Inexplicably popular books.

Drathnoxis

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The discussion in the VS. thread got me thinking about The Name of the Wind. I just cannot comprehend how a book like that can become so massively popular. Throngs of people praise it as a masterpiece with beautiful, poetry-like prose. I just can't understand it.

The main character, Kvothe, is arrogant, rude, and behaves like a psychopath. Despite these glaring character flaws, everyone loves him and he has loyal friends. In fact, he is only disliked by the antagonists, and they only hate him because they are jealous of his intellect, talents, and good looks. The side characters are all completely one dimensional and only exist to be impressed by Kvothe or otherwise create situations for him to show off.

The plot is non-existent. You could cut out 9/10th of the pages and not lose any character development or advancement of Kvothe's stated goals. The majority of the novel is an endlessly recycled subplot focusing on Kvothe's struggle to make enough money to pay for his student loans, despite innumerable skills and marketable talents. The framing story promises far more intriguing mysteries with demon spiders and the like, but rather, we spend the entirety of the 700 page book reading the biography of the worlds most boring living legend. It's obvious that this series will never have a satisfying ending judging by the abysmal plotting of the first entry.

People claim that the book is making some sort of meta statement with an unreliable narrator, but the Kvothe we see in the third person segments is just as perfect as the Kvothe who is narrating the first person sections.

And the writing is just so dreadfully cringeworthy.
The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighed through the trees, set the inn's sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with conversation and laughter, the clatter and clamor one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of night. If there had been music .. . but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.
Inside the Waystone a pair of men huddled at one corner of the bar. They drank with quiet determination, avoiding serious discussions of troubling news. In doing this they added a small, sullen silence to the larger, hollow one. It made an alloy of sorts, a counterpoint.

The third silence was not an easy thing to notice. If you listened for an hour, you might begin to feel it in the wooden floor underfoot and in the rough, splintering barrels behind the bar. It was in the weight of the black stone hearth that held the heat of a long dead fire. It was in the slow back and forth of a white linen cloth rubbing along the grain of the bar. And it was in the hands of the man who stood there, polishing a stretch of mahogany that already gleamed in the lamplight.
The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distant, and he moved with the subtle certainty that comes from knowing many things.

The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. This was appropriate, as it was the greatest silence of the three, wrapping the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumn's ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.
It's just gibberish. Words piled upon words, not actually describing anything. 344 words used to convey the point that "it was unusually quiet." I could pick through and describe why any particular sentence is meaningless, but I'll suffice it to say that it all just makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

And yet, despite all that and more, this is a best seller. It rates 4.5 stars on Good Reads. I could barely bring myself to read all the way through, yet millions are clamoring for more.

It seems to happen so often. Utter drek becomes a massive critical and financial success. Twilight, Eragon, 50 Shades of Grey, Ready Player One, to name a few popular examples. How does it happen? Is the rest of the world just so poorly read that they can't tell good writing from bad? Or am I just crazy or too stupid to see the obvious genius that these works contain? Or is it all due to a master level marketing scheme, and the quality of the writing is, in fact, irrelevant? I don't know.

What books do you find inexplicably popular?
 

Thaluikhain

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Only having read the Twilight series I can't speak for the other you've mentioned, but it's hardly inexplicable that that got popular. Been a while since reading it, but if I remember correctly:

A girl (with no personality whatsoever so the reader can imagine it's them, this was intentional) whose name means "beautiful swan" goes to a new town. Is she going to be popular? Yes, everyone loves her, especially the one guy who everyone cannot stop blathering on about how perfect he is. He's also super rich and lets her into this whole secret vampire club thingy. Etc. It's really blatant wish fulfillment stuff.

I once spent some time in a library sticking things onto the backs of romance novels and took the time to read the blurbs. All stuff about lonely old women that suddenly find themselves in love with mechanics from the wrong side of the tracks, and will their relationship survive the shocking reveal that he's really a secret billionaire? Maybe not great works of literature, but they've got their niche worked out really well.

Twilight is that, but more creepy, more effort from the author and a lot more lucky. 50 shades, of course, is infamously a Twilight fan-fic with new names.
 

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There aren't that many works that I find inexplicably popular. For instance, Twilight. I've read some of the first book, and I can understand why it's popular with teenage girls - Bella is a blank slate that the (female) reader can project herself onto, and a hunky guy who's also a vampire and, like, really awesome, falls for her, despite being over 100 years old, because she's just so special. None of what I've said makes the book GOOD, but it does explain its popularity. And before anyone says anything, I don't really begrudge Twilight that. Everyone is free to indulge in their own fantasy.

