Aber Reads

The locals call Aberystwyth, the almost capital of Wales, simply Aber. It makes sense, its a mouthfull of constanants.

Its an odd almost capital. Twelve thousands residents, seven thousands students. Some tourists and caravan parks. More than a few hippies and a sprinkling of writers, if you can seperate the two. I like it. I want to move.

My second trip to Aber and I wanted to get some reading done. Its a town that suits fantasy. High cliffs. Long grey beaches. Sea gulls the size of labradors. I took some books with me but was also lured in by the Waterstones 3 for 2. A mistake.

The Merlin Codex is one of those sophisticated fantasy novels I’ve been meaning to read. I keep picking it up off the book shelf the putting it back. I’ve read the prologue six or seven times so this week I read the rest. Its very evocative. Intense prose. Packed with dark imigiary. But where are the characters? Merlin, Jason, Medea and other figures from the Greek / Celtic mythic melange author Robert Holdstock mixes are there, but in name only. Perhaps its the fantasy iotself that overweighs the chracters, but facinating as the book was I couldn’t really get absorbed into it. Maybe it was just me.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss wasn’t me. This book seems to fulfill all the worst accusations levelled at fantasy blockbusters. Perhaps that isn’t entirely fair. Rothfuss is trying to write the kid of gritty, low fantasy that George R R Martin has popularised. Writers like Steven Erikson, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and many more have followed down this path, none very successfully IMHO. These books are very, very ambitious. Dozens of lead characters with hundreds more in support. Numerous intertwining plotlines. Massive themes unfolding accross a vast imagined world. It takes a massive amounts of skill and craft to write this kind of books, and with the exception of Martin, few of the writers attempting it are good enough. The Name of the Wind typifies this for me. It has grand ambition but the basics of good storytelling and character bulding are’t there.Thats a great disappointment because I really want a book to get lost in, but The Name of the Winde surely is not it.

My Clarion reading continued with Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman and Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link. Interesting to read these two short story collections intertwined with each other. there are a lot of commonalities. Gaiman’s writing is more diverse, whilst links has the edge in intensity. I could sit and read the Gaiman collection straight through, but Link’s is more a thing to read over time.  I also read through some more James Patrick Kelly, which reminded me that I wat to catch up with some more hard-SF. Its two weeks to Clarion now. I’m excited in ways I can’t express.

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