Aye we Scoundrel ladies be back!
And this time we discussed a fantasy book called The darkness that comes before by R.Scott Bakker.
First question, Ana, WHY?! Why this book?
Ana: Ehem, I warned you all, time and again, didn’t I? I linked the reviews posted on Goodreads, I told you it is a very different book, difficult, demanding. You said you wanted to give it a try and so you did.
Ram: I knew it would be a hate it or love it book, but the prologue was actually interesting. Then it just became such a mess of characters and points of views that I lost all perspective. I simply didn’t care anymore.
Ana: It is actually a pity you weren’t more...obstinate? Motivated? The novel is not that bad once you get past the first shock of excessive world building :).
Ram: I’ve read novels with excessive world building before and they weren’t as difficult to get into as this was. I’ve seen the book compared to G.R.R.Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire but I read the first two books of that series and that had the decency of starting with a single family unit tying the narrators together. It’s only as the story progresses that their voices and storylines deviate from each other to give the bigger picture. Reading this was like being a drop into an ocean one minute and across the the world on a small island the next. Then maybe I’d be back in the deepest part of the world two minutes later, or on top of the Himalayas. Or jumping from one infodump to another.
Blod: I did like the blurb..ahem, sort of. So I blame myself. But I agree with everything Ram has to say. So I do not need to ;)
Ana: How very convenient, right B? (*snickers*)
Blod: Ok if I must. It was not that it was dreadfully boring, I did make it to half of it. But I was also confused already on page 1. And then omg then! 1000 different POVs, one million languages, states and blah blah blah. I grew bored, I never liked or hated anyone. Well ok 2 guys seemed interested. I just wanted out in the end.
Ram: I’m totally blaming the ebook btw. A paperback with easy flipping to character index would have helped.
Blod. I agree, I only realised when I skimmed the end that there actually was in index *head desk* Not that it seemed to help in this case because I could keep the peeps straight, I just would never remember their long long names.
Ram: I was too busy puzzling over the pronunciation to care.
Ana: Why didn’t you hate anyone? There were plenty of characters to hate. Some of them were really well-rounded and complex.
Ana: Achamian for the starters, Kelhus next.
Blod: Eh, Akka seemed nice, Kelhus I only saw in the beginning and then I kept wanting him to come back and he never did.
Ana: Akka seemed nice? Oh, maybe you didn’t get to that moment when he condemned his own favourite pupil to death? Or when he left Esmi behind knowing fully well what she would have to do to survive?
Blod. Well you did tell me peeps were evil so I just went with it. It was a cruel world, people are cruel then.
Ram: Ana makes it sound so interesting. Too bad I never fully learned who the characters were to CARE.
Ana: LOL maybe I will make you to read this one again or at least try to do so. Borrow a copy from your library.
Ram: If I do, it’ll be an eternity project.
Blod: I am not really into to reading it either, it was just too much, too boring. And not nearly evil enough as Ana promised. But then I did not read it all.
Ana: NOT EVIL ENOUGH? I really don’t understand what you need more. The protagonists in this book kill and manipulate people right left and centre. They do it not because they want to survive or anything, they do it because of ugly politics and religious belief. There is more than one nearly-rape scene, there are Others who can change shape and blend with other people seamlessly, even taking over their bodies. If it is not evil then I am really curious what books you find so.
Blod: That is fantasy ;) Sometimes I do not get myself either. Still not evil enough. But then I just finished a book today where the main character, a woman, raped a guy, killed her own son for not doing what she wanted and then cut his lover’s belly open and taking out the child....yup.
Ram: The level of evil depends on how it’s done as well as the heinous acts themselves. If it’s written poorly it’s not evil enough or as evil as it could be.
Ram: Ana, you wrote a review for this and mentioned the historical and philosophical references. Could you give me an example from within the first hundred pages or so because I utterly missed them?
Ana: Sure. Kelhus is a monk who, reaching the tell-tale age of 30 (the age of Jesus when he discovered his calling and started his public ministry) is going to look for his father, allegedly somebody far more powerful than an ordinary human being. I consider it one of clearer religious references. Also take into account the fact that one of main religions in the novel worships an INRI. Do you know where these letters come from? If you are a Christian you should (look at the inscription on almost every crucifix).
Ram: Oh, those. I noticed those but didn’t really think about them. Maybe I’m just not religious enough to appreciate this book? (INRI = Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, would have remembered it in Finnish but there’s a disconnect in my mind with these things.)
Ana : Then there is that Holy War going on which resembles closely crusades.
Blod: Ugh, Christian religion is so boring, was it my subconscious that made me dislike the book?
Ram: I’m just used to thinking fantasy books making references to Christianity boring or too judgmental I’m a pagan at heart (although I was baptised and had a confirmation).
Blod: Same here, I do not like it when fantasy books go too Christian (even if I like Ram has gone through the same boring rituals:)
Ram: I’d rather read contemporary or historical books set in real world examining and questioning the real faith than a fictitious one based on it.
Ana: Bakker is questioning EVERYTHING - the figure of Jesus/Kelhus is so skewed that I am really surprised no group of Christian fundamentalists has ever condemned this book for such a blatant blasphemy.
Ram: Have you read Holy Blood, Holy Grail?I have. If there are people writing those kind of books without needing to create a fantasy world as a crutch I don’t understand why couldn’t Bakker do that too.
Ana: I suppose he wanted to tell his version of the story. And if you dared to continue you would see Kelhus marrying TWO women actually :D one of them being a prostitute.
Blod: Well go Kelhus then *eye roll* Another thing, so few women in this book, except for our dear prostitute and a queen called a whore a lot.
Ana: ...and there was that Serwe but I suppose you didn’t read far enough to meet her. By the way I agree - too few good female characters to make me satisfied.
Ram: Kelhus seemed like an interesting character but he basically disappeared after the very beginning. I think Bakker tried to do too much too soon and it overwhelms anyone not taking copious of amount of notes. And Christian fundamentalists will protest against anything.
Ana: Definitely true - the world is unfurled too fast and you must get used to new characters being introduced every page which can be a pain you know where. I bet not many Christian fundamentalists read books at all btw ;) especially fantasy books with religious undercurrents.
Blod. Ha, burn! :)
Ana: So how would you describe shortly your reading experience? (*puppy eyes*)
Blod: Confusion leading to interest and ending in boredom.
Ram: Intriguement killed by the scope of things. Aka poor writing.
Ana: I read it till the end and Iiked it with some caveats of course. I am a weirdo but don’t shoot me, please.
Ram: You’re just too smart for us. And that doesn’t get you shot, ever.
Ana: I think it’s not the matter of my brain, just pure obstinacy but thanks.
Ram: Or you just couldn’t get out of the house because of the snow.
Happy Easter from the past. Tune in again next month.