Drathnoxis said:
Okay, I'm gonna say it - I don't think Eragon is actually bad.

Note that when I say "Eragon," I'm referring to the Inheritance Cycle as a whole. If we're discussing the first book, then sure - the writing is basic, and the plot is taken from other works. But the series does improve over time, in terms of its writing, and in its worldbuilding. I mean, Paolini was only 15 when he wrote the work - what did you write when you were 15? And if we're criticizing Inheritance for ripping off fantasy, there's plenty of fantasy works that have started off ripping off LotR (Shannara, Wheel of Time, etc.) before becoming more distinct.

Ready Player One,
Simple - it's fan service to 80s kids. Fan service that bored me to tears, but fan service clearly sells.

I think the novel has promise in areas, but paradoxically, it's at its best when showing us the real world, as to how bad things are, and how plausible the situation described could be - world's falling apart, and despite that (or because of it), all people want to do is play videogames and consume pop culture from the previous century. Also, the book shows some self-awareness, but not enough to call the book an inditement on what it's writing about.

I don't like RPO (I did like the movie though), but it's easy to understand why it's so popular.

What books do you find inexplicably popular?
Not including children's stuff (again, being at a library gives me a good inkling of what "kids these days" are into):

-Kingkiller Chronicle (for the reasons you described)

-Shannara (okay, thing is...Shannara isn't GOOD (for me). Yes, it became slightly more distinct post-Sword, but having read a number of volumes, the setting isn't that interesting, and it's really repeating the same plot over and over.

-His Dark Materials (okay, here's the thing - I'm irreligious. HDM should, in theory, appeal to me, because it has a very negative view on religion (Abrahamic mostly, but you could apply it to religion in general), and isn't afraid to show it. But I just don't like it, and I'm not sure how anyone does. For people who believe religion is a force for good, they're not going to enjoy this. People who have a negative view on religion however, I'd have thought wouldn't get much out of this anyway because the book has the subtlety of a brick in conveying its ideas. I mean, take the Chronicles of Narnia - yes, you can see the Christian subtext, but can just as easily enjoy the books without the subtext. HDM however, offers you no such subtlety, and the result is that I like Narnia much more (Last Battle aside). Also, Lyra's such an irritating character that Will being introduced was a, ahem, "Godsend," but third book? Nup. More Lyra. :( )

-Wheel of Time (no, seriously, I don't get it. I've read the first three books, they're okay, but to generate the fan fervor it does? WoT starts off as LotR-lite, then becomes its own thing, but I can't really describe what that "thing" actually is. It's like some weird middle ground between LotR and A Song of Ice and Fire, and doesn't satisfy me, yet apparently, satisfies enough people that it has its own convention)

-Tomorrow (I've never liked this series, or rather, I read the first book and didn't bother after that. Oh yay, some unidentified Asian country invades Australia, and kids go Wolverines! and...yeah, I don't care. Its message is confused, the ambiguity doesn't help, and I don't care about the characters, but apparently this book series was on reading lists at some point)

-War and Peace (...yeah, I didn't get it, though that probably says more about me)

-Heart of Darkness (again, I get why, but has anyone actually READ this? Dear God, it's a slog)

Sure I can name more, but that's off the top of my head.

Edit: Also, anything by Tom Clancy (or one of his ghost authors) or Dale Brown.

Seriously guys, look at the back of the cover, and it's like a computer wrote it. As in:

-Good Guys: USA

-Bad Guys: Russians/terrorists/Chinese

-Inciting Incident: Nukes/virus/underground tunnels in a bid for world domination (yes, really)

-Cool Shit: Mechs/fighters

-Go kill the bad guys

I mean, okay, fantasy and sci-fi use tropes as well, but Christ, I can't help but look at these books and laugh. Only Tom Clancy is a really popular author, and Dale Brown has been called the next Tom Clancy, so what the heck do I know?
 

Hawki

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I'll also add The Expanse.

As I've said, this series does one thing very well - the worldbuilding. However, worldbuilding will offer diminishing returns over time, especially when that worldbuilding is confined to a single star system. Otherwise, what's left? Characters? Fine. Writing? Fine. Plot? Fine. The Expanse is, for the most part, just...fine. So why is it so popular?

On the flipside, I really like the TV series though.
 

