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Sick of Sagas


Harsin
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I get what you mean (in that I'd generally prefer books to be one offs rather than long series), but I still haven't caught up on the millions of excellent sf books from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s etc., that I've not read yet to be bothered if too many modern authors aren't writing one off books.

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  • 6 months later...

This is the nature of the Amazon-era publishing world, sadly (sadly for me, at least). The general rule for aspiring professional authors nowadays is that, outside of one or two genres, author names no longer sell books the way they used to, but series names still can. So instead of writing something self-contained, genre authors who want an income from their writing are encouraged to swing for an extended series until they hit something which people will buy into continuously, then ride it as long as possible.

 

It's bad for the narrative art in the same way as the standard TV series format, but it is economically more sensible than pouring everything you have into one novel/movie which will, statistically speaking, probably flop.

 

Asimov wrote a zillion Foundation novels, Scott wrote a zillion Waverley novels, and the crime and romance writers have been at it since the dawn of time too, so of course it's not an approach without history. But it's beginning to marginalise other approaches. My own solution is to read a lot of Dostoevsky and have a desk job.

 

i just realised this is a thread from six months ago.

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  • 2 months later...

My mum burns through stuff like this, but not even the series you'd think of. It's always 10 books in the such-and-such saga that you get complete for 99p on kindle. I try not to be a snob about it (I fail), but at least get through the good stuff before reading fifteen books about a dragon.

 

Holy smokes... I've just unlocked a memory. When I was a kid I remember her shelves being chock full of sagas about dragons, particularly the Anne McCaffery ones. I guess it really is a thing with her.

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This gets my goat big time. 

 

Growing up I used to devour stand-alone novels, mainly thrillers, SF and horror. Occasionally there would be something with a sequel or a new book with the same characters but no continuing story. Today I miss single books, being able to just pick a genre book up and enjoy it for what it is without having to commit myself to some 15-book continuum. Going into one of those shops that sell remaindered paperbacks is a nightmare these days because you find some seemingly-interesting thriller only to find it's book 7 of the DI Malloway series and whilst it'll have a self-contained story there will be plenty of call-backs to previous novels in the series that, depending on the author, will be a hinderance on some level. 

 

Bring back one-off SF!

 

 

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I'm not so much sick of sagas as books in sagas also having to be the size of a truck.

 

After a while not reading fantasy I've had a bit of a desire to read some. I was in Waterstones the other day, and almost every book I picked up was part of a saga, but was also absolutely huge. Had heard people talked about Brandon Sanderson - the book I picked up of his was nearly 1000 pages! I'm not sure if these are omnibuses are not, but if they are, that just makes the sagas even bigger.

 

A good combination of standalone novels (which can be in the same world) and shorter sagas (both in terms of page count for the individual books and the number of books in the saga) would be where I'd want it pitched.

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My ex-girlfriend was reading the Game Of Thrones books and they were all massive wedges. If it was solid story and detail that would be okay to get lost in, but I get the feeling with fantasy the books are huge because there's an expectation that fantasy is epic therefore anything less than 500 pages isn't doing it right. At least Asimov's Foundation books are all relatively short.

 

There was a time when I was younger I'd love a long book that was absorbing, but now I see a high page count and think do I really want to commit to this wedge when I could be reading 3 other books in that time? Times that by however many books there are in a series and you may as well throw everything else out because you'll literally just be reading that series for the next decade. 

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I think it was the Game of Thrones books that finally killed my enthusiasm for this sort of thing - it was great for the first 3000 pages, then when it went a bit shit I was too invested and still had another 3000 pages to plough through, then of course the fat fucker hasn't written any more of it for a decade so I've forgotten everything about it and there is no chance I'm re-reading that lot if and when any more of it does finally surface.

 

I used to love big epic fantasy novels when I was younger, now I see an opening page full of characters and places named like dropped Scrabble hands and just nope out of there almost immediately.

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Asimovs Foundation books were originally compilations short stories anyway and I think he did 4 books over the first 20 years.  Then once he revisited it and ended up working with others, I really couldn't be bothered.  He also started tying all his various series in with each other.

 

Publishers just don't like leaving things alone.  Rendezvous with Rama is brilliant and the whole point of it was

 

Spoiler

that it was started with an unknown thing and ends with nobody knowing much more

 

Revisiting it with sequels which progressively got into more detail was one of the most spectacular missing of the points in SF history

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Is this a good place to hate on The Stormlight Chronicles? I say hate on, they're definitely good books but I'm feeling diminishing returns on each one and ended up just giving up on the last one.

 

I think I just like concise books, it takes skill to built a convincing fantasy world without needing 1,000 pages to do it. 

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36 minutes ago, Timmo said:

Is this a good place to hate on The Stormlight Chronicles? I say hate on, they're definitely good books but I'm feeling diminishing returns on each one and ended up just giving up on the last one.

 

I think I just like concise books, it takes skill to built a convincing fantasy world without needing 1,000 pages to do it. 

You might like his Wax and Wayne series better.  ‘Smaller’ (it is Sanderson!) but is designed for a quicker read!

