I really thought I was a bit over epic fantasy trilogies. I mean, I haven’t consciously started one in a very long time. Partly that’s because they’re black holes sucking time and energy into them, partly it’s because I am wary of starting trilogies at all – especially when the rest haven’t been written yet and I haven’t got a sense of whether the quality holds up – and partly, I’ve realised, my tastes have been veering towards science fiction, and especially hard SF and space opera, much more consistently in the last few years. No idea why, just have.
Consequently, when a friend started raving about Patrick Rothfuss and The Name of the Wind at me, I had no idea what she was talking about. And none of the above occurred to me, either, because it wasn’t until a few weeks after she had put a copy in my hands and promised me late nights reading that I discovered the darn thing was a first book, and that the others are as-yet unpublished. I started feeling annoyed… and then realised that I had forced Holly Black’s White Cat into her hands, so we’re kinda even in that its sequels are also unpublished. But I figure I still have a bit of leeway since Name is about a quarter the size of White Cat.
Anyway. I read it. And it’s the sort of book that if someone described it baldly, I would probably roll my eyes and say that I was largely over big fat magical quests in faux medieval settings with some mysterious baddy in the offing.
It is one of the longer books I’ve read in a while, at 662. While it was sometimes a bit of a slog, the fact that it has exceptionally short chapters – there are 92, plus a prologue and epilogue – meant that it was easier to keep ploughing through. And honestly, it was worth it. I liked the conceit that it was a man telling a story to a chronicler, and that there were occasional breaks from the main story back to the scene of the storytelling; it helped keep it grounded, and it also meant that you knew Kvothe was going to get through the obstacles put in his way. It’s an interesting way of doing it, letting the reader know that the protag is definitely going to go and be amazing, because that’s why he’s telling the story in the first place. There’s none of that “ooh, surprise! The farm boy with uncommon wit is really a magician!”
Kvothe? He’s a pretty good main character. He has lots of advantages – uncommon wit, fast reflexes, an exceptional memory – but disadvantages too – his upbringing, his temper, and a whole lot of bad luck. I had rather hoped, when the story opened with an adult man, that we would be skipping all of that apprenticeship stuff. It was not to be, and I’ll allow that I was – surprisingly – riveted by his childhood and his time at the University (that’s not a spoiler; it’s obvious pretty early on that that must happen). And, as I’m sure was the intention, I am now beside myself with wonder about what happens to Kvothe when he leaves the University, how he gets the name Kingkiller, and why he’s now an innkeeper.
The other characters pale in comparison with Kvothe; they don’t get as much time, of course, and they just can’t be as interesting. Even the woman in his life – who is one of the more interesting love-interests I’ve come across in a while, I’ll admit, and I’m wild with curiosity about her background, and if we don’t find out more about her I’ll do a Misery on Rothfuss – didn’t keep me as interested as Kvothe. They’re not boring, though, and many of them are nicely quirky; one of my favourites is Auri, a wild girl Kvothe befriends. And of course Abenthy, his first teacher, is awesome.
The worldbuilding is quite detailed; not that original, in some aspects, but nicely realised and crafted. I really liked the notion of going to University to study what others perceive as magic (and not in a Pratchett-style University, either); and I liked the sense of historical depth Rothfuss implies, too, without going into long, drawn-out, pompous epics told over the campfire or dug out as a revelation from a dusty tome.
And the plot? Again, on the face of it not overwhelmingly original. A young boy with a tragic past seeks to make his way in the world; a poor young man struggles in a world driven by money; a boy experiences a mystery as a child and strives to understand it as he grows up. Oh, and there’s a girl. But saying it like that does not, of course, do it justice. While the story might in places follow a well-worn path, there’s a reason for that: that path leads to fascinating places. And, to continue the metaphor, the scenery on this particular version of the path is marvellous and well worth making the journey. Even most of the bit-characters are interesting in their own rights, and the writing is delightful enough to lure the reader on.
I enjoyed this book way more than I had anticipated.
I considered trying to have interesting titles for all of my posts, but… that’s a lotta titles.
I discovered on watching this just how much of the detail I have forgotten, which is quite pleasant actually – it makes rewatching it seem more worthwhile. In this episode – officially the first of the series – the Galactica and its ragtag band of civvie ships has made 287 ftl jumps, every 33 minutes, only just escaping the Cylons each time. They’re all on the ragged edge, and you just know something is going to happen. We also flash to Helo, on Caprica, and get a fair bit of Baltar being lovey-dovey and insane with Six.
Of course, forgetting details also means that you have to go through the agony of (re)discovering horrible things, like…
The Olympic Carrier. It wasn’t until Dee announces with surprise that the Carrier was back with the fleet, after being left behind on the last jump, that I remembered what happened. And oh boy, that’s unpleasant. Yet again we have the President and the Commander having to make dreadful, heart-wrenching decisions. (And as we find out in the next ep, it’s Apollo that seems to suffer most from doing it).
The crew after 100+ hours sans sleep is a fascinating study in character. Tigh just bulls on through, Starbuck gets wilder, Adama gets grittier, and everyone else does ragged and near-crazy exceptionally well.
And finally, we get Helo on Caprica, getting ‘rescued’ by a Sharon. Doesn’t that just put the cat amongst the pigeons, so to speak? Especially when she kills a Six in order to do so….
The thing I’ve paid closer attention to on this watch, aside from the plot, is the character relationships. The one I really noticed this time is that between the Chief and Callie: at this time, he’s involved with Boomer, but eventually of course these two get hitched. It’s interesting to see them at this point, where it’s very much a master/apprentice relationship. And, of course, Apollo and Adama continue to be a fascinating study in parent/child attitudes. I love them more this time than last.
Oops. Boomer wakes up and discovers she doesn’t know where she’s been or what she’s done. And then there’s an explosion – oh no! – and lots and lots of water is lost. Then we go water hunting. We also get back to Helo and Boomer on Caprica.
Put like that, it sounds like a boring episode – and for the second in the series that seems quite weird. But it sets the scene: aside from battling Cylons, the point of the show really is the day to day minutiae, the little things that make it possible for not-quite-50,000 people to survive in space while being hunted down. And water is, of course, utterly essential to that survival. So I like that after the adrenaline rush of 33, we get an episode focussed on something no less vital, but way less sexy.
This episode makes me realise I am not a huge fan of Boomer. I think this is partly because I don’t really rate the actress, Grace Park, that highly, and also because I find this iteration of her a bit too whingy; curiously I think Athena – the one who is currently with Helo – is more interesting. On one level this makes no sense, while on another it’s a great tribute to the writers of the show in differentiating members of the same Cylon model.
We get more lovely moments of Roslin/Adama here: they bond over books, they have misunderstandings that at least this time are resolved quite gracefully, and in their individual interactions with Apollo they demonstrate fascinatingly different takes on leadership. Adama says ‘suck it up and take it like a man’; Roslin says in private, at least, learn from your mistakes and be honest with yourself.
Finally, we get more of Six banging on (heh heh) at Baltar about religion, which really started in 33. There are things here about monotheism vs polytheism, and attitudes towards God/the gods, that I still haven’t got my head around. Hopefully I’ll be able to do so over the course of the series.