Monday, June 15, 2009

[Lisa’s Take] Conqueror’s Moon (Julian May)

It seems like I see Julian May’s name a lot on the book shelves, so when I saw a used copy of the Conqueror’s Moon hardback a few months ago, I snagged it for $4. I’m nothing if not willing to try out new authors, and a $4 hardback is usually a steal. Sadly, I was very disappointed in this particular bargain. As always, I gave the book 100 pages to impress me (a generous 102 in this case) and I was beyond relieved when I could finally call it quits.

I’m not really up to trying to put together a plot summary, so instead I’ll just bitch (because who doesn’t like to listen to me rant about bad fantasy?).

The story started with a very promising prologue – first person with a touch of wit and a very human tone… but after this brief introduction there was a subsequent switch to 3rd person omniscient and the author started waxing poetic about the world and the characters. Is there nothing less enticing in a book than extended droning about the history of a nation? Especially when said history is neither particularly original, nor particularly interesting? The author went on at length and started to lose me right away. Once characters started showing up on screen (on page?) I though the book might turn itself around and hook me… but I found quickly that the characters were much like the history – dull and over-described. I want to be shown what my characters are like, not told “he was loyal, oh so loyal.” And heaven forbid that more than a sentence or two should be spent describing totally mundane clothing – please spare me. I especially enjoyed (didn’t enjoy) the few pages that introduced 16 characters and spent a paragraph describing each one. Let me tell you how exciting that was – I do so love incorporating memorization exercises into my reading experience!

Oh dear, I seem to be waxing sarcastic and not a little bit caustic. I’ll just stop before I get really carried away, shall I?

I do see that Ms. May has written quite a lot of scifi – can anyone out there tell me whether it is more worth reading that her disappointing fantasy foray?


barbarafriendish said...

I enjoyed her "Many Colored Land" series when I read it *mumble* years ago. (Really, it was a long time ago. Decades.) Now I'm thinking I should go back and see whether it still holds up under my jaded eye...

LisaBit said...

Hi Barbara!

Your comment got me thinking... and it occurs to me belatedly that Julian May's background in sci-fi probably has a lot to do with how much she was describing her fantasy world - so much of scifi is world-driven more than character-driven that I can definitely imagine it becoming habit. Granted that's not to say that all fantasy should be character-driven, either - just that I prefer more heavily character driven works, or works that built the world with more subtlety (though surely no less vibrancy).

Anyway, tangential rambling aside, maybe I'll keep my eyes open for the books in Many Colored Land. If nothing else I read so little scifi these days that I'm much less critical of it than fantasy.