volume.

I'm betting there are at least two more books, maybe three.

Mihir said...

@ Michael

I think there's definitely going to be another trilogy after the Kingkiller Chronicles. If I remember correctly in one of his earlier interviews around the debut release, he had mentioned that he had plans for a follow-up trilogy(though later on all mentions of this trilogy have been met with silences or refusal to discuss.)

Mihir

Anonymous said...

I agree on The Wise Man's Fear. He spent so much time on the book but in the end it was just three days of him explaining details he left open in the first one and making me wonder how hes going to introduce the massive amounts of plot devices he still hasn't explained into the third and final book. It smells like Brisngr, a trilogy that's gotten too big for its britched

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