Dreiko_v1legacy

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Oh I actually blasted through the two books in the kingkiller chronicle a couple months ago. Kvothe is a great char because he is just unlucky enough that his amazing genius and talent just barely suffice to keep him from dying. I think his time in the slums and the trauma of his troupe's end have just damaged him which goes a long way to explain his negatives. It's not like people don't see that he's behaving like you describe, it's that they find it understandable than he would behave like that given what he's been through so they don't mind it.


It sounds like you've only read book 1 but in the second one you see him go in more adventures so he's less bogged down by trying to make enough money for the magical academy. Though yeah, this story isn't trying to be a huge epic like the Stormlight Archive, it's more of a personal tale so you have a lot more mundane stuff happening. I guess I can see being let down if you expect to read about epic tales and now about lutes and stuff lol.


Oh and I read Eragon back many years ago when it was new, I don't remember much of it which I guess is a point against it but I do remember it fondly. Dragon stories do speak to me after all haha. Also it's worth remembering that the writer was like 16 or something when he wrote the first book lol.
 

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Hawki said:
I'll also add The Expanse.

As I've said, this series does one thing very well - the worldbuilding. However, worldbuilding will offer diminishing returns over time, especially when that worldbuilding is confined to a single star system. Otherwise, what's left? Characters? Fine. Writing? Fine. Plot? Fine. The Expanse is, for the most part, just...fine. So why is it so popular?

On the flipside, I really like the TV series though.
I think the Expanse largely survives on its world building. It does such a massive job setting itself up that once the steam starts to run off around book 6-7, it can sustain itself on the fact that the reader is invested in the world. That and the books keep changing up their themes. Books 1-2 are largely political thrillers and mystery plots, 3-4 deals with exploring new worlds, 5-6 are about the changing power landscape that interstellar colonization brings and 7-8 (and arguably 9) are about the consequences of all the bad choices made in previous books coming back to bite you.

Drathnoxis said:
People claim that the book is making some sort of meta statement with an unreliable narrator, but the Kvothe we see in the third person segments is just as perfect as the Kvothe who is narrating the first person sections.
I have though about this myself, as I justified pushing myself halfway into The Wise Man's Fear. However, if you are to use the unreliable narrator as a trope you also need to clue the reader in on it. You need to have Chronicler, Bast or someone else point out that Kvothe's re-telling of events is either different from written history or how they remember the shared memory. That never happens and, as you say, Kvothe remains just as perfect in the interludes. Ultimately, what pushed me to think there's no unreliable narrator at work is how the book itself is really insistent on making sure the reader understands that what Kvothe is telling is what really happened. Kvothe keeps bringing up his perfect memory and gigantic intellect and other characters keep bringing up his honesty (in that situation at least, he's also a master liar remember?) and perfect recall. That's the author slapping you in the face and telling you that Kvothe's tale is perfectly reliable because the author says so.
 

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Gethsemani said:
I think the Expanse largely survives on its world building. It does such a massive job setting itself up that once the steam starts to run off around book 6-7, it can sustain itself on the fact that the reader is invested in the world. That and the books keep changing up their themes. Books 1-2 are largely political thrillers and mystery plots, 3-4 deals with exploring new worlds, 5-6 are about the changing power landscape that interstellar colonization brings and 7-8 (and arguably 9) are about the consequences of all the bad choices made in previous books coming back to bite you.
I can see what you're getting at there. I also agree that one could potentially divide the books up as you describe them. That said, the problem for me, personally, is that the steam started running out as soon as book 2. As in, book 1 gives me a blast of "steam," giving me a well fleshed-out setting, inhabited by characters that are "okay," and a plot that's...fine. That's a state of affairs that more or less lasted for the first four books, with each being less interesting than the prior to me. Nemesis Games is the exception that it bucked the trend, and in part by being more character focused than previous works. As in, it's kind of a downtime book before the shit hits the fan (or rather, asteroids hit the Earth), but even then, the improvement in character and plot doesn't take it beyond "okay."
 

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Twilight - I read the first book in my senior year in high school. I thought it was okay at the time. But then the movies happened, and the novels kept getting worse. Not to mention Stephanie Meyer is a complete whackjob, and thankfully the people in the filming industry realized this ans no ones wants to work with her at all or ever again. The only good thing you can say about Twilight is the crazed died down in 2013/14, and most of the teenage girls are not gonna look back positively on the books as adults. It was fun messing with teenagers or obssessed adult fans with the Team Jacob nonsense. I would say stuff like Team Hellsing/Helsing, Alucard, Seras, Blade or D, and a majority of these "vampire fans" had no idea who I was talking about. Jokingly, I would say " And you call yourselves vampire fans. You should be ashamed!".

