Don’t you hate it when you reread a book, only to find that it’s far less impressive now? I just read The Dig by Alan Dean Foster (based on the mid-90s graphical adventure of the same name), which I first read several years ago, when I played the game. At the time, not only was I impressed with Foster’s diction, but I thought the book was entertaining and expertly written. Now, it’s just annoying.

For instance, Foster will attempt character development by devoting an entire page to an internal monologue or digression into a character’s emotion. Then he’ll dismiss it, every time by starting the next paragraph with “But Low didn’t have time for thoughts like that.” Equally annoying was his tendency to tie everything the characters did to their background. Such as the plucky sexy-but-tough-as-any-man heroine saying something inane like “After staring at Mayan glyphs, this alien language should be no problem, ha ha!” Right! Because there’s certainly no difference between the Mayans and a distant alien race!

And, of course, the last line in the book affirms the awful character development clichè that Foster had been hinting at, but stoically avoiding, since the second chapter. What? You mean the gruff, lone wolf male was just lonely? Boy, that sure came out of left field!

Yet another author who’s turned out some disappointing novels recent is Leo Frankowski, whose debut novel, Copernick’s Revolution (about biotech engineering), and subsequent series, The Adventures of Conrad Stargard, about the anachronistic industrialisation of mediæval Poland, were both excellent, has spiraled recently into mostly fantasy-fulfillment stuff. Guy(s) exploits a situation and magically ends up with everything, including expensive liquor, obedient but plucky women who are great in the sack, a mansion or sometimes a military-industrial complex, and sometimes even a footlong phallus. Decent reads, perhaps, but nowhere near as engaging as his earlier intellectual stuff.

Speaking of intellectual stuff, those of you looking for an absolutely fantastic novel, read Tristan Egolf’s Lord of the Barnyard: Slaughtering the Fatted Calf and Arming the Aware in the Cornbelt.

§375 · July 6, 2004 · ·

1 Comment to “Papercuts”

  1. Andy says:

    What happened to the anti-4th rant? :)

    Anyway, most modern fiction is so boring to me. I can’t read Crichton, for example. I loved Lost World, and read it non-stop, but I got about 15 pages into Timeline before I took it back tothe library. Just soul-less, no style. Unless the ideas expressed are darkly innovative (Greg Bear comes to mind, along with William Gibson) or really visceral w/o being exploitative (a thin line, that), or funny w/o being goofy, I’d just as soon read older fiction, when writers had style. Chandler, Hemingway, Vonnegut, Runyon, Robert Penn Warren, Bradbury (too purple now), Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber… and all these guys had their own imitators. Old-time idea guys were Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Clarke and such, but even they read a little stilted. I was disappointed by the Foundation trilogy; brilliant concept, but I found I could skip 40 pages at a time and miss nothing of consequence. And I’ve still never read any Tolkien beyond the Hobbit: boh-ring! (Lloyd Alexander’s juvie fantasy series is much better.) I also wish to try C.S. Lewis again.

    Off topic, another quote you could use is, “By Grabthar’s Hammer… what a savings.”

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