Sunday, January 07, 2007

Catch-up Post VI: Summerland Revisited

Friday night

I’m re-reading this book. It’s the first book of a fantasy series written by a Christian, which I heard about in World Magazine a few years ago. It had an interesting plot, but at the time it was the only book of the series out. Since then there have been two more written, but money and time to read never seemed to collide. I hate starting a decent series and not finishing it, so when I received several sizable Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmas, I decided to catch up. I’ve ordered the next two, but figured I should re-read the first one to reminding myself of the characters, plot, and world. It’s been a bit disappointing so far. The author, Graham, is only about thirty-six, so maybe his writing will get better. Stephen Lawhead’s did. But I have found myself criticizing him on many points of his writing. The painful thing is that I most likely have some of the exact same problems. To be fair, let me mention some pros and cons I’ve noticed so far:

-Interesting fantasy elements, like “slow time” and the eerie Malekim
-Interesting place known as the Summerlands, where all the future young leaders meet every seven years to train, learn, and form bonds that later help unify the Assembly.
-Christian, with good theology as far as I can tell
-Admirable main character
-Respected authority figures
-Interestingly applicable thoughts on guy’s responsibilities to girls (protecting, not pursuing except for marriage)
-Relationships aren’t killed by too much action
-One of the semi-main characters is mui cool. He has a tiger, who’s his “battle brother,” and they share a close bond. And he also has a mysterious past. What could be better?

-Graham is a bit wordy, in my opinion. If half the length was cut and much condensed, it would be much better. I’m not against long books, but this is pretty rambly.
-A bit heavy on the romantic stuff. Nothing bad, as far as I recall, but it seems like that stuff’s half the plot. Ugh.
-Run-on sentences and many oddly placed commas.
-I can’t find any good quotes. This makes me sad, as it’s one way I tend to judge a book’s worth. I know a book can still be good as a whole story, but chewable quality pith is what makes returns joyous.

Despite the problems I feel so guilty about finding, I’m doggedly slogging through. I think things do get more exciting about the middle. It would be nice if it didn’t take 300 pages to get there. But I feel a burden to read it. For one, since it’s in the precise genre of what I want to write (and written from a clearly Christian perspective), I have the selfish motive of spying out my competition and predecessors. Also, as my mom reminded me, I’m supporting a fellow Christian writing fantasy. I do have the gnawing suspicion that by the time I actually finish a book, what I once saw as an empty vacuum will be crowded by dozens of Tolkien/Lewis wannabes. Sigh.

I do have a question I’m dying to ask Tolkien. What might be his view on all these different fantasy writers? Is it good to have so many varied worlds being built? Should Christian fantasy writers try to be as different as possible in their inventions, or is that just creating further chaos? Maybe it’s not as simple as that. Tolkien and Lewis wrote quite differently, and invented quite different worlds, but they are simultaneously wonderful in their own ways. Maybe I need to be more focused on being creative and writing well for God. As much as I love my Inkling heroes, I need to give up aspirations of being the first true woman Lewis/Tolkien. It would be all for the best. Right?

Some dreams die hard.

But some things endure, as the end of Andrew Peterson’s song reminds me.

Long after we are dead and gone
A thousand years our tale be sung
How faith compelled and bore us on
How barren Sarah bore a son
So come to Canaan, come

Where westward sails the golden sun
And Hebron’s hills are amber crowned
Oh, Sarah, take me by my arm
Tomorrow we are Canaan bound

~Andrew Peterson~

1 comment:

  1. Muglin7:49 AM

    Hey Hobbitgirl, you have been and still are one of my favourite literary critics! What you wrote about "Summerland" doens't really make me want to read the book, but rather, it makes me want to read some more stuff by you! :-) You are very gifted indeed, and it's exciting to see how the qualities in you grow and develop.

    As to you your thoughts on becoming a writer… I've been there, and you really speak my heart (well, apart from being the firt woman Tolkienne of course...)! But then, as someone once probably said, you don't BECOME a writer, you either are one or you aren't. So, in your case, it's just a question of how and where you can put your skills into practice!

    - Muglin