Thaluikhain said:
50 shades, of course, is infamously a Twilight fan-fic with new names.
I've pointed this out and there were some people who didn't get it, and some who did. I just can't believe certain people fell for the same thing twice. I do remember a case where I told a person this, and instantly stopped reading the books.

I read Heart of Darkness once, and it can be a slog.

John Carter of Mars. I get why, but the character and planetary romance setting has been copied so many times (film, TV, comics, & other books) that he comes off as bland or a blank slate by comparison. The books after 3 have more interesting protags by comparison. What does not help is some of the racists undertones (cannibal black martians)There is some irony as the white martian, who are all blonde, blue-eyed, and where blonde wigs (fitting the Nazi stereotype before Nazis existed) are worse than all of the other martians.. Though it has progressive moments: not all of the women are damsels in distress, and interracial relations are seen as full positive thing in the third book. That said, I found the books entertaining.
 

Thaluikhain

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CoCage said:
John Carter of Mars. I get why, but the character and planetary romance setting has been copied so many times (film, TV, comics, & other books) that he comes off as bland or a blank slate by comparison. The books after 3 have more interesting protags by comparison. What does not help is some of the racists undertones (cannibal black martians)There is some irony as the white martian, who are all blonde, blue-eyed, and where blonde wigs (fitting the Nazi stereotype before Nazis existed) are worse than all of the other martians.. Though it has progressive moments: not all of the women are damsels in distress, and interracial relations are seen as full positive thing in the third book. That said, I found the books entertaining.
Eh, I didn't see a problem with the black Martians so much, in that they are explicitly not Earth humans and they've got their weird thing going on that's not related to real stereotypes that much (didn't remember cannibalism, though). Especially after he's got the red people and the green people and he's met the white people, he's seemingly coming up with colours at random. No blue people though.

Progressive "moments", but almost all the women are useless, especially Dejah Thoris who does nothing except get kidnapped. Now, the male heroes can expect to get captured at least once a novel, but they come up with some daring escape plan (my favourite is the balloon), the women do not.

But, I do like some of the weird alien things he comes up with. By comparison, Tarzan is (IMHO) much less interesting (only read the first few so far though) and there's more racism, though female characters are much more likely to pistol whip their captors into unconsciousness.
 

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Hawki said:
-Wheel of Time (no, seriously, I don't get it. I've read the first three books, they're okay, but to generate the fan fervor it does? WoT starts off as LotR-lite, then becomes its own thing, but I can't really describe what that "thing" actually is. It's like some weird middle ground between LotR and A Song of Ice and Fire, and doesn't satisfy me, yet apparently, satisfies enough people that it has its own convention)
Wheel of Time had an interesting start and a couple of good hooks (for one, men and women access "magic" differently, and the men's side is tainted by dark power) but by the third book, every last word (and there were so many words) boiled down to either characters complaining "why can't (men/women) be more like (women/men)" or new characters being introduced and then viciously killed off so that Rand could angst about it.

Hawki said:
Edit: Also, anything by Tom Clancy (or one of his ghost authors) or Dale Brown.
Tom Clancy was writing video game plots when video games were barely a thing. Simplistic, formulaic and jingoistic.
 

Agema

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Drathnoxis said:
The discussion in the VS. thread got me thinking about The Name of the Wind. I just cannot comprehend how a book like that can become so massively popular. Throngs of people praise it as a masterpiece with beautiful, poetry-like prose. I just can't understand it.
Well, it is very attractively written. That works for some people - I like some books full of flaws, but that are very well written.

But compare Rothfuss to Robert Jordan, who I consider the non plus ultra of wasted words on nothing happening. Or even Brandon Sanderson in his post-Wheel of Time work, where from finishing Jordan's slogathon he mostly seems to have learnt the same habit of page after page achieving nothing. As an opposite, one of my favourite authors is Jack Vance: he often just lists off names of a load of imaginary flora and fauna and doesn't stop to describe them at all unless important. Use your own imagination, reader.

It seems to be common to people world-building, although it's not just world-building: there lots of overlong and unnecessary descriptive passages as well. One thing common to SF&F is that fans want to seem to know more and more about how the imaginary universe works, and more and more about what's going on. You can see it in old TV shows like the original Star Trek or Doctor Who. It's a big thing for lots of fans, hence why often lots of spin-offs to flesh out what people don't want to think up for themselves and arguments about canon. Personally, I'm happy to be given my snapshot of someone's creation and move on.

