Hey remember Game of Thrones…that was a thing. If the success of Netflix’s The Witcher has shown anything, it’s that audiences still have a craving for more adult fantasy with moral ambiguity and political intrigue. That said, while I enjoyed the first season of Geralt’s journey into legend, it felt more like…well, like this:
Not that there’s anything wrong with being the next Xena. Definitely nothing wrong there. Much to my surprise, however, I found another Netflix offering did a much better job of scratching that Game of Thrones intrigue itch. If you want complex characters living in a fully realized fantasy world of political complexities and societal strife, you really should check out The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, or as I’ve started calling it: Game of Muppets.
I don’t like to do reviews on this site. I mean it, I’ve honestly never seen a lot of value in being purely subjective about art (books, movies, video games), which are by their nature open to interpretation and subjectivity. Personally, I try to use objective reasoning whenever possible to talk about subjective things (probably don’t succeed often but I try). I don’t mean to badmouth reviews at all – they’re fun, and the well put together ones can be very enlightening.
Maybe it is just that a review sounds so… formal and uniform for this, subject material that is anything but. I could write a glowing review talking about how much I loved Patrick Rothfuss‘ recent Kingkiller offshoot, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, and go into how a well-developed character can carry a weak plot… but I feel like that would entirely miss the point, as well as be misleading. For one, it would imply that I think the plot is weak – I don’t.
Yet Rothfuss’ own words describe what he must have felt writing it. The height of the action in the story is, and I am paraphrasing the author here, soap making. Yep, that’s it. Sounds thrilling right? Objectively speaking – as most good reviews try to incorporate – there isn’t much action going on in The Slow Regard of Silent Things, or much traditional plot structure at all. I’m not sure if I would say it has a climax or a resolution or a rising action or any of it. It simply begins, exists, and ends.
Opening the book, one is immediately greeted by a message from the author – one that pretty much says “don’t read this.” I am generalizing. It simply encourages the reader to not read this first, instead saying that one would be better off reading The Name of the Wind as an introduction to Rothfuss’ world and “true” writing style. It also warns that this book, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, will likely not be enjoyable.
Boy that Patrick, what a salesman! So yeah – pretty much a glaring “don’t read this. You might not enjoy it.”
Such a shame to begin with that much of a downer warning, although I cannot say that I fully disagree. I do not know if someone unfamiliar with the Kingkiller Chronicle and its world would enjoy this book, and it is true that Patrick Rothfuss is not entirely his usual self here. His writing is still superb, with excellent word choice that paints wonderful pictures in the reader’s head. That said, there’s no dialogue and no use of different storytelling techniques to fully flush out the world – staples of Rothfuss’ other works.
Reading this, I don’t think the reader could get any realistic idea of whether or not they would enjoy anything else Patrick Rothfuss has written. That, however, is far from a bad thing – if anything, it simply points to Rothfuss’ versatility as an author. Being able to write in two distinct styles well is to be applauded, whatever the circumstance.
See it’s funny to me how much this book always seems to need a disclaimer before it’s discussed. Like it needs defending before the first page is read. In a way, this is perfect and fully symbolizes the book’s theme and main character.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things can best be described as the journal of a broken human being, someone whose very thoughts have bent from reality. Rothfuss’ introduction at the beginning can be seen as a father interceding on behalf of his daughter.
The book’s main character, Auri, is not entirely true – again to paraphrase the book’s words. Something happened in the past to drive Auri away from people, away from the world above and into a silent and still world below.
Yet Auri seems for the most part okay with this, delighting in her world that, while devoid of other human beings, is filled with “people” for her to talk and listen to. Her friends include gears, candles, sheets, and soap. They don’t really talk, but they have a lot to say.
What follows is, well, Auri’s life. The life of someone broken, who knows it, but is still trying to find beauty and be happy anyway. In this regard, Auri is a true to life and empathetic character. She is a rallying cry to anyone different who just wants to go their own way to a world that screams follow the steps.
It is nothing but spectacular that her book is the same way. Is The Slow Regard of Silent Things a great book? Probably not in the traditional sense – but that’s exactly what it isn’t going for.
Reading it, I couldn’t help to think that there might be another, much more difficult way to write stories. A way that is only possible when the author ceases all together and the book and the character become indistinguishable.
Who is it for: anyone who feels alone. Anyone who feels outside of the stream of common conscience. Anyone who just wants to stop for five seconds wondering “what should I be” and just be. Anyone who is a little broken, and knows it – but is okay with it.
Many characters were omitted and most of the plot threads included in the fifth season were truncated versions of their literary counterparts. Yet the show justified this by taking many plot lines beyond where the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, left them. Yet as the old saying goes, “never leave a job halfway done.”
So let’s talk about this season, in particular last night’s finale. Warning: spoilers.
When season five was announced, one notable absence was announced shortly thereafter: Bran Stark. The show’s head writers sited that the character’s ” immediate future didn’t seem to provide as compelling material.” Fair enough, kind of a dig at Martin’s writing (which covers Bran’s training) but okay – lose a lackluster plot to help preserve the pace….
For those out there who missed it, let me some up what Arya does for ALL of season five: washes dead people, watches people, gets told she is not ready, sweeps. Sure, she kills someone in the season finale… but this was compelling? This is what Bran Stark needed to be sacrificed for? Watching an Arya scene in season five felt like watching paint dry… while being told it is not ready to dry. The main story ground to a halt and the same dull message was repeated over and over again (sort of like the Red Skull’s scenes in Captain America).
Hypocritical to call one plot boring and the other riveting. For those wondering, Arya is still following the book’s plot (for the most part). That said, why? In making changes to the show’s content – head writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have challenged George R. R. Martin. They know how it ends… and they have reacted by losing characters that Martin called important and making substantial changes to the plot… while still following it.
This is what I mean by don’t leave a job half-done. If Benioff and Weiss have problems with Martin’s work, they are not bound to follow it. Yet they for the most part did, and the end result was a finale final hook that fans of the book have known about for a while… and that the author has already essentially debunked.
It is a cliffhanger, and a cheap one. One that hinges on the audience abandoning all reason to believe it is true. Oh if only there was someone… a witch (who conveniently just rode in) maybe, around who could control life and death. Oh drat, all well, on to the next main character driving the Wall/White Walker plot line… oh there isn’t one? That’s odd.
The point is, this is the hook that A Dance with Dragons ended with, but the show is not in the same place. That epic White Walker attack never happened in the books (or if it did we didn’t read about it) so the threat is still far off. In the show, they seem to be like… a day behind John Snow in reaching the Wall. The tension is ratcheted up already, we didn’t need a PSYCHE moment to end the season.
And we didn’t need cliffhangers… oh god the sheer amount of cliffhangers in that last episode was staggering. Forget adapting and source material, that was bad writing.
There was no content in that season finale that served the current season. It was all hook… with no bait. As anyone who watched Lost will tell you, you can’t just ask questions. When the show was winning me over, it was because it wasn’t waiting. Martin’s last two books have entered a holding pattern on the main plot… and it appears that the show ultimately has done the same. At least this time fans know the wait will be finite, but after so much build up – can we still hope for a satisfying payoff?
The final episode reminded me a lot of the last two books – something big is going to happen… eventually. But for now enjoy more death and nudity, if that still affects anyone watching the show at all.
Reading A Song of Ice and Fire feels like reading five books stretched into seven, and unfortunately for all its big “changes”, watching Game of Thrones is feeling the same way.