Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shades of Grey, and The Wise Man's Fear

Ah, a nice black-n-white supercell photo to go along with my nice new(ish) black-n-white header. If only everything were in black and white, eh! These shades of grey can be so confusing!

That would be a good way to segue into my review of The Wise Man's Fear, but I'm going to hold off for a bit, and post nonsense first. That way, those that don't want to get any indirect spoilers don't have to skip the whole post today, but can enjoy (word used loosely) my normal nonsense before browsing away. At this point, I have no clue if I will say anything spoilerific, since I haven't written the review yet, and won't until I segue into it. Then I'll just dive in and see where it goes. As I write this sentence, it is about 24 hours since I finished the book, so I've had time to stew on it.

But first, more tsunami stuff! Yeah, I know you're likely burnt out on it, but I think you'll appreciate this. It sort of brings some perspective to the coverage we've been receiving over here, from someone familiar with the way things work both in Japan and over here. I wouldn't post it if I didn't think it was worth your time. HERE is the link. It's an article -- you'll have to read it! Let me know your thoughts in a comment, if you would...

And also, I want to post this now-iconic video footage, which I keep watching over and over, since it blows me away. You've likely seen snippets of this on the news, but here is the whole video, in its full power and glory. For full effect, high-definition, full screen and crank your speakers up.

It's 6 minutes or so. Watch it all. It will be good for you. Then those of us in San Diego, picture yourself on the south side of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, looking out over Pacific Beach towards Sea World, and shudder as you imagine this type of surge hitting there. I don't think it would even need to be this high in order to roll all the way to interstate 5.

My heart breaks.

I better divert my heart with a funny cat picture. Let's see if it works.

Hmm... I better add a funny dog picture as well...

Meh, yeah, I guess that will work for now.

Had (what I thought was) a very though-provoking exchange of ideas in the comments section of the previous post, with Logan. It has led my musings in other directions - perhaps I will hit that topic again soon, from another angle. Y'all can chip in, if you please. I value everyone's input...

I guess I better get to that book review now. Proceed at your own risk...

The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss: A Review (of sorts)
I'm sure you all know of Patrick Rothfuss by now, if not from my rampant fanboyish outbursts then from Logan's similar gushing -- although, to be frank, as much as I like PR, my fannishness is nothing compared to Logan's...

Be that as it may, I shall recap again, in brief, for those that either don't know, or don't recall...

In 2009 I read The Name of the Wind, by P. Rothfuss, which was, by all accounts, the best book I read that year. It had a rather profound impact on me, in ways that I shall avoid elaborating upon here, in the interest of brevity, and in the interest of minimizing the impact such corny reflections will have upon my already-whisper-thin credibility. I loved the book. Let's leave it there.

However, an interesting thing happened when I started recommending it strongly to many in my circle. There was not the flood of similar universal praise I expected, but rather the opinions were decidedly mixed. Some loved it, some did not love it... in fact, some didn't even like it! (I won't name names) It made me wonder if I was crazy. I re-read the book in 2010. I'm not crazy. It's a terrific book. If you didn't like it, you are wrong. :D <---

So I waited patiently for the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles, The Wise Man's Fear, as PR endlessly revised and edited and polished it -- a wait made tolerable because Pat did a wonderful job of keeping his fans abreast of developments and progress. The result, I had hoped, would be a massive, wonderful book, sure to take it's well-deserved place on my Bookshelf Of Wonder, next to the other (sadly few) epic, 5-star books in my collection.

The story is primarily told from the perspective of the main character, named Kvothe, who is a living legend. He is recounting the tale of his life to a man named Chronicler, who makes it his goal in life to track down stories worthy of remembrance and set them down for all to read. Through a course of events, Kvothe decides the time has come for his story to be told. He is to tell the whole tale over the course of three days. The Name of the Wind was day one, The Wise Man's Fear is day two, and of course, the third volume will be day three, and will bring the tale to the present.

In telling his life story, Kvothe details, in brutal honesty, the real events that transpired that made his life and deeds so legendary. And more often than not, the truth, while fascinating and often worthy of legend, was nowhere near the embellished tales told by the masses. It's almost an exercise in deconstructing a legend, and showing him to be the fellow human that his is. It really is a well-thought-through, terrifically written tale.


We now come back to the "shades of grey" reference I made at the outset of this blog post. I've been trying to think up the best way to convey what I felt as I read the final page of The Wise Man's Fear last night, and it has been difficult. On the one hand, it was everything I'd hoped it would be. On the other hand, it disappointed me, in many ways. Yet I tore through it, with nary a hiccup, and enjoyed the ride thoroughly. Yet the lingering disquiet was pronounced. There were stretches of story that both impressed me to no end, and bored me. Some of the events left me scratching my head, trying to figure out why on earth Rothfuss made the story choices he did, while I simultaneously enjoyed the heck out of them. A lot of it made no sense, while making perfect sense.