* * *

Dreiko said:
Oh and I read Eragon back many years ago when it was new, I don't remember much of it which I guess is a point against it but I do remember it fondly. Dragon stories do speak to me after all haha. Also it's worth remembering that the writer was like 16 or something when he wrote the first book lol.
Parents were big in the publishing world, in case you're ever wondering why he got published. From what I can see, a fair few authors who get contracts when you can't quite see why (and often disappear rapidly) appear to have relatives in the publishing industry.

I hate YA lit, generally. I really hate it. Ready Player One, Eragon (I'm not sure I read it, but I saw the film), etc. Awful stuff.

* * *

I find this a little hard to answer because I read lots of SF&F, but I'm not sure what's selling well (and some is surely country-dependent).

I don't necessarily like a lot of stuff that is (as far as I can tell) successful, but I can usually see why it's successful. For instance that Monster Hunter guy (Correia?) seems to sell a lot in the US from what I've read, but there's nothing I've seen about any of his books which has ever inspired me to even try one.
 

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Imperial Radch.

Only read the first book, and it's a book where the only gender pronoun used is "she," because the language of the setting doesn't have gender-specific pronouns. And I'm left to ask...why? To make a point about gender stereotypes? If so, it's more trouble than it's worth IMO. In the far future, I don't really care who does what. You can specify gender and still convey a setting where no-one gives a hoot about the plumbing of humans doing whatever jobs the future requires of them.

Agema said:
Eragon (I'm not sure I read it, but I saw the film), etc. Awful stuff.
The film's wretched. Book's slightly better though. That said, Eragon (the book) is the weakest in the series. Paolini definitely became a stronger writer by the end of the series.
 

Agema

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Hawki said:
Imperial Radch.

Only read the first book, and it's a book where the only gender pronoun used is "she," because the language of the setting doesn't have gender-specific pronouns. And I'm left to ask...why? To make a point about gender stereotypes? If so, it's more trouble than it's worth IMO. In the far future, I don't really care who does what. You can specify gender and still convey a setting where no-one gives a hoot about the plumbing of humans doing whatever jobs the future requires of them.
I think you're totally wrong.

The point of much SF is to give a vision of the future. If it's a future civilisation where gender difference has effectively been culturally eliminated, why not? Why compromise that vision for the ease and convenience of the reader?

The author doesn't have to be "making a point", and I don't feel it's ideology rammed down our throats. But SF can pose us an intellectual task to consider how future societies are different. I think putting it in front of a reader forces the reader to confront and examine that difference: a central challenge where using our nice, comforting current pronoun system would leave that genderless society little more than a trivial window dressing. For instance, I found myself wanting to know whether a character was a (biological) man or woman. I am instantly thus reminded I am different from characters in the book, for whom it's not a worthwhile factor.
 

meiam

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Man, if you have a hard time believing that near perfect Gary/Mary sue character are incredibly popular do I have an entire industry to present to you, the Japanese light novel/cellphone novel and all their anime adaptation! For those unfamiliar, the flavour of the last 5 years in anime (thankfully coming to an end) was "isekai" which feature people in the real world (usually boring nerd) getting killed and reincarnated in a fantasy land (usually generic video game) and being obscenely overpowered. The flavour of the 5 years before that were magic school, also mostly based on light novel, about kid going to magic highschool, generally they're the reject of the school who everybody look down on, despite being the most powerful person on campus.

These scenario works really really well as mass market trash. Everything that seems like a weakness is actually a strength:

-Boring main character? Perfect! let the audience self insert, make them flawless, everybody think their perfect and the only reason they don't get what they deserve (ie everything adn anything) is because everybody else is keeping them down.

-One dimensional cast? Wouldn't want them to over shadow the main character, anyway all they need to do is fawn over the MC.

-Drab writing? Good, it needs to be simple so it can reach as wide an audience as possible. Oh but make it sounds fancy so they feel like their reading high literature, so throw in long sentence that say literally nothing, that way even if the reader doesn't understand the sentence, their not missing anything.

-Simple plot? Great, that way it can be more relatable to the reader simple life.

Personally I never got into Harry Potter (tried the first book and dropped it too quickly to really comment on it) but I always liked how it seems to get really close to all those problem but apparently avoided them.

For other book mentioned in the thread, I made a thread about wheel of time a while ago, I just really liked the excellent world building, but the rest wasn't worth it. My favourite book that I read is literally the one where the main character isn't in it.

I just read the first expanse novel, same idea, really liked the world building but didn't care much for the rest of it. I'll keep reading the series for now while more world building is introduced.

