I’m nearing the end of my 26-Week Book Challenge (and I do believe I’ve managed to string it out for almost a year), only to find that for this week’s entry I already sort of wrote a post. However, since that was now about a month ago, I’m going to shamelessly tread the same ground and talk about it again. ‘It’ being an author I used to love but don’t anymore.
The author in question is Piers Anthony, and the reason I don’t like him anymore is the issue I mentioned previously, i.e. the fact that he railroads his characters to such a degree that they end up doing things completely against their will, character or both. Split Infinity may not necessarily be the best example of this, but it was the first book of his that popped into my mind.
I mentioned the Incarnations of Immortality series before, which had me absolutely, gloriously hooked the moment I finished chapter one of On a Pale Horse with the knowledge that the main character had just killed Death. Few books have ever managed to reel me in so tightly, so quickly.
But even when I first read that series, things niggled at me. Impossibly contrived plot twists. Characters forced to do things they did not want to do. And then I got to For Love of Evil and read about a good, pious man who doesn’t just end up as the head of the Spanish Inquisition*, but subsequently ends up being the Devil himself. Not because he wants to, but because he has no other option. And that really bothered me.
Then I read Bio of a Space Tyrant. Again, the main character does things not because he wants to, but because they are necessary, or he’s forced into them (or both – my memory is a little fuzzy). The Tarot trilogy too – and I realised it’s a theme in Anthony’s books. And I didn’t like it.
I have no inherent problems with characters doing things they don’t want to do, out of necessity or because they’re forced to or whatever, but most of the time when this happens in other books they still have a choice to do something else, even if that is a worse option. Whether it’s Anthony’s writing style that suggests they don’t or whether it’s actually true I can’t really remember, but in his books the choice seems to be completely absent, and I really hate that.
Maybe I’ll pick up his books again sometime, but at the moment I really don’t feel the need to, no matter how much I liked them at the time.
A secondary place in this entry I suppose should go to Enid Blyton, whose Famous Five series coloured my childhood. I don’t know how often I read all the books about Julian, George, Dick and Anne (and of course Timmy the dog), but it was lots and lots. Then I tried to read them again as an adult, and I simply couldn’t.
Now, I know that these are children’s books, and that they were written in the forties or fifties or whatever, so I didn’t go in completely unprepared. I was expecting them to be simplistic, and probably patronising, but I was interested in reading the books with the knowledge of England as a country that I did not possess when I was a child. I was looking forward to reading about places and customs which I didn’t have a clue about when I was a little Dutch child in the Netherlands.
What I wasn’t expecting was just how unbearably twee the whole series is. In the first book, all the kids are at George’s place and they are being tutored by a governess or home teacher or whatnot, and *gasp* George is rude to him/her! And not rude in the sense of calling him an ignorant twat or something, no, something so ridiculously mild that I just couldn’t take it seriously.
Different times, different mores, I know, but I just couldn’t do it. Which is a shame, because those cultural bits really would have been interesting with my newfound knowledge of England/Britain.
I have two more posts to do as part of this book challenge, and then I’m out of subjects to write about. If anyone has any ideas to toss at me then I will be very grateful for them, and until then I have a tentative idea for an Alphabet Challenge. Nothing too strenuous, just a selection of random words for each letter of the alphabet with a brief piece about it. If you like this idea, please feel free to give me random words to cover. Right now I would mostly like anything from A to E, but don’t restrict yourself – please do give me any word you like. Anything. I mean it. The comment box is hungry!
*Nooobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise! Surprise and fear. Our two chief weapons are surprise and… Ahem, sorry, I went to see Monty Python live last week, and the effects linger.