Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Storm Of Swords, George R. R. Martin

Title: A Storm Of Swords
Author: George R. R. Martin
Rating: OK

What to say about A Storm Of Swords?

Well, to start off with, it's big. Really big. Huge. Immense. Massive. You could stun an ox with this hunk of dead tree. The problem with this bigness, however, is that Martin desperately needs an editor. At least partly as a result of that I am growing less and less thrilled with his story telling as A Song Of Ice And Fire slogs along. Oh, and did I mention that it's big?

What else can I tell you without giving things away?

Well, as I have said before - in my reviews of previous volumes in this saga - Martin is willing to kill off characters you've come to know. Characters you've bonded with over thousands (literally) of pages of text. It's more than a bit disconcerting to have that happen and yet know that the story is still going to go on for thousands more pages.

Yes, this willingness to knock off anyone amounts to a more "real" take on fantasy literature, but it is hard on the reader. And that's the place where - for my money - Martin falls down a bit on the job. Perhaps he only falls to one knee or some such, but he does stumble. You see, his story telling doesn't fit any of the normal patterns - hero defeats villain, hero dies trying, etc. Instead we follow an enormous cast of characters through an outrageously complicated series of events. We need notes to track everyone involved and what they've done (and said) to whom. And we cannot assume that any given character is a hero, villain, or even that he or she will be alive at the end of the chapter we're reading. Not having a clue about who to root for causes me some discomfort after something like 2400 pages of text.

Martin's prose is fine. Not stellar, but fine. His character development is, a bit, well... prolonged. And this is where he needs the aforementioned editor. There are entire chapters that could be replaced by single paragraphs. I love and respect good character development, but Martin does it to such an extent that I wind up wishing for him to get back to the plot. An entire chapter can often be summarized in 2 or 3 simple sentences. True it wouldn't be quite as good a read in summary form, but if it were a couple of paragraphs (or even a couple of pages) it would often be just fine.

I'll read the next tome - A Feast For Crows - but I'm getting less patient with both Martin's tendency to excess verbiage and his odd narrative structure, completely lacking in even semi-well defined heroes and villains. I don't promise to read the entire series as it is finished. I may have more important things to do.