Oh I should mention, Shamus Young, former escapist columnist (both young and old) wrote a book called "The other kind of life" that just like that, very strong world building but so so main plot (good character though).
 

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Thaluikhain said:
Eh, I didn't see a problem with the black Martians so much, in that they are explicitly not Earth humans and they've got their weird thing going on that's not related to real stereotypes that much (didn't remember cannibalism, though). Especially after he's got the red people and the green people and he's met the white people, he's seemingly coming up with colours at random. No blue people though.

Progressive "moments", but almost all the women are useless, especially Dejah Thoris who does nothing except get kidnapped. Now, the male heroes can expect to get captured at least once a novel, but they come up with some daring escape plan (my favourite is the balloon), the women do not.

But, I do like some of the weird alien things he comes up with. By comparison, Tarzan is (IMHO) much less interesting (only read the first few so far though) and there's more racism, though female characters are much more likely to pistol whip their captors into unconsciousness.

Well, and I most others did. There are several comic adaptions of John Carter and they either have the Black Martians have the color dark grey, or if they are black like ivory, they will have the cannibalism outright removed. Also, hence why I said there is some progressiveness. Dejha Thoris is at least defiant, and in adaptions of other mediums, she is more a fighter. Thuvia is more of a fighter, and got out of her distress when captured. She is a powerful psychic that can communicate with animals that are super deadly. Making her a beast master, so that's definitely something for the early 1900s. Like I said before, the books after Warlord of Mars have way more interesting characters than John. There are no blue martians, but there are blue cyclops plant-men. There are yellow martians too. The red martians are from breeding of black, yellow, and white martians. The books does point this out as a positive thing, so that definitely progressive; especially for the 1900s.


<spoiler=Fair For It's Day John Carter Tropes page>
The novels are surprisingly progressive for their time. In particular, the Barsoomian races aren't portrayed as weaker or pathetic compared with each other and the white human protagonist. Far from it in fact, as the black Martians are invariably described as honorable and very attractive, despite most of them being sky pirates. What's more, Red Martians are the result of interbreeding every race together for survival and adaptability, and are typically thought of as the most sympathetic.

The cannibalistic White Martians are even nastier than the Black Martians. Clearly inferior morally to the Red Martians, intellectually to the Black Martians and technologically to the Yellow Martians, the White Martians are easily the most unpleasant of the Barsoomian races. Those hybrid Red Martians (and even some of the "monstrous" Green Martians) are good guys and clearly very intelligent, adapting very quickly once not oppressed by the others. The original trilogy even ends with John Carter becoming the eponymous warlord and uniting all the varying races of Barsoom as equals ? and this is clearly shown to be a good thing. The portrayal of women has been compared favorably in some respects to even some modern works.

It is also stated that the cross-breeding that resulted in the Red Martians was intentional - an attempt to breed a race that could adapt better to the changing environment.

John is a former Confederate soldier. note

This is actually lampshaded in The Gods of Mars when Carter meets Black Martians for the first time; the narration says he finds them admirable fighters and that their skin tone only makes them more handsome, adding that the reader may find this 'odd for a Virginian to say'.




Tarzan I can't read for the most part. Mainly, the early books. The only Tarzan I fully enjoy is the Disney one.
 

Hawki

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Agema said:
I think you're totally wrong.

The point of much SF is to give a vision of the future. If it's a future civilisation where gender difference has effectively been culturally eliminated, why not? Why compromise that vision for the ease and convenience of the reader?
The author is free to do whatever they like, doesn't mean I have to enjoy it. The whole gender ambiguity thing started off as "huh, that's cute" and ended with "meh." We lose much more from the choice (ambiguity of character) than what we gain (tangental worldbuilding - Imperial Radch is more interested with AIs and starships).

The author doesn't have to be "making a point", and I don't feel it's ideology rammed down our throats. But SF can pose us an intellectual task to consider how future societies are different. I think putting it in front of a reader forces the reader to confront and examine that difference: a central challenge where using our nice, comforting current pronoun system would leave that genderless society little more than a trivial window dressing. For instance, I found myself wanting to know whether a character was a (biological) man or woman. I am instantly thus reminded I am different from characters in the book, for whom it's not a worthwhile factor.
Okay, but all you just said was a negative for me.

