Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Sweet, Far-off End

Libba Bray has, to my knowledge, written three books, but she's written so many, many pages that I think it counts for something. I just finished The Sweet Far Thing (which, I have to say, is a beautiful title), numbering 817 pages. And I have to say, the first 600 could have been cut in half and I would not have missed anything, and probably would have been very grateful.

The book doesn't have Harry Potter's excuse of having to cover a whole school year, whether it drives the plot along or not. It does have a Harry-like duality to the storyline, in that there's school and there's Evil trying to destroy the world and both are major issues that need dealing with. In fact, Bray does more with that than Rowling does, particularly because she's writing about young women in the 19th century, so the debut is incredibly important (Felicity will be disinherited and dependent on her abusive father unless she appears in society). I often felt that the social politics of 1890s London was better crafted than that of the realms.

The problem is that the vast majority of the book is painfully repetitive. They keep going to the realms and having the same conversations with the same characters over and over again. Each time they have a little more information, gleaned in other, more interesting scenes, but this does not grow into a gradual understanding of what's going on--rather, understanding sort of explodes near the end. Which is fine, but it doesn't take 600 pages to build up absolutely nothing but my anticipation.

The last 200 pages are definitely far more compelling, and the plot begins to sweep through the book. I think there are plenty of flaws near the end, too, but I'll grant that it isn't boring, and I don't want to spoil anything for anybody. The only one I'll point out is that I'm still not sure exactly what happened at the tree during the climax of the book. I understand what resulted, what all the consequences were, etc, but the actual progression of the scene confused me.

Seriously, this is a pretty darned good 500 page book, with 300 pages of notes and draft scenes edited in. Like the Star Wars Special Edition movies.

I'm sorry, Libba Bray. I still admire you a lot and would like to grow up to be you, please.

1 comment:

Michael said...

It sounds like what I think of as Adventure Game Structure. The hero keeps consulting with the same people and going off on quests to push the story along in increments.