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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
*groans* At this point, let me take a brief moment to remind myself... 
10th-Jan-2006 09:15 am
Genre fiction is by nature formulaic. It's all about doing the same thing over and over and over again, which is why most examples of genre fiction are derivative and uninspired.

But it's still such a disappointment to pick up something that is "popular" only to discover that it is not also "good literature." Now, watch me torture myself with the rest of the series--I already bought it remaindered. *sighs*

Hearn, Lian. Across the Nightingale Floor. 2002. New York: Riverhead, 2003.
Summary: Book One of Tales of the Otori. After his people are massacred brutally by a local lord Iida, Takeo is adopted by Otori Shigeru, and discovers that he is heir to unusual powers on his father's side. With the help of Kaede, his love (and Shigeru's bride-to-be), Takeo avenges both his village and Shigeru's death by killing Iida.
Comments: *ugh* The comparison that springs instantly to mind is the Harry Potter series, and it is not a flattering one. I can't remember the last time I read such simplistic language so shallow-minded underneath. There is nothing beautiful here; the conventional, ham-handed prose is just a convenient template for other people's fantasies. Never mind that the author's own vision of a fantastic feudal Japan, while I'm sure lauded as inspired in some circles, just strikes me as gimmicky and lacking genuine depth. She chooses a few random artifacts of culture and harps on them endlessly--like, how many times do I need to hear that you tell time by the Chinese Zodiac? Undoubtedly, Hearn is trying to flaunt her knowledge of Japanese culture...but it just comes off as insipid. Not to mention that the novel is shamelessly predictable. Takeo-boy-wonder? Big surprise. Oh, and the way Kaede swears she'll never fall in love? I read that line hoping against hope that something surprising might happen then *bam* love at FIRST SIGHT when she sees Takeo. *garh* Popular dreck suitable for fans of the aforementioned wizard or novels like The Da Vinci Code (the other comparison that springs instantly to mind)--for people who choke on more substantial, heartier fare. About the only thing I want to know is this: Was Takeo sleeping with that monk Makoto at the end? It was left really ambiguous. The author probably didn't even realize she was doing it. Another strike against her.
Notes: trade paperback, 1st American edition
Rating: 3/10 - It's just...awful. So banally bad that it doesn't even inspire genuine loathing.
10th-Jan-2006 02:46 pm (UTC)
About the only thing I want to know is this: Was Takeo sleeping with that monk Makoto at the end? It was left really ambiguous. The author probably didn't even realize she was doing it. Another strike against her.

I think this comes up later, and I think the answer is yes he was. There's some jealousy that implies a certain physical attachment.

I didn't think they were that bad, and they did make for a fast read. I put them in the same "not a complete waste of my time" category that I put things like Carey's "The Sundering." Which, by the way, I think would drive you batty. Lots of clauses looking for sentances, passive voice out the wazoo, etc. The Red Pen of Doom should have descended down upon these books before they ever saw publication.
10th-Jan-2006 02:52 pm (UTC)
I think this comes up later, and I think the answer is yes he was.

Hmm. Well, if she left it ambiguous on purpose, the reason is probably a retrograde one, hmm? *sighs*

I didn't think they were that bad, and they did make for a fast read.

Yeah, it was a fast read. Note what I said about the simplistic language. But it's one thing to write accessibly, entirely another to write with genuine skill. Hearn's had ZERO personality, and, to me, that's always a strike against the author.

Speaking of Carey, I never finished the Kushiel trilogy. 1/5th the way through the third novel, and I have no desire to finish it.
10th-Jan-2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
I think the entire series would have been better as a single book - it's not a trilogy, it doesn't work as a trilogy. The breaks between books felt artificial and contrived to me, and that was the part I disliked the most about them.
10th-Jan-2006 02:57 pm (UTC)
Err...which are we talking about? The Kushiel trilogy or the Otori one? ^^;;;;
10th-Jan-2006 03:05 pm (UTC)
Otori. I forget that others can't follow my drugged mental conversational lurches, sorry. ^_^

The Kushiel trilogy as a single book would be scary - It'd be like one of those huge single-volume Oxford dictionaries.
10th-Jan-2006 03:34 pm (UTC)
*laughs* Well, I figured you were talking about the Otori books, as I agree with you about that, but I just had to check. I noticed how they're reprinted them in six little bunko-sized volumes, and it just strikes me as odd. Maybe they figured they'd make more money if the story was a trilogy.
10th-Jan-2006 03:41 pm (UTC)
Maybe they figured they'd make more money if the story was a trilogy.