You mention "a central challenge." Okay, but it isn't really a challenge. It's an annoyance. The book doesn't delve into the concept enough to have anything meaningful to say, but the concept is prevalant enough that you can't escape from it. It means that every time I encountered a character there was a 'haze' around the character because there's that extra level of ambiguity that makes it hard to connect to them, Breq being the exception because she's the POV character. I doubt I'd be that much more invested in Imperial Radch if it wasn't the case (book's fine, just didn't get drawn into it), but it's a constant little niggle, like someone poking you everytime you see the word "she," because there's that level of ambiguity you can't escape from.
 

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Hawki said:
Drathnoxis said:
Okay, I'm gonna say it - I don't think Eragon is actually bad.

Note that when I say "Eragon," I'm referring to the Inheritance Cycle as a whole. If we're discussing the first book, then sure - the writing is basic, and the plot is taken from other works. But the series does improve over time, in terms of its writing, and in its worldbuilding. I mean, Paolini was only 15 when he wrote the work - what did you write when you were 15? And if we're criticizing Inheritance for ripping off fantasy, there's plenty of fantasy works that have started off ripping off LotR (Shannara, Wheel of Time, etc.) before becoming more distinct.
Now, now Hawki, I'm disappointed. I had thought you were better than these sorts of arguments. First, if we are only allowed to criticize what we can personally do the Escapist would surely not exist today.

Second, this was a published work, sold for full price in the store along side any other novel. It doesn't matter if the author is 15 or 92, in that environment it should be able to stand up on it's own without any qualifying statements. Thousands of teenagers write novels. Is every under 18 who participates in NaNoWriMo entitled to worldwide fame and fortune? Obviously not, so why should we overlook the amateurish storytelling skill of this one kid simply because his parents had connections at a publishing company?

I did actually make it through the whole series, half for completion sake and half because the narrator of the audio book I was listening to was really good, but as far as I can remember the books got worse with every installment. By the end, the main characters were overpowered psychopaths, nearly as bad as the villain they were fighting against. The narrative is seemingly completely unaware of this, championing these jerks as true and righteous heroes. Eragon uses his incredible power to mete out mass slaughter and cruel and unusual punishment. He blinds his cousin's father in law (who was a traitor, I think?) with magic and forces him to wander the world blind, helpless, and alone until he reaches the city of the elves, or something. Eragon's body count is in the thousands by the end of the series, he regularly tears through soldiers who have as much power to stand against him as a baby would. I don't remember him ever showing remorse over the countless lives he took. Roran was a completely nonsensical character, supposedly a Normal Human Being, he basically takes turns being superman and then getting dumped on. I wrote a rant about him and Nasuada(power mad future queen) at the time I was reading the books:
Drathnoxis said:
So I've been listening to the audio books for the Inheritance Cycle, and while the books are... not great, they are just entertaining enough to make listening to them enjoyable. This is in large part due to the excellent narration by Gerard Doyle. But this last section was bad. Really bad!

So for anybody not in the know, the premise of the series is that and evil, immortal, dragon riding king is ruling Middle Earth Alagaesia and it's up to the newly found dragon rider Eragon to git gud so he can overthrow him. He and his "normal human" cousin, Roran, have allied themselves with a rebel army called the Varden, lead by Queen Nasuada. Currently, Eragon is off fiddling about with dwarves and Roran, having just joined the Varden, is being tested with a couple raiding missions.

On Roran's last mission they were attacking some small town somewhere which had around 500 Imperial troops, outnumbering them by a couple hundred. Roran's captain turned out to be completely incompetent and would have bungled the raid and gotten everybody killed if Roran hadn't disobeyed his orders and ordered his men to not stupidly charge into the greater force of trained magic crossbow wielding soldiers. Instead of doing that, he had his men climb up on the roof and fire an infinite amount of arrows at the soldiers while Roran himself single-handedly killed 193 soldiers with his hammer (I'm not even exaggerating, that's what the book said). This pretty much took care of the entire force and saved the mission from disaster. Almost all of the men under Roran's command survived, while only a handful of the troops from the other commands, including his captain's, made it.

Okay, so now Roran is like the biggest hero ever, having completed a task of such superhuman prowess that it defies all logic presented in the series thus far, how does Queen Nasuada reward him for this feat? 50 lashes in front of a public assembly for insubordination! She only begrudgingly has magicians heal his tattered back because she wants him to go on another mission the very next day! In an instant I've lost any sort of respect for this mad woman that I ever had. She is no better than the Evil King! Roran gets no trial to see if his actions were justified, he get's no reduced sentence for saving around a hundred of his fellow soldiers lives, in fact Nasuada states that if he weren't the cousin of a dragon rider he would be hung! That right there is genius level tactics, kill off your best and brightest soldiers because they had the audacity to not follow idiotic orders that would get everyone killed.