Black and white? Nope. Grays everywhere, cover to cover.

I will use specific examples in this paragraph only, so those that have read the book (Logan, Laythe, etc) can know better to what I refer. When Kvothe first meets Felurian, I thought it was amazing -- in fact, the first pages of that section rivaled anything written in the first book, as far as the style and polish and the epic writing I enjoyed so deeply. But then it dragged on waaaaay too long. Only to segue into Kvothe accompanying Tempi back into the mountains, to learn from the Ademre, and that section likewise went on waaaaaay too long. Both of those sections could (and should?) have been condensed dramatically, I felt. And yet, I enjoyed reading through both sections. But while I enjoyed it, I couldn't help thinking it would have been better if both of the sections were substantially tighter. And I'm sorry, as much as I thought the heart of the first book was the relationship (odd as it was) between Kvothe and Denna, I felt the way their relationship evolves in this book was disappointing as well. We can chat more about this one-on-one later. Let me wrap up this review before I trip wildly down too many side paths here...

The characters are great, across the board. The writing is well-done, though ultimately serviceable, with only flashes of the amazing style I loved so much in the previous book. The overall story progresses well. But dangit, it rambles and plods along, tearing me in two... again, for while I enjoyed reading it, I found myself longing for the story to pick up pace and start galloping again. I admire the depth to which Rothfuss went to develop the Ademre culture, but I think it was to the detriment of the story and pacing. The same might be said for the fae, to some extent, as well as the lengthy search for the bandits in the old forest (though the payoff of that trek was well worth it).

So, how do I summarize a book which I loved, but cannot urge people to drop everything and read? I can safely say that if The Name of the Wind did little for you, then The Wise Man's Fear will do as little or less. The book is gigantic in size, with great characters, and wonderful storyline, fun/funny dialog, yet suffers from often glacial pacing and eyebrow-arching storyline choices. It was simultaneously very satisfying to read, and disappointing. I want to rate it 5 stars and 3 stars at the same time.

Summary: 4/5 Loved it, in spite of rather pronounced flaws. It may be that I need to read it again in order to come to a more black and white resolution. Until that time, 4 out of 5 for a great time. I guess that's what it boils down to... did I enjoy the experience? Ultimately, very very much so.


OK, I'm done with the review, and I think done with this post. As usual, I had more to cover, but believe it or not, writing that review wrung me out. It's hard to try and put into words something that doesn't seem to want to be put into words!

Keep praying for Japan.

Dave the Goof


logankstewart said...

Man oh man oh man am I ever so nervous. As you may know, I'm only just over halfway through Wise Man's Fear, so I only read the opening paragraph or two of your review to prevent any spoilers. However, you make the third fan to tell me that you had some problems with the book, though you ultimately enjoyed it, there were things you didn't like. This, coming from three people that loved NOTW. I'm filled with anticipation, I suppose.

(On the side, there were people that didn't like NOTW?! And people who merely thought it was just okay?! Wow. Everyone I "forced" the book on loved it. Hmmm.)

The perspective on Japan article was nice. Definitely sounds like it was written by an engineer. The geography lesson was probably the most helpful thing.

By the way, did you know that your page design has some odd text behind the "About Me" and "Links!" boxes? It looks like reading lists or something.

Hopefully whenever I put my review of WMF up you and the other two guys will specify on my post the problems they had. Now, if only I could find time to read read read...

Abbie Josephsen said...

Love the new header picture dave. Didn't watch the movie yet 'cause there is no sound on the work computers, but if it is the one that Chris was telling me about last night, then I totally want to see it!

logankstewart said...

I didn't really have another comment, but the WV/CAPTCHA was just too good to pass up.


The smarmy elephant is quite a looker, if I say so myself.

Paula Titus said...

I like your nonsense!

Really enjoyed the article about Japan, and I knew that tsunami is a Japanese word, so figured they must have a lot of experience with this type of thing, still - it's heartbreaking.

Great book report, errr review. I hope Pat comments on your blog! :)

David Wagner said...

Logan: Can you screen-cap the layout problems you're having? On all of my computers and my iPad, things look fine to me. It might help to have a visual to aid me in my investigation.

Now find time to read read read! I want to see your review, and then we can chat...

Abbie: Unbelievable video footage... you really have to see it.

Paula: More nonsense, on its way, just for you! Fear not! And the odds that Pat would comment here are one in a zillion. The man is in great demand, and traveling, etc. I'm sure if he's not at a signing, then he's sleeping or traveling. I wish him the best.

logankstewart said...

Hmmm. Oddly enough, everything's fixed now. Maybe it's cause I've upgraded to Firefox 4? Could've been a fluke, who knows. It's all good now.