Monday, March 21, 2011

The Wise Man's Fear

This was an odd book for me to read. It totally did not meet my expectations, but I loved it anyway. For complete disclosure I should mention that my sweet husband hated it. Perhaps hate is too strong, but he quit in the middle and wanted to explain why he did to me at length.

This was the most immersive novel I have read in a long time. It only loses the "ever" in that sentence because I would often get so into books when I was younger that people would have to yell to get my attention. Unfortunately I don't get that into my books anymore, too many other things (children) to keep track of, even while reading.

By immersive I mean that I was completely a part of this book. I could almost hear the voice of the main character telling about his life. I could see the locations and my emotions were twisted all over the place as I read. The odd thing is that usually it takes a good plot to pull me in this way, but this book only vaguely has a plot. It is just a guy telling about his life. It had the same type of plot you get in your Grandpa's stories. It also had the same kind of ending, i.e. none at all.

I am too lazy to put some excerpts in and it would be difficult to choose a favorite passage. The beauty of the world and the way you get into the main character's head is astounding. The sense of menace and impending doom were also pretty amazing. It messes with your head a bit to be reading of generally good things happening to your character all the while waiting for the crash, the fight, the unlucky meeting that turns your happy ending into a tragedy. Rothfuss is an amazingly skilled writer and knows how to pull the reader's expectations all over without pulling a reader out of the story. It makes the simple act of reading a book an exhilarating experience. And then it ended.

The ending was odd because it just quit. But unlike some other books that just quit (I'm looking at you, Wheel of Time) I wasn't annoyed because the story was over, I was annoyed because the huge bad thing that I had been anticipating for a hundred pages hadn't happened yet. The whole book was a giant build-up to some awful conclusion, which didn't actually happen. The next book is going to be one long series of awful things if Rothfuss follows through with all of the foreshadowing and promises he has made.

I also have some philosophical difficulties with the book. These difficulties show up in a lot of fiction, since at least Heinlein in the '70s. So here it is: SEX CANNOT BE SEPARATED FROM EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT IN HUMAN BEINGS!!!!!!! I don't know how many books I have read where the protagonist meets some idyllic society that just has casual sex and it means nothing. There is even a great quote from the book, "A penis is not your heart." (or something like that, I'm too lazy to get the book to check.) I do not believe, feel, think, or otherwise buy the idea that sex can just be sex without consequences. Perhaps the fact that all the authors that talk about such things are male is a clue (fantasy fulfillment anyone?) I could see the falsehood of this idea when I was a teenager with very little concept of sex. Now that I am a grown woman with enough experience of physical love to have six children I find it even more ridiculous. This is the part that made D. put the book down for good.

It didn't ruin the book for me, the writing and characters were too good for that, but on Goodreads I gave it 4 stars instead of five. Harsh punishment I know, but that's about all I can do. I will probably buy this book and definitely read it again, but argue my way through the last half.

The Wise Man's Fear. Patrick Rothfuss. DAW Books. 2011

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