Monday, June 8, 2009


My sister Jen recently wrote a post in which she talked about how she tried to get into science-fiction but just couldn't do it, it was too weird for her. Being the older sister she mentions in her post, I felt compelled to write about why I do like it, and fantasy, so much. Then I had the chance to read Warbreaker and realized that this book is the epitome of all that I love about the speculative genres.
To begin with, there is an incredible amount of stuff going on. I have always had an inability to be content with only a portion of my brain engaged. I read while I listen to music. I used to do homework with music on ( it used to bug roommates and siblings alike). I sew or crochet or fold laundry while I watch movies. Unless the experience is completely immersive, like in the theater, I need something else to do. I also tend to bite my nails when I read so I've recently tried crocheting while reading, with mixed results.
The best books, the ones I can read and do nothing else; the ones that I read and really do nothing else and my house suffers, have so many different things to think about that various parts of my brain can all be kept busy, even while reading the same book. Fantasy and Science Fiction does this best. There is a new world to explore, new people to meet, a new magic system to learn about and (in the best ones) a great plot to follow.
Most great literary novels are great because of the characterisations. I have read many of them and though Jane Austen is nice, her plots fit in a teacup (nicely enameled with a gold rim). Mystery novels are supposed to be plot driven, but lately they have fallen into a more character driven style, unfortunately leaving behind the twists and turns of the classic puzzle detective story. I am a plot junkie. I want to find out what happens. It seems that the last truly plot based fiction genres are science fiction and fantasy.
That is not to say that I don't like a good character study. A plot is not interesting if you don't care if the people live or die or explosively decompress out the airlock. When you like the people you are reading about the plot takes on an extra urgency. The kind that makes you stay up until 3 am and count it worth it for a restful sleep. You think about the people later and talk about them as if they are real. If all human experience is ultimately what happens in our minds, perhaps they are as real to me as the people I only read about in cyberspace.
The best fiction has all of these elements, blended together in a nice package that you can get for only 27.95 at the nearest bookseller. Which brings me back to the pretty picture at the head of the post: Warbreaker has all of these things, blended together in a style that I am beginning to see as uniquely Brandon Sanderson's and no one else's. Not only did it have a plot that twisted and wound enough for any three mystery novels, it had an ending that had me pausing in amazement for hours after I finished it. Oscar Wilde's dialogue with the action of the Bourne Identity.
I read this book in one day. 592 pages. It is good that Sanderson only puts out a few books a year. I am still amazed by the complexity, intelligence, ending and general awesomeness (I don't use that word lightly) of this book. Warbreaker is why I love fantasy and science fiction.

Warbreaker. Brandon Sanderson. Tor. 2009

1 comment:

jendoop said...

Thanks for the explanation.

I think one reason I'm not as much into complexity is I try to read too fast and am not as smart as you. I just can't keep it all straight and miss the nuiances.

After listening to Writing Excuses I am more interesting in reading a Sanderson book, this one sounds like a good one to try. If I can find it here.