Everything under the sun

Watching SuperGirlfriend in the early morning of a workday when she's running late is interesting. The stress pushes her onto a click on her dial where she has HyperSonic Speed, and there are after-images everywhere. Since she's a lovely woman, this isn't a bad thing, but it's a little unsettling, because you never know which one of them might be the real her. ;)

As I only own the first two seasons of ANGEL, and the fifth, she's used them all up now and reluctantly switched to BUFFY. She thinks BUFFY is okay, but it's not ANGEL. I'm hoping as she moves more fully into the second season, she'll get more into it, as, of course, the second season is pretty much all about Angel and his back story, as well as being arguably the best season of BUFFY there is. Having said that, ANGEL is the more adult themed of the two series; a great deal of the teen age high school angst in BUFFY can be tiresome to grown ups who aren't particularly nostalgic for that era of our lives.

Although I said I wouldn't do it until at least A DANCE WITH DRAGONS was out, I couldn't stick with it. I broke down and started reading A FEAST FOR CROWS a few weeks ago. On the positive side, although it looks like an absolutely slender volume compared to its preceding installment, A STORM OF SWORDS, it's actually quite lengthy, weighing in at 547 pages of new text, I think.

On the negative side, though, well, it's not finished, goddamit. As I'm seeing all over the Web at this point: "Martin has explained that the book was becoming too long, and could not be published as a single volume, so he decided to tell the full story of half the characters, rather than half the story of all the characters. The remaining plotlines will form the foundation of A Dance with Dragons, which is now half-completed."

There's only one problem with that oft bruited bit of paraphrasing; it's all horseshit. This book doesn't tell the full story of anyone. It ends with every single character in it at a cliff hanger... a cliff hanger we now know will not be resolved until Martin finishes, not the next book in the series, but the one after that. And since it takes Martin five years to finish a fucking book, well, we're looking at somewhere around 2016 before anyone gets a chance to find out whether Brienne actually got hung by outlaws or not, whether Cersei or Margaery (or neither) gets out of the clutches of the Church Militant alive, and what Jaime does about Cersei's summons to be her champion. Not to mention getting any more on Sam, seeing any more of the Mage heading off to join Danaerys, or receiving any kind of explanation for why the hell Pate is apparently still alive when we saw him die at the start of this book.

That may give you an idea of just where it is that this fantasy series has gone so badly wrong -- it simply has too many characters, and all of them are fascinating and three dimensional, and they all have their own very intricate, often interacting storylines. The back of the current volume contains 64 PAGES of appendices, all of which do nothing except list by name and very brief description all the characters we've seen so far in the book. SIXTY FOUR GODDAM PAGES OF BRIEF CHARACTER NOTES. When, in all honesty, the only characters we really care about all that much are the Starks and the Lannisters, and shit, there are too many of them, too, despite Martin's noble attempts to thin the herd a bit over the course of his story.

The worst part of all this is that Martin clearly has no ability to impose discipline on himself or his story, and none of his editors are willing to, either. This series has made Martin a force to be reckoned with in the realm of fantasy publishing; A FEAST OF CROWS has been fifteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. When you can pull down those kind of sales figures, you have the ability to simply tell your editors to shut the fuck up, and most editors, realizing this, will simply sit there more or less happily and wait for the next book, no matter how long it takes, because by now this series has a guaranteed audience numbering in the hundreds of thousands so there's a big payday whenever Martin manages to get a new volume out, regardless of how little he actually manages to advance his plot in 500 to 600 new pages.

So, with no one to tell Martin "Hey, George, you really don't need to open your latest installment by introducing half a dozen brand new characters when you already have about a thousand on the boards", well, he's going to just keep making the shit up as it occurs to him to do so... and in all honesty, I get the very bad feeling that Martin himself has no idea what he's going to do with all these fascinating fictional people and plot threads. Brienne with Jaime's sword Oathkeeper? That has to be going somewhere, right? Theon must still have some part to play in all this, yes? That ancient cracked horn Sam Tarly is carrying around with him as he wanders the earth is going to be an important plot element at some point, surely? What about the enormous trumpet that supposedly summons dragons that the new King of the Ironmen has? We're going to do something with that, right? And the way Jon Snow switched the two kids up on the Wall, that must be important. And... well...

This is the problem. Martin is throwing story elements and possible plot devices out like a deranged boiler worker shoveling coal into the furnace, and I find it impossible to believe that he actually has more than the vaguest idea where all this is going to end up. I wouldn't mind so much him creating all this cookie dough if I thought it was all going to get baked by the time the series finally finishes, but I have little faith it will. Even assuming Martin lives to finish the series (and recent photos of him don't show a guy who exactly looks hale and hearty), I have a bad feeling that a lot of this stuff is simply going to get forgotten, dropped off along the way side, or peremptorily tossed out.

For the immediate future, then, life is bleak once again in Westeros, at least, for those of us who like to live there part time. Martin's site has a post no more than a few days old indicating he's less than half done with the next book (which is, in fact, the other half of this book). That means, regardless of how optimistic he wants to be, that it will be probably three years, at least, before we see A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, and then another five, at least, before THE WINDS OF WINTER, and then another five or six after that before A TIME FOR WOLVES, which hopefully will be the last of it, and, if the title holds true, the best of it as well, as whichever members of the Stark family still survive by that time finally emerge triumphant over their many enemies.

It should be noted, I suppose, that A FEAST FOR CROWS is as good as any of its preceding installments, but dammit, I'd like a time machine so I could skip ahead to 2040 or so and pick up the entire boxed set.

Although that would be depressing, too, because the music will suck worse than it does now, everyone will be wearing filter masks, we'll be living under a constant Code Orange terrorism alert, and George W. Bush will still be the Commander In Chief, 'pending the end of the War and the resumption of temporarily suspended elective procedures'. And I'll probably have to steal a copy of the boxed set, anyway, since I won't have a Federal I.D./Citizen's Work Credit Card, and thus will have no way to make a legal purchase.

Hmmm. Maybe I need to get in that time machine and head back to 1999, instead... with enough newspaper headlines and videotaped evidence to convince Ralph Nader to stay out of the election.

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