| Guilty pleasures vs. books that would be if I didn't I hate them too much
||[Jun. 12th, 2010|03:05 pm]
I really need a snappier title.
My guilty pleasure author is Simon R. Green. He has an urban fantasy series (10 books right now), a secondary world fantasy series (10 books if you count the ones that are all connected), a science fiction series (10 books), the Secret Histories series (4 books so far, which does the "hidden all-powerful but highly dysfunctional family protecting the world from evil" shtick while parodying James Bond), and a couple books that don't fit in anywhere else (like the novelization of the movie Robin Hood that he was tapped to write). Ideas come a mile a minute. Infodumps are everywhere. People randomly fall in love, and there is at least one heroic sacrifice per book. The style doesn't vary depending on genre; it's half gore, half one-liners, layered with mawkish sentimentality and psychotic killers. Trying to take Simon R' Green's writing seriously, for me, is like trying to take the claims of potato chips to be a health food seriously. And I get the impression that he knows this, and is having a hell of a lot of fun. I read him when my brain wants a vacation because I know they're silly, and to get a good feeling for what he's like, look at the second cut with spoilers for the latest Secret Histories novel.
But a lot of other "fun" books, I've read, particularly urban fantasy, try to be dark and brooding- it doesn't help that a lot of them are getting some of their DNA from noir mystery, except that there's no sign the authors have ever read Chandler- and in doing so, they become worse than silly: they become laughable.
Spoilers for Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series and Seanan McGuire's October Daye series.
1) First of all, idiot plots. Okay, so you're locked in a building with a steadily increasing number of murders and thus steadily diminishing number of suspects, and yet you literally cannot solve the mystery until you are down to two people? When the character is touted as being an awesome detective, for decades? When I spotted the killer's identity on page 50? Wow.
Also, you never ask to see their employment dossiers? Okay!
Also, instead of being careful after being wounded once, you keep doing things that tear your wounds further open, which means you fall unconscious at least three times.
Also, your reaction to every single emotional upset is to cry. Along with the reaction of every other character in the book.
Also, someone tells you they've got to convey important information to you, right now, but you'd rather go to sleep instead because of aforementioned stupid wound-tearing actions. And then of course you wake up and they're murdered.
(This was all in one book).
When I am tons smarter than your awesome detective heroine who is supposedly a) an expert in her job and b) skilled and experienced because of decades living between the human and the fae worlds, then it is time to introduce your book to the wall.
2) Stupid villains. Butcher has far too many people who want to torture his hero instead of just killing him. Sure, I could buy some of them being like that. But not all of them. Also, when they do decide to kill him, they always approach slowly. No.
3) Villain monologues. October Daye only "solves" her mysteries because the villains tell her every single detail at the end of the stories. Yes, coincidence and insane villains totally contribute to my taking your book seriously.
4) Stupid gender attitudes. Harry Dresden likes to brag about how hard and cold he is, but he goes berserk when a woman is harmed, can be seduced by female vampires who he knows are trying to control his mind, and notices the breasts of every single woman over puberty. He also knows this is a problem, but excuses it with "chivalry." After twelve books in which he's faced female as well as male villains at all sorts of levels, this becomes less a character trait and more of a meta "this is what I want to do, and doesn't it make the character awesome???" trait that would shame a teenage Mary Sue writer high on sugar. At least most teenage Mary Sue writers are not publishing twelve books full of their stuff.
By the way, according to October Daye, the best time to have sex is after you've just lost a ton of blood, and the best person to have it with is your sleazy ex who abused you in the past but who you still believe loves you anyway and has done weird things that ought to make you suspect him in the past few days. I can't imagine why her method isn't more popular.
5) Characters never having to pay for their mistakes. The mistake Seanan McGuire chooses to have her heroine brood on is a death, which does, in fact, happen as a direct result of the heroine's actions. Okay! But she broods on the death because she "failed to be a hero" for the dead girl, when the girl died because the heroine couldn't bring herself to stop or harm someone who had just confessed to murder and torture. Because, you see, she loves him. The heroine's complicity in the girl's death in this fashion is never mentioned.
Same thing with Harry Dresden. Have a fallen angel in your head that could corrupt your soul and that got there because of your own carelessness? Well, see, what happens is that you worry endlessly about it, and then she turns out to be good after all because you had one pompous conversation with her about free will and she sacrifices herself for you. Burn your hand with a blast of uncontrolled fire? Don't worry, it turns out that it's going to grow back, based on a fortuitous discovery in the next novel! Be prepared to sacrifice yourself for your child? Well, you know, you don't have to, because you can force the mother of the child to sacrifice herself instead.
*For example, in the first 100 pages of From Hell With Love- the titles of this series parody James Bond novels, so The Man With the Golden Gun becomes The Man with the Golden Torc, etc.- there have been: the slaughter of two armies, the destruction of a supposedly invulnerable hotel, the destruction of a supposedly invulnerable dragon, villains with the names of Doctor Delirium and the Immortals, a conversation with a woman called the Waking Beauty who can never sleep because she traded her dreams to the elves for immortality, two violent murders, a riot, an argument that nearly resulted in people killing each other, a visit to a forest full of murderous beasts and talking squirrels, biker witches, a description of a house guarded by steampunk airships and winged unicorns, and weapons with names like the Gemini Replicator. Simon R. Green never met an idea he didn't like.