I think we have a winner. Either that, or their target audience has a really short attention span.

I think I'd have liked it better if whazzisface actually had to work for something, rather than being a mostly-passive character. Bad things happen to him, good things happen to him, he gains marvelous powers, good things, bad things, but...he never actually takes action. He goes from one action determined by someone else to another action determined by someone else. I think the most difficult choice he makes in the entire series is "who's will should I submit myself to today?"

And it must be nice to have superpowers just develop without needing training - I don't blame the other assasins for being pissed off. If I trained my whole damn life in a trade, and some guy waltzes in because he just happened to be born to the right people, I'd be pretty pissed off, too. But I think that's the libertarian in me speaking. Either that, or the drugs.
10th-Jan-2006 03:49 pm (UTC)
You know, for about three seconds I was hoping that Kaede would prove to be a positive character in book 2. She's like, no one's going to boss me around anymore--because I've got my unborn child to consider. *vomits* You mean a woman needs to get pregnant in order to develop a backbone?

I really, really, REALLY hate all of these protagonists who are special solely due to the circumstances of their birth--Harry Potter, Luke Skywaker, and now Takeo. What kind of message are we sending here, really? *disgusted* Not to mention that they're always guys...
10th-Jan-2006 03:15 pm (UTC)
I saw this 2 years ago, and felt the Japanese angle was a gimmick. I tried another novel "The Concubine's Tatto" which was more interesting if only for the historical details and the fact that the main villain prefers boys^^ Though in classical shounen-ai fashion, the boy dies. I just wanted to hit the protagonist by then^^
10th-Jan-2006 03:37 pm (UTC)
I remember seeing the books on the bookstore shelves when they came out and recall being disgusted. Orientalism, I thought.

But the reality? The books aren't even inspired enough to be that--and I'm so SICK of reading all about boy-wonders in fantasy books.
10th-Jan-2006 03:44 pm (UTC)
Don't read Lackey's Obsidian Trilogy, then. ^_^;; I don't expect much from her, but the first book isn't even living up to my lowered expectations. It's another book that feels like it probably should be a young adult book, but at something around 900 pages, with random graphic scenes of sex and violence, I don't think it is.

I think she has a cowriter on this one, which may explain the wildly non-meshing styles. But yea...I don't expect that anything good will come of it.
10th-Jan-2006 03:52 pm (UTC)
Mercedes Lackey? I wasn't even considering it. :P

Come to think of it, I think a lot of sci-fi/fantasy books ARE read by children, and, pre-Harry Potter, if you wanted that kind of story as a kid, you had to go to the "adult" section--which might help to explain why writers of such middling quality are so popular. Just a thought.
10th-Jan-2006 04:04 pm (UTC)
I think it might relate to the pulp era that the present SF/F genre grew out of. Most of the stuff written back then was bad, and even the ones that are still considered classics I see as badly flawed books - Norton's Witch World series, for example. And then there are the "classics" like Heinlien and E.E. "Doc" Smith that fanboys rave about - they tend to make me want to throw things.

SF/F doesn't have much of a tradition of really good, well-written books. There are some, they're out there, but they frequently get taken out of SF/F and shelved with regular fiction - The Sparrow and The Handmaid's Tale come to mind, but I'm sure I could find dozens more if I thought real hard.

SF/F are typically escapist books in addition to "pushing the boundaries of the possible," and a good escapist novel doesn't make the reader think too hard. If at all. Also, I think a lot of the readers have a formula they like, and demand more of. And some authors are only too happy to provide rehash after endless rehash of the same story elements (Eddings).
10th-Jan-2006 04:23 pm (UTC)
If you think about it, though, genre fiction is nearly synonymous with pulp fiction--and that's where the formulaic part comes in. And if you're just filling in the blanks of a cookie-cutter formula, then you don't HAVE to be a good writer. It's not just sci-fi/fantasy; all of the genres are like this. Only a few really good writers push the limits of the formula; the rest are content merely to occupy it.
30th-Jan-2006 09:09 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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