Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by TomTB, Apr 26, 2015.
Is C+/B- a don't like, or thought it was okay and don't get all the fuss?
Oh dear. I have had to point this out several times before on various conferences, but its worth saying again . . .
Darth Tater is right in a way . . . Hitchhikers Guide was written as a radio play, nearly 40 years ago. Now its possible that it is just that times have changed, but I still reckon that on radio it is still an outstanding work. The problem is that is has been adapted to book, to TV, to other spoken forms, it generated spinoffs . . . and all the conversions and adaptations I have seen have been very much as Darth Tater said - forced humour, and not much good.
If you can get hold of the original radio play, its something different, but otherwise - yeah, forget it!
It's The Magicians by Lev Grossman for me. I liked the premise of the book, I still do, and I was patient, more so than usual. I managed to slog through more than 60% of the book before quitting, right after the Antarctica trip/initiation thing. The Magicians is probably one of the least enjoyable reading experiences I've ever had. Plot or lack thereof and terrible characters aside, it's very hard for me to pinpoint what exactly is so off-putting. What I've read seems like a lot of self-indulgent and pretentious crap more than anything else. The supposed deeper meaning, if there is any, personally I found the book shallow and superficial, is hidden between dozens of pages of needless exposition, bad sex scenes, drugs and unbearable teenage protagonists. It seems like the book is a downer just for the sake of being a downer, nihilistic almost, which, in my opinion, is a poor way of masking a lack of any substance. I know some of you have watched the tv show and maybe have even read the trilogy. I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts on it. Judging from the reviews it's quite a polarising book.
A more recent one is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I've listened to 4 or 5 chapters before dropping it. Didn't like it at all. I'm sure it's an important book from a social and cultural viewpoint but based on literary merit, it's subpar at best (imo, of course).
Whatever my agreement or otherwise with your other points, that one I do agree with, quite strongly!
My review here
I have often been tempted to put the Lev Grossman trilogy on my TBR but I never did and based on your review I won't ever be tempted again. I suspected some of the things you said but it sounds much worse than I even thought. For MY tastes.
I read Mockingbird for the first time 3 years ago. Don't ask me why it never crossed my path. I think you "disliked" it. I didn't think it was anything special according to MY tastes. would say it was "meh-so so". So pretty close. Agree with the importance of it. The sequel published a couple years or so ago (not long before she died) is said to be a disaster by many people. Based on the summary I read I would tend to agree.
Read The Magicians and watched the TV series. Liked both.
I have seen some reviews where there seems to be a suggestion that the books are saying "whatever you might be tempted to think, the grass is not always greener on the other side." I suppose I viewed them as a "coming of age" for a disheartened teenager who develops and "grows up" into a more mature person as the story progresses. I also liked the "magic", its possible repercussions, and the adult "Narnia". There were plenty of problems to be solved by our various protagonists, some fun characters, some awful situations, and a gripping story.
Thought the TV series was well done to begin with, but then noticed that it took some artistic licence in following the books. That was ok, although I think that some things got missed out. But at the end, thought that it became really rushed (and consequently the plot confusing) as though someone had decided that it was not worth continuing the series for another season and everything had to be finished in the last espisode, which for me spoilt the ending somewhat.
On the topic of the Magicians, I would say it is a highly polarizing pick. It does have qualities such as offering a more realistic take on modern day magicians which Harry Potter completely failed to address. In other words, it goes around the trope of what does it mean to be a magician in the 21st century. The answer? Not much, really not much. There are no careers to be had, no life worth living and all end up nihilists to the point of complete boredom which, when you think about it, is entirely more plausible than happy-go-lucky wizard in Harry Potter who despite being to perform any given tasks, still manage to be poor... Go figure.
Unfortunately, the story ends up needing to rely on downright unsympathetic spoiled main characters acting like over-grown children most of the time, wasting their life being drunk and doing a great nothing. The Antarctica trip was the low point of the story, especially the sex craved fox part, but it picks up afterwards. The second book was actually quite good. I somehow never got around to read the third one, but I do plan to do it, eventually.
It has merit, but it definitely isn't a good read for character lover readers as there is a fair chance you won't like anyone in there, not in the first book. The second book has Julia in it whom ends up having a very good and heart-breaking backstory, worth reading.
I keep hearing about the unsympathetic characters in The Magicians, and that's the biggest reason I haven't read it. I'm sure it's a good book for its audience, but from what I've heard about it, it doesn't sound like I'm in that audience.
I am one of those guys who thought that he is done with The Magicians trilogy after the first book, because let's be honest - it's awfully depressing and the story is all over the place, too clunky to stand on its own. So I've quit the series at that point.
But after some time I've had the urge to give it one more try, because the writing was top notch when it comes to tone and prose. Well, the second and third book make the whole trilogy so much more than the first book would suggest, they also make the first book better, because it's no longer aimless douchebaggery on the part of the author, its given some purpose and that's only for the better. I ended up giving the series 9/10 or 10/10 I think, because it's a solid, if a bit akward, read - and each book presents somewhat different tone and narrative, and that's kind of refreshing.