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I did like all the Foundation books, but the initial trilogy was definitely the best and I'm genuinely excited about the TV series. I do remember Foundation and Earth being an absolute rip-roarer, a proper page-turning adventure.

 

Totally agree on the Rama series though. I didn't much mind the second one, but by the third I was just generally cheesed off that all the mystery had been stripped away, and that as per usual humans were fucking everything up.

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  • 1 month later...
On 14/05/2021 at 19:07, Timmo said:

Is this a good place to hate on The Stormlight Chronicles? I say hate on, they're definitely good books but I'm feeling diminishing returns on each one and ended up just giving up on the last one.

 

I think I just like concise books, it takes skill to built a convincing fantasy world without needing 1,000 pages to do it. 

I think those books would be better if they were half the length, or less. I'm enjoying the story, but there's just too many pages. I got Oathbringer on Audible. I'm halfway through it and there's still over 24 hours left on the playtime. That's an entire day. I will finish it though, because as I mentioned in another thread, I can't figure out a way to respect my own time when it comes to books.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So been reading Frostborn The Gray knight by Jonathan Moeller as it was a giveaway on kindle.  Liked it well enough and a standard 3/5.  Interesting premise,  Malahan Pendragon, bastard son of Mordred gathers a group of displaced people and gets the druids to transport them via Stonehenge to an alternate world, but keeps the same trappings and then turns it into a standard fantasy annoyingly.  Looked to see how many were in the series and yep it was 15!  Sod that, and I usually like trilogies etc.

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On 14/05/2021 at 10:26, Garwoofoo said:

I think it was the Game of Thrones books that finally killed my enthusiasm for this sort of thing - it was great for the first 3000 pages, then when it went a bit shit I was too invested and still had another 3000 pages to plough through, then of course the fat fucker hasn't written any more of it for a decade so I've forgotten everything about it and there is no chance I'm re-reading that lot if and when any more of it does finally surface.

 

I used to love big epic fantasy novels when I was younger, now I see an opening page full of characters and places named like dropped Scrabble hands and just nope out of there almost immediately.

 

Yeah, I gave up on GoT, but for me the rot started with The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, especially that second trilogy.

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1 hour ago, smac said:

 

Yeah, I gave up on GoT, but for me the rot started with The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, especially that second trilogy.

 

I haven't read those since I was a teenager. I absolutely loved them at the time (all six of them), I wonder what I'd make of them now. Even what I remember of the plot (the hero saves the world with the power of his magic ring, I think there's a big evil bad guy who lives in a mountain and some people who were really into horses) sounds like bad Tolkien fan-fiction.

 

Didn't he go back and write even more of them at some point?

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On 01/07/2021 at 09:48, davidcotton said:

So been reading Frostborn The Gray knight by Jonathan Moeller as it was a giveaway on kindle.  Liked it well enough and a standard 3/5.  Interesting premise,  Malahan Pendragon, bastard son of Mordred gathers a group of displaced people and gets the druids to transport them via Stonehenge to an alternate world, but keeps the same trappings and then turns it into a standard fantasy annoyingly.  Looked to see how many were in the series and yep it was 15!  Sod that, and I usually like trilogies etc.

I've read every book that Jonathan Moeller has published but if you aren't a fan of sagas then he isn't for you. BTW those 15 are only the first story arc for Ridmark, there are another 2 story arcs that have a similar number of books. I would never claim they are the best books out there but I enjoy spending an afternoon on them.

 

It's not sagas that I am tired of so much as having to wait years between books that I no longer have the patience for. Whenever I see an author or book recommended the first thing I now do is go to their author page on amazon and find out how often they publish new books. If it's a long wait between entries I don't even start them any more, in fact I have even started waiting until TV shows are finished before watching them now. I may have to wait years but I've been burnt too many times by now when I've gotten invested in stories and characters only for them never to be completed. it even happens with games, I'm looking at you Half Life.

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On 02/07/2021 at 21:46, Mallet said:

It's not sagas that I am tired of so much as having to wait years between books that I no longer have the patience for. Whenever I see an author or book recommended the first thing I now do is go to their author page on amazon and find out how often they publish new books. If it's a long wait between entries I don't even start them any more, in fact I have even started waiting until TV shows are finished before watching them now. I may have to wait years but I've been burnt too many times by now when I've gotten invested in stories and characters only for them never to be completed. it even happens with games, I'm looking at you Half Life.

Authors like that are similar to cliche prisoner's wives: they assume the reader will stick with them for years and not leave them for another author who can provide more story now. And like an old flame a lot of the time they're probably not as much fun as you remember them being, enough to satisfy nostalgia but ultimately unsatisfying. So readers just find someone else's series to invest their energy in. 

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On 01/07/2021 at 17:39, Garwoofoo said:

 

I haven't read those since I was a teenager. I absolutely loved them at the time (all six of them), I wonder what I'd make of them now. Even what I remember of the plot (the hero saves the world with the power of his magic ring, I think there's a big evil bad guy who lives in a mountain and some people who were really into horses) sounds like bad Tolkien fan-fiction.

