I have been re-reading George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series recently.
On the first read I can recall being terribly frustrated by the lack of pace – and by how thin the progress of the storyline was stretched between the huge number of PoV characters. Talking to others I am not alone there.
Part of the reason for the re-read was inspired by my lack of reading material, partly by GRRMs reading at Worldcon. Wow! It made me realise how beautiful his prose was, by turns powerful, detailed and poetic. Hearing it in his own voice made me reevaluate what I was taking from the read – or looking for.
Wiser on the second read, I decided to enjoy the writing for what it was and treat each chapter more or less as a short story – contained within itself. It’s a lot less frustrating that way (I would have loved to read a book on Daenerys all by herself – who can’t like an underdog? Or a dragon for that matter:)).
It’s also led me back to something I’ve wondered at for a while. Why is it the stories with an extremely long story arc, with a tortuously slow pace (well to me anyway) are so successful? Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series comes to mind, as well as David Eddings. I gave up on both of these authors because of the lack of pace. Although I also had the sense that Eddings was deliberately padding, while I was also frustrated with Jordan’s characterisation. I would put GRRMs storycraft and characterisation in a far superior class to both.
OK. I like action – but then again I’m a die-hard David Gemmell fan, and he never cluttered either his prose or his storylines. I guess that people also have different levels of tolerance for the delay to resolution.
What is it about these longer story arcs that creates such success? Do people just love to be immersed into that world come what may and don’t care about the pace? I’d love to know!