However, I'd be the first to admit it's not a spoonfull for every mouth, and unless you are ready to work for it, chances are some of the readers would quit the series before the fun starts. But ultimately I'd say it's worth it.
The other case where I've felt that put off by a book was with the first Fitz trilogy by Robin Hobb. Same as with The Magician, I ended up picking the next trilogy and then the next, and I am glad that I did.
Some books are just too full of themselves and could be kind of offputing at first, but the problem is - there is only that much really quality fantasy out there, and it's easier to come back to a series that doesn't know how to start, but knows how to continue, than to continuously keep searching for series who know neither how to start, continue or finish.
But it's a personal preference thing in the end, as all books are.
My obvious answer to this is LOTR, but will instead state The Magicians since I love glomming on when other people are bashing.
And honestly, the whole reason I did not care for it, rather than the pretty one-dimensional characters and bleakness of the theme (seriously, how do you make freaking magic feel tiresome and like drudgery? It's freaking magic!), is that it's a reactionary book. It's almost satire/ parody of Harry Potter and Narnia, to the extent that, if the reader was not already familiar with those two series when encountering The Magicians, Grossman's story doesn't stand up. It's standing on the shoulders of giants. And suffocating in the rarified air, I might add.
And yes, I agree he took some ideas in interesting directions that made me go hmmm. But that's not enough. He just picked up and moved around the toys in other writers' toy boxes rather than fashioning his own toys/ stories. That makes it straight derivative in my book (pun!) rather than new and unique.
Compare that to Watchmen or even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both were taking on clear parallels to existing works (anything DC related for the former, and Frank Miller/ Xmen for the latter) and playing with those roles/ ideas/ themes. That said, you don't need to know the evolution of comic books and the difference between the Golden Age and Silver Age to enjoy Watchmen, anymore than you need to know Miller's influence on comics in the 80s to enjoy TMNT. Hell, I was a fan of TNMT years before I even knew who Miller was. Both those stories stand on their own and entertain. And when you realize that they're actually deconstructing the medium, that just adds a little extra spice to a meal that's already sustaining to begin with.
So, in the end, I think The Magicians will be but a forgotten footnote to Harry Potter/ Narnia, both series I don't even really care for. But both were their own distinct thing, something I don't think anyone can argue for The Magicians. At least not with a straight face.
You almost sold me the book by accident here. Magic may be doing the awesome, but if you look at all the awesome things being done in the real world, most of them are done by tiresome drudgery. Why would magic be any different? A book taking that view could be really awesome.
Whether The Magicians is that book I don't know.
You have a decidedly unique perspective on things, sir.
Sounds like Rincewind s approach.
That's exactly what I liked about it, baring the depressing read the first book offer, its guiding lines were interesting to follow. All characters are craving for magic, they want magic: Julia is willing to go at lengths to get magic, but once they have it, there is nothing for them to do. There are nothing more than handful of real jobs to be had within the "Magician World" which is leaving the rest of them to rely on their personal will to pursue onto personal projects. Without an outside need to push them forward, without the need to actually make money and a living, they are left with basically nothing.
I thought this premise was extraordinarily interesting. All other books depicting magic would have those characters rise up ranks, be valued and used against creatures of evil, but what about a world where there are no creatures of evil, no evil God trying to destroy the world, what happens to career magicians in a world which does not need them in a way or in another? It is the complete opposite of your average Epic Fantasy series where all protagonists end up needing their magic to defeat whichever devilish foe the author as seen fit to pitch against them. They literally have the "faith of the world" relying on their shoulder which is great.... for Epic Fantasy, but what about if you camp your story into the real world?
You get the Magicians and, in the end, they all end up looking for something more: they are magicians, why isn't there more out there for them?
Okay, I can kind of see the appeal. It is a New Adult novel, and telling kids just hitting adulthood that there is no real reason in life and you're not really going to grow up to be a rockstar is a message many millennials raised on Harry Potter may need. That said, it's still reacting to Harry Potter, which is my whole point in the first place. It's not really original; rather taking original characters and just doing the opposite of the source material.
It's sort of like if someone took Stairway to Heaven and decided that it would be better in a minor key. It might indeed sound better, but the guitarist is still just playing the song someone else wrote.
How is it not original? Which other book offers the same thinking patterns? If you ask me, the unoriginal book isn't the Magicians, but Harry Potter. Harry Potter is working around the most common stereotyped story arcs existing within the fantasy world: orphaned boy, check; prophesied to destroy evil, check; under-dog thrust into a new world, check; epic climaxes where the one boy is the key to defeat the one evil lord, check. So again, what was it which was so innovative in Harry Potter? Not much when it comes down to it besides the fact Rowling somehow managed to write it in a way which pleased a great deal lot of people.