 

Didn't he go back and write even more of them at some point?

 

You haven't remembered the main thing that usually sticks in the mind with those novels, it's a real

 

spacer.png

 

moment.

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Lord Foul's Bane was 99p in the Kindle Daily Deals last week so I've actually been reading it again, for the first time in 35 years or so...

 

Some of what I remembered definitely holds true. It's shamelessly derivative of Tolkien to an almost ridiculous degree. The bad guy lives in a giant mountain. The hero has a magic ring. There's a lot of stuff about horses, and a forest town that's basically Lothlorien. The Giants don't like to be "hasty". Everyone spends their whole time walking from one place to another. Everyone sings songs constantly about stuff that happened a thousand years ago. The writing style is extremely ponderous and self-important.

 

I'm over halfway through the book and I'm still laughing at the fact that the great hero of the whole saga is called Kevin.

 

But - that said - I am enjoying it. More of it had stuck with me than I thought, turns out there are loads of bits I remember or half-remember. (I read a lot of other fantasy drivel like David Eddings and Terry Brooks when I was a teenager and I couldn't even tell you the names of those books, let alone what happened in them, so Donaldson was clearly doing something right). The decision to make Covenant an outsider to the Land works on two levels really - first of all he does very much represent the "what the hell is all this fantasy bollocks" point of view, every time someone starts singing or waffling on about ancient Lords, he's rolling his eyes on the page and I'm rolling my eyes reading the book - maybe not intentional but it definitely works. Secondly it goes a long way to excusing some of the definiencies in Donaldson's writing style: at no point does the Land feel like a real place, it's populated by about a dozen people and there's no agriculture or industry or culture or anything at all apart from people waffling on about ancient history, and the fact that Covenant thinks throughout that it's probably not even real does kind of excuse this a bit.

 

About that rape scene: yes, it's a horrible way to open a saga. It probably wouldn't be written in the way it is, if the book was written these days. (It reminds me of *that scene* near the end of Stephen King's IT, fify percent "this is a product of its time" and fifty percent "what the fuck were you thinking, even back then"). Is it any worse than, say, Jaime Lannister throwing a child out of a window at the start of A Game of Thrones, or the other incredibly horrible things that happen in that saga? I'd say not, and in some ways GRRM is worse because he makes his characters into anti-heroes whereas Covenant is, throughout, an absolute arsehole with no redeeming qualities at all. The rape scene demonstrates that clearly and is significant to understanding his character; it's also important to the plot of the book, and future books; it's also a really unpleasantly real thing in a story that is otherwise wall-to-wall high fantasy nonsense. I don't like it, but I don't think it deserves to dominate discussion of this novel specifically in the way it seems to have done. Just my point of view.

 

Anyway, despite myself I am actually enjoying this rather a lot. I don't know how much of that is nostalgia and how much of it is because actually it's not that bad. I definitely don't know if I've got the appetite for ten of these things (although I do remember the second one being a big improvement on the first - so who knows). Would I recommend it? I have absolutely no idea.

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16 hours ago, Garwoofoo said:

I'm over halfway through the book and I'm still laughing at the fact that the great hero of the whole saga is called Kevin.

 

Given that the rest of the Land's characters have such elaborate names, why he settled on Kevin was faintly bemusing. I mean, I think the purpose of it was that Kevin also came to the Land from our world right, but Donaldson could have picked a slightly more, um, heroic name? I apologise to any Kevins out there.

 

I pretty much agree with everything you said above. The rape is shocking yes, but it's an integral part of Covenant's reaction to being healed of his leprosy in the Land and the fact that he thinks that none of it is real, plus the consequences of that action reverberate throughout the trilogy.

 

My own memory is that the second trilogy was better, mostly for the relationship between Linden Avery and Covenant and the flipping of roles (by granting Avery some kind of magic "health sense" in the Land and the ability to wield the white-gold ring, but making Covenant powerless and at death's door for pretty much the entire trilogy), as well as the weird ass Sunbane, but I read these books soon after university and possibly lacked critical judgement. I'd forgotten too much by the time the third series came out and they came out years apart, so I read the first book and then stopped.

 

Whilst I'm here, Donaldson's SF series (the Gap series) features a female character being mentally controlled by an implant device and raped repeatedly by a sadistic male criminal in the first book, so maybe this is a Donaldson thing and I shouldn't be defending him in the slightest. I enjoyed that series when I read it as a teenager, in particular how the main trio of characters moved between the roles of hero, villain and victim at various points in the series, but I do wonder how well it would stand up to a re-read now.

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I do remember really enjoying Mordant's Need by the same author, which was a quite restrained two-parter rather than a ten-part epic, but again I must have been about 13 when I read it. No idea whether it would stand up today.

 

A lot of Donaldson fans seem to have encountered his work fairly young, he was part of the first wave of post-Tolkien fantasy writing and I guess that stuff appeals at a certain age. Maybe that's what makes the rape scene so incongruous - apart from that, these novels aren't really far off typical YA fare.

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