Monday, 14 September 2009

Dear Guy, this is an intervention


Oh, Guy - Can I call you Guy? Thanks.

Ysabel is the second novel of yours I've read and I was hoping for something as good as The Lions of Al-Rassan. I didn't think The Lions of Al-Rassan was perfect; however, it was a rollicking good read and not only did I not want it to end, but I also wanted more books like it. I thought I could maybe count on you, Guy. I may have thought wrong but as I'm told The Last Light of the Sun is amazing, I won't give up on you just yet.

But I want to say some things to you which I know your editor won't say because he/she/it is enjoying the cash cow you've become and no longer gives a f*** if your work is actually any good. This might hurt a little but the book world will be a better place - and I know you can make it a better place! - if you pay attention.

Having read The Lions of Al-Rassan, I was worried maybe you couldn't create female characters that could be said to exist (well, be comfortably imaginable) in three dimensions. I'm afraid I'm even more worried now. Because it's not just women you can't seem to draw either convincingly or compellingly - it's also anyone in the real, modern world. As Ysabel is set in the modern world, this was a serious problem. All the characters in this novel seemed drawn from an after school special OR from a comedy skit in which Dave Chappelle makes fun of upper middle class white people.

To compound this issue, dear Guy, you're particularly not so good with the teenagers. Ned is about the lamest paper doll of a 15-year old I've ever been afflicted with. Adding some "likes" and "whatevers" to the kid's dialogue (internal and external) does not a convincing teenager make. I'm not really into them either, but I'm pretty sure they're a little more complicated than that, so give them their due! And to make Ned the hero, and this the most thinly disguised YA novel, like, ever (only disguise-able because of your reputation, man - can you not use your powers more responsibly?) - didn't make for a very satisfying read.

Yet, Ysabel was not a complete loss, so don't cry, Guy. It was good in that un-putdownable way, at points - but all those points involved Ysabel and/or Phelan and/or Cadell being placed in the foreground. Mostly Phelan and Cadell because you know, your woman thing still kinda sucks. Regardless, I didn't see these three characters nearly enough.

So, I'm a little disappointed in you but I also know you've still got the magic. It's just a matter of playing to your strengths: olde timey fantasy with a minimum of female characters. If you write that I will read it. But do us all a favour and kick that lazy-ass editor to the curb.

5 comments:

heidenkind said...

That book sounds really, really bad. Sigh. I hate it when teenagers are not convincing characters--seriously, it's one of my pet peeves.

oneyearbook said...

Hey - Ysabel is (in my opinion, of course) the weakest of all of GGK's books. I personally think his much earlier books are the best of the lot, specifically Tigana and the three books that make up The Fionavar Tapestry. I don't know if you'll think the woman-thing is fixed by either of those - I'm not particularly bothered by Jehane - but I think Dianora (Tigana) and Kimberly (FT - and, kind of sadly for me, she shows up in Ysabel) are pretty awesome.

I wasn't too keen on Last Light, and A Song for Arbonne isn't his best work but still a lot of fun.

BTW I came over to the blog after seeing your comment on the John Crowley interview - count me in as a giddy Canadian fan girl of his too.

An Anonymous said...

I have to agree with heidenkind here: unrealistic young characters are one of the worst things in literature. A good author needs to be able to take on young voices without making them "young" through (often misused) slang and "like, whatever"s... it's not supposed to be so forced...

Yuri... said...

Awesome review Colleen - I laughed and I cried! I really hope that the author stumbles across this one day and gets in touch with you for some pointers ;)

That being said, I'll add "The Lions of Al-Rassan" to my "if I find it in a used bookstore..." list!

Colleen said...

heidenkind and An Anonymous: It's one of my pet peeves too. Bitterness!

onyearbook: I've also been told Tigana is really good. Maybe I'll put that ahead of The Last Light of the Sun in the hopes of restoring some faith in GGK. And John Crowley...sigh.

Yuri: I'm glad you took pleasure out of my pain; that way it wasn't a waste ;)