Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Revisiting Old Friends

How did we get along before EBay?
I've been buying up books I loved before but couldn't afford in hardback, and EBay is a great place to start. I've managed to pick up all of the Brains Benton books, I'm beginning to get the old Alfred Hitchcock Three Investigator's Series, and my greatest acquisition so far has been the 50th Anniversery boxed editions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Both are very nice, even though they were mass-market editions and probably will not appreciate much in value. I picked them both up for less than $75.
I recently started collecting the Tad Williams Osten Ard trilogy Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I've picked up fine editions of the first and last books, and am waiting on a decent one of the second to come to a close.
I just finished the first volume, The Dragonbone Chair, and found it to be a mixed bag of memories, revaltions, and disappointments.
The Dragonbone Chair begins with the birth of Seoman, clearly someone important who we'll hear more about later. Then we pick up his life as a teen, stuck as a kitchen worker to the taskmaster Racheal. He wants adventure and swordplay and travel.
That's the first 200 or so pages.
Yeah, it takes a while to get going.
Then the King dies, mysterious things start happening, there is evil afoot. Simon's mentor is killed, and off he goes, turned out to the wild to find his fate.
There are the requisite fantasy creatures here: trolls, giants, fairies (although Williams calls them Sithi, we know what they are) and wizards. There's ancient evil, and a land with a long history of great import.
So it was slow going, but once Simon leaves the Hayholt (the castle he grew up in), things get better. There is the occasional expository segment by someone wise to fill us in on history we should know. Williams has the annoying habit here of occasionally throwing in bad dialogue attribution (he smirked, etc), but mostly the writing stands up well from a structural standpoint and sometimes soars.
At 765 pages (hardback) and containing appendices of names and places, it's a daunting read. But it is well worth the effort, as Williams weaves a brilliant world here, full of rich history, characters and mystery. On to book two, as soon as I win it.
Once I'm done with this series, I think my next purchases will include the Williams's Otherland series. Longer and more complex than the Osten Ard trilogy, but more creative.
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