Thus, to me, the innovation isn't Harry Potter, but the Magicians. How many books out there depicts such a depressing/realistic portrayal of magic abilities? Now many books dare to question the "You are special" trope most fantasy stories rely on? Not many... Thus the Magicians comes across as more innovative to me than the other examples suggested. Is it a hard sometimes depressing read which demands time to appreciate? Oh yes, but is it worth it? Oh yes. You aren't special, this was the message and I though it was very... appropriate.
Are you arguing for the sake of devil's advocacy or do you really not see the parallels between Magicians/ Harry Potter/ Narnia? I mean, in the premise/ outlining phase, it's pretty much a search/ replace function for Hogwarts/ Breakbill, Harry/ Quinton, Hermione/ Alice, Dumbledore/ Fogg. And that's not even getting into the blatant renaming of all the Narnia aspects (mainly because I don't remember all the Narnia names off the top of my head). Yeah, the stories eventually go in different directions, but it's reusing the same characters/ roles from HP/ Narnia that The Magicians is basically just one step above fan fiction.
Crap, that's what it is that bugs me so much. I seriously just this moment realized it's just fanfic that got popular. It's the 50 Shades of the fantasy genre.
Oh I totally see the parallels, but just because there is a parallel doesn't mean on story qualifies as fanfiction. There might be something to be said about Quinton being the new Harry, Alice being Hermione and Fogg being Dumbledore, the difference lies in the treatment of their characters and the fact they aren't bond by the literacy strong lines to converge into what we expect them to be. Quinton isn't a hero: the fact he might be inspired by other character doesn't change the fact his trajectory is entirely different. This is the premise of the story, yes there is a magical world out there, but guess what? It isn't going to solve all of your problems whereas being named a wizard instantaneously removes all of Harry Potter's problems.
Harry Potter founding out he is a wizard turned out being the live changing event he dreamed of, parachuting him into a new amazing world where he finds everything he has craved for his entire life and where, more importantly, he is immensely successful. What did being named a wizard did for Quinton, but only further aggravate his already existing issues? That's the point, that's where it is different: magic powers aren't going to solve everything.
As for Narnia, the story is supposed to be a rip off of Narnia. Quinton is obsessed over Fillory and the one kid who got to remain in it: Fillory is meant to be Narnia. You are supposed to think of Narnia when you read the book: it is playing on the trope of children finding a magical world which turns out being everything their dreamed of.
So again, I fail to see how this qualifies as fanfiction. The Magicians is just a spin-off on how magic can fail to be magical.
Come now, I think that you are perhaps finding things that are not there to be found in the first place...
Not every magical school is Hogwarts. It wasn't the first, won't be the last, neither is Brakebills. Ask Patrick Rothfuss, Brent Weeks, Patricia McKillip, Scott Lynch, Robert Jordan and so on. Sure, each story spends a different amount of time in them, gives them different level of importance for the plot, but Universities have existed on Earth for a long time, and Magical Universities have existed in literature for quite some time now too.
About the characters... so one of the main character is a boy? And another - a girl? What are the odds... with so many genders to pick from and he dares to concentrate on those two!? The audacity! And there is a principal running a place of learning... the similarities keep on going. I bet that both Rowling's characters and Grossman's characters need air, food and water to survive... uncanny.
Sorry for being kind of cheeky here, but I think it's more like you've decided not to like the books and you are looking for straw-man reasons to bring it down a peg. As I've said - the trilogy has its flaws, but I cannot find any similarities with Harry Potter at all. The closest you'd get is someone like me saying it's like "Harry Potter for grown-ups". But we don't mean that it's a carbon copy of Rowling's work by that expression, it means that the themes are more mature and some of the plot elements are similar, but similar and derivative doesn't always describe the same thing.
The Narnia thing I'd give to you, but come now - should I go and Google 10 other examples of series that lead to another world through a door, wardrobe, magic bean tree? One of the local book vlogers channels just mentioned one of those in today's video.
Hardly any story idea is completely original anymore - all chefs and cooks in the world use the same ingredients. What matters is how they utilize them to make a good meal and how unique their take on the meal is. And The Magicians trilogy isn't derivative in premise and not that much in tropes.
EDIT: Maxal has gotten first to the finish line. Kudos to him. My post was ment for Matticus.
Think about it this way: Quentin is supposed to be a real American kid. He's brilliant and hard working, but he's lonely and unhappy. He finds magic, which is everything he ever dreamed, but it doesn't change the fact that he's lonely and unhappy. He grew up reading The Chronicles of Narnia* (easier to just call it that, for this explanation), and after flailing in his unhappiness he discovers that Narnia actually exists. He hurriedly gathers his friends to explore the place, they get wrecked, Quentin discovers he's been used, and he tries to give it all up for as normal of a life as he can salvage away from magic.
A real American kid in Quentin's position might have read The Chronicles of Narnia. And wouldn't it be cool if those books had been real? Quentin had read Harry Potter, and the Brakebills kids mentioned it frequently. Narnia/Hogwarts books existing is part of the setting for The Magicians. That's not the same as copying them.
Separate names with a comma.