Sunday, October 14, 2012

Comments on Gardens of the Moon

It's not really proper to do a review on a book I didn't finish, but I worked too hard for too long to leave it alone. So I won't file this under my reviews, but merely voice my reaction in informal fashion.

Some people are sure to throw rotten eggs my way when I say that I could not finish Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon. More than once I heard, "If you can finish the first book, the rest are great." Red flag. But I had already bought the thing before I heard this general reaction, so I gave it a try. This book looked like my kind of book: a huge, well-developed world, dense with characters and details and subplots revolving around a big overarching quest. Indeed, this is exactly the kind of book Gardens of the Moon is. Unfortunately, though I have read to the halfway point, I cannot explain what any of those subplots are. I do not know. Seriously.

The problem with this novel is "withholding." There is so much going on, and some of the characters even know what is going on, but the reader is not told what that "thing" is. Some of this "thing" I was able to puzzle out. I think. And I'm not a stupid person. I like puzzles and mysteries in the books I read. I like to have to work for some of the content. That's part of what makes the reading experience so fun, involving, and rewarding. Gardens of the Moon, however, goes a step too far and doesn't let me know enough of what's happening among all the different factions vying for power and survival. Really, it's okay if the reader is told what someone hopes to accomplish; it gives the reader something to hope for, too. Then let the reader see how the characters' hopes are dashed. That creates reader sympathy and evokes big reactions in the human heart.

This also brings up the fact that halfway through the novel I felt little emotional attachment to any of these characters. The characters I liked best are in the book the least, up to this point. I thought, finally, I can get attached to someone, then they vanished again for umpteen pages. At the halfway point, I still haven't found them again. Where did they go? What are they doing? I don't know. I knew this novel and I were not going to work out, when at the middle climatic point where one of the main characters apparently dies, I felt no emotional reaction whatsoever. Eh? Shouldn't I be astonished and boohooing and pleasantly angry or something?

There's only so many times I can say to a book, "Okay, I'll give you another chance. It will surely all click into place today." But nobody's telling nobody nothing and I can't get involved when I don't know what I'm supposed to be hoping for. So when I picked up the book today to try to press on to the finish line, I literally groaned when I saw that after struggling along this hard, an equal amount of the book still awaited (?!?). Grimacing, I asked myself, "What is the point?" Shelve it. Swallow the disappointment. Move on.

If this were an official review, I would give Gardens of the Moon three magic wands. Dock one for massive, frustrating withholding. Dock a second for lack of character-reader involvement.


So now I'm torn. In the queue is some self-pubbed material I need to read and review, along with what I'm sure is a great short by Milo James Fowler. Also, is a beat up copy of Kate Mosse's Labyrinth that a friend gave me, and The Help, which movie I loved.

What to choose first?


Cursed Armada said...

That's exactly how I felt when reading Erickson... I made it to book 4 and then gave up so don't feel bad! Try R Scott Bakker... His series is my favorite

Court Ellyn said...

Ooo, thanks for the suggestion, Armada!

Anonymous said...

Life's too short and there are WAY too many good books out there to waste our time slogging through something we can't get into. I'd recommend reading my short story, by the way. Less time wasted. =]

Court Ellyn said...

LOL - I doubt it will be a waste at all, Milo.