Thursday, April 29, 2010

What I'm Reading: The Coldfire Trilogy

I read a lot of books-- a book a day, on average. I like to talk about the books I read. My Twilight review made the biggest stir of anything I've posted here (even including my challenge to Scott Adams, who has yet to agree to a duel), so I'm interpreting that to mean that my readership also likes to talk about books. If you just come up and ask someone if they've read any good books lately, though, they assume that you're trying to pick them up. (And to be fair, they're usually right.) Enter: What I'm Reading! So you can all be snarky and elitist about books with me!

The First Mate recommended the Coldfire Trilogy to me with the words, "I don't know that you'll like it, but it's interesting." He was, perhaps, justified in his reservations: The Coldfire Trilogy is a 1500-page high fantasy epic which mixes space travel and Dungeons & Dragons-esque pseudo-medieval archetypes in a way I usually find fairly jarring. The language is stereotypically flowery, the raiment is ostentatious and always well-described (why should I care what your adventurer is wearing? I'm not having cybersex with him, for crying out loud), there's a night-elf looking guy with a glowy sword on the cover of each of them, and the main character is a paladin. For the record: I. Hate. Paladins. And all the lawful-stupid whining they generate.

Despite my trepidation, I dove into Black Sun Rising, the first book. I had to fight the compulsion to stop reading after the first fifty pages, finding them full of tedious universe setup and (in my opinion) riotous and unchecked descriptive adjectives. (Yes, I know they are fun to write, people, but they're not half as much fun to read!) At about that fifty-page mark, though, I consciously put aside my quibbles with the genre, most of which are probably rooted in snobbery. Lo and behold, the universe being effusively described was actually pretty interesting. The story is set on the planet Erna, home to a remote colony of refugees from a long-forgotten Earth who have since lost all Terran scientific and technological knowledge.  Erna teems with semi-sentient natural energy, which is psychically responsive to the needs, fears, and desires of the planet's inhabitants. The introduction of humans into this environment triggers devastating and unpredictable change as all of humanity's basest nightmares, as well as its most noble aspirations, suddenly become flesh and feed on their creators.

I am currently halfway through the second book, When True Night Falls, and so far I've enjoyed both far more than I anticipated. The science fiction and space travel are woven into the fantasy conventions well enough that the juxtaposition doesn't feel incongruous, and the culture and physics of the world are both richly developed and fairly original. The stories are cut from the same sparkly, rune-embroidered cloth as most fantasy epics (Save The Princess, Save The World!) but unless you categorically hate that kind of thing, they've got enough emotional resonance and tricky clever bits to keep you interested. The characters do play true to type, but those types keep showing up in fantasy for a reason-- at their best they're inspiring and relatable and at their worst they're amusing. Unsurprisingly, I like the rampantly evil one best of all, and the paladin, at least, is now becoming jaded enough that he doesn't come off as such a sanctimonious prat. And best of all, the books have more depth than just being ripoffs of the Lord of the Rings, which puts them above most of the popular fantasy novels I have read.

In short, if you like fantasy, you will like these books. If you don't like fantasy, you may still like these books. If you, like me, are too much of a literary wanker to admit to liking fantasy (with the exception of Lord of the Rings, of course. Because it's etymologically significant.), then the rewards of getting off your high horse and onto some three-toed fae beast which glows at night would seem to be greater than you might think.


Posted by Silent Five @ 8:53 PM

Read or Post a Comment

Literary snob, indeed. I can almost hear the sneer in "etymologically significant."

You're witty- these books sound fun. Make me miss gaming.

Last thing: why won't you have cybersex with that adventurer? He seems so lonely without you.

Posted by Blogger e.clare @ 11:31 PM #

Gaming may be had, but not until after you're back from the four corners of the Earth.


Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 6:03 AM #

On the subject of raiment: I actually really like when authors go into detail about that stuff in the right circumstances. Partly, for me, it adds a lot to the feel of the story to know how the author sees their own characters, but I fancy, at least, that it also reflects how they see themselves. Damien and Tarrant start out with very distinct garb that defines who they are and who they see themselves to be. The complexity, the color, the philosophical implications in the context of the story... All of those come into play for me when it's a well-used tool.


Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 6:24 AM #
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Word of the Week

gymnosophy [jim-NAH-so-fee]

n. Philosophical, amusing, or nonsensical insights realized when naked, as in the shower or in bed. (recent coinage: att. S. Galasso, 2010)

Victoria and Albert enjoyed a spot of postprandial concupiscence culminating in a night of gymnosophy and coffee and crumpets at dawn.

The Silent Top Five: Bacon-Flavored Desserts

1) Bacon cheesecake.
2) Bacon gumballs.
3) Bacon ice cream.
4) Bacon-orange bars.
5) Bacon apple pie.

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This is all in no way meant to incur copyright-infringement-related wrath. I'm harmless. I promise. Oh, and if you're offended by anything I may post herein, I guarantee I didn't mean to do so (unless, of course, you are a humorless prig. In which case, go right on and be offended, with my blessings.)