Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Content With My Failure / Read: A Dance With Dragons

If you're one of my irregular readers, and I must assume that you are, you may be aware that some months ago I embarked on my reading project, an attempt to curb my rampant expediture in the vicinity of bookstores. The idea, for those of you with short memories, was that I would refrain from buying any new books until I had disposed of all the books on my list, and this noble aim lasted about as long as the next time I passed by my local newsagent.
Well, a little while ago, while rearranging funiture and going through my collection and realising that the problem was more serious than I'd previously realised (to the tune of some fifty volumes), I devised a more realistic system that I have since managed to keep to.

These are my shelves of unread books. All the volumes here are part of my library, but for various reasons are yet to be read. The new system is simple, I may not exceed the free space on the unread shelves with any new purchases. Thus, I must read in order to expand my library. Books that I have begun but not finished are in the top left, and it is my intention to finish these and then begin working left to right. This will allow me some choice, as I can pick from any of the three shelves, but should ensure that no volumes will be left to rot. In the interests of full disclosure I feel compelled to mention the disclaimer that reference books are immune to these conditions, and may be purchased with impunity, and that gift books that overfill the bookshelf are allowed, but must be added to the shelves before new aquisitions can be made (the idea of virtual shelves seemed to me to be a cunning little loophole, for a while). This system has the tentative approval of certain other parties concerned in the expenditure and mass in my reading material, which is a tactical victory, I assure you.

I will seek to continue the reading project (there's quite the backlog of read books to share with you, dear readers), and give you regular updates on the state of the shelves.

One of those books that I have read during my absence from the internet is the ridiculously long-awaited Dance of Dragons. It has a long and chequered history, but is basically the other half of a book published way back in 2005. In 2005 I was still in high school, which makes me feel like it was a very long time ago. I'm tempted to enter into a long whining missive on the unreliability and even downright meanness of the man to keep me waiting this long, but I won't. Firstly because I am aware that George R.R. Martin is not my bitch, and secondly because I have way too much respect for the guy that brought me back to fantasy fiction when I thought for a long time that it had died with Tolkien.

For those of you not familiar with the story, A Song of Ice and Fire is an epic fantasy series that began as a trilogy and has so far spanned five books. It tracks the land of Westeros, where great houses vie for power between themselves in mostly devious and downright nasty ways, and honourable people (and dishounourable ones too, let's admit it) have an unfortunate way of up and dying just as soon as the reader gets attached to them. Over the course of the last four books, two kings and four pretenders to the throne of the Seven Kingdoms have died in various mean and terible ways, a scion of the old royal family has made her absurdly ponderously way home, and many, many, many thousands of people have died. Honourable men turn out to be less than honourable, villains get redeemed, and absolutely nothing, nothing, is what it seems. It's actually rather good.

Page 123:
They found the lord alone in the gloom of his hall, making a supper of bread and beer and sister's stew. Twenty iron sconces were mounted along his thick stone walls, but only four held torches, and none of them was lit. Two fat tallow candles gave a meagre, flickering light.
I'll stop there, because any more could be considered spoilers for those of you who are eagerly awaiting news on this particular POV character... :p But it does give you an example of the style. I actually tried reading some of this book aloud to a captive audience, but had to abandon the attempt when I couldn't stop giggling at the ridiculous pomposity of the dialogue. That's fantasy for you, no wonder the other genres don't take us seriously.

Although I found the book itself to be slow and even comparatively uninteresting (I actually slept between the time I acquired it and I finished reading it, the first time that I can say that for the series), it was good to get some of the rest of the story. It still felt like nothing happened, because almost everything significant had already occured in the last book (it takes an awful lot of nothing to fill about 1000 pages, let me tell you), but it was still good enough that I'll be eagerly waiting in line for the next one when it comes out too, provided I am still capable of standing and moving around by that point.

The best thing about it was that I got an excuse to re-read the rest of the series again just to make sure that I wasn't missing anything. There sure are some badasses in Westeros, and I am partial to a badass. It took up a bunch of my designated reading time, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, unless he's a badass, in which case he can do whatever the hell he wants.

Reading List Progress:
Number of Books read: 3 (ok, there's more, but hopefully we'll get to them this month)
Australian quotient: 1.045
Fantasy quotient: 2
Biography quotient: 1
Next Up: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya


John said...

Is that some Le Guin sitting unread there? For shame, Thom!

Alethea said...

That's some nice book-tetrising there.

UnwiseOwl said...

John: I am indeed deeply ashamed, but my SF reading is sorely, sorely lacking. Heck, until a couple of months ago I hadn't even read Dune! The mere fact that it's in the shelf means that progress is being made though, right?

Ale: Sure! What's the point of setting yourself an arbitrary limit if you then don't immediately set out to push it to it's absolute extreme? I was thinking of it as Dr. Mario-ing, myself, you'll notice that no four penguin classics appear next to each other.