She says that she has to punish Roran or she would appear weak and lose the respect of the Varden. The complete opposite is true, though. I don't know about anybody else, but if I was in that army and I saw Roran getting flogged for saving a hundred lives and snatching victory from the brink of defeat I would lose all faith in the decision making capabilities of the leaders! That their greatest heroes are punished like criminals would completely break my morale. These are supposed to be the good guys here and yet the Queen of the Varden appears to be just as power mad as the Evil King!

Honestly, I'm finding it very hard to gather the will to continue with the books. Is it even worth it when these are the people we're rooting for?

It's been a long time and my memory of the books is pretty shaky, but I remember feeling that the ending wasn't very satisfactory. Something about it made the majority of the series feel like a waste of time, but I can't even begin to say anymore.
 

Hawki

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Drathnoxis said:
Now, now Hawki, I'm disappointed. I had thought you were better than these sorts of arguments. First, if we are only allowed to criticize what we can personally do the Escapist would surely not exist today.
I'm not saying that his age should shield the work from criticism. However, I bring it up because I think the quality of the work is still above the average quality from what one would expect from a writer at that age - I can't cite what I was writing at 15, but I CAN cite what I was writing at 16 (and before), and...yikes. Also, the point I also wanted to make is that yes, Eragon is derivative, but there's a sense of double standards with Inheritance, per the examples I mentioned. Various works (and not just as books) have started off as derivative before gaining a sense of identity further down the line, but people tend to be more forgiving of them.

Is every under 18 who participates in NaNoWriMo entitled to worldwide fame and fortune? Obviously not, so why should we overlook the amateurish storytelling skill of this one kid simply because his parents had connections at a publishing company?
Of course not, and yes, Paolini did have the right connections. But I'd be curious to know how many people who participate in NaNo are under 18, how many of them actually finish it, and how many turn in something remotely readable.

I did actually make it through the whole series, half for completion sake and half because the narrator of the audio book I was listening to was really good, but as far as I can remember the books got worse with every installment.
For me, I'd go 2>3>4>1 (I don't know where Tales of Aleglasia fits in, you can see my review of it as to why).

By the end, the main characters were overpowered psychopaths, nearly as bad as the villain they were fighting against. The narrative is seemingly completely unaware of this, championing these jerks as true and righteous heroes.
I did recall that the books did acknowledge that innocent people were suffering as a result. This is foreshadowed as early as the first book, where Murtagh pointing out that the Empire as a system is sound, it's just got a tyrant for a ruler.

He blinds his cousin's father in law (who was a traitor, I think?) with magic and forces him to wander the world blind, helpless, and alone until he reaches the city of the elves, or something.
Yeah, and? Sloan's a traitor, and before that, he was a dick. You can call it cruel, but the books show cruel times.

Roran was a completely nonsensical character, supposedly a Normal Human Being, he basically takes turns being superman and then getting dumped on.
Wasn't that because of his hammer having gems or something? It was certainly a plot point for the 'uber' soldiers Galbatorix used in the fourth book.

It's been a long time and my memory of the books is pretty shaky, but I remember feeling that the ending wasn't very satisfactory. Something about it made the majority of the series feel like a waste of time, but I can't even begin to say anymore.
I do agree that the ending is shakey, and the fourth book does have power creep, even if it's power creep that's justified in-universe. Still, 2/3 are still "good" in my eyes.
 

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CoCage said:
Well, and I most others did. There are several comic adaptions of John Carter and they either have the Black Martians have the color dark grey, or if they are black like ivory, they will have the cannibalism outright removed. Also, hence why I said there is some progressiveness. Dejha Thoris is at least defiant, and in adaptions of other mediums, she is more a fighter.
Sure, if we are including the comics and other adaptations. I wouldn't have counted them as being part of the canon, but I like action heroine/scientist/investigator Dejah Thoris a lot more than the one in the books who just sits there and is "incomparable". IIRC, the book Dejah Thoris is less curvy and more naked than the usual comic depictions.

Tavia, some books further in flat out is a proper action heroine, though. Although the hero doesn't recognise it and explicitly states he was worried about her safety in a way he wouldn't be about a man of comparable ability. That character was impressively thick when it comes to women, though.

Personally, I suspect making them dark grey in the comics is because actual black figures don't work very well visually, dark grey just looks better, they weren't going to make them "black" as in brown human colour.

CoCage said:
so that defintely progressive; especially for the 1900s.
Ah, ok, if you mean progressive for the 1900s, fair enough.