Trial of Flowers by Jay Lake

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rocketscientist
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Trial of Flowers by Jay Lake

Postby rocketscientist » Sat Feb 03, 2007 1:05 pm

I originally posted this in the Musings and Chats forum, but it aught to go here - so if you've already seen this, please forgive!




I just forced myself to finish a book I didn't like becuase it was well written. What does this mean? And what do I say about it?

I've read a number of poorly written books that have somehow held my attention, perhaps because the plot was good, or the characters were compelling. Of course, I've read the odd book that simply blew me away on all fronts: well crafted, intriguing plot, excellent characterization. But I've rarely seen a book that was well crafted, with well developed characters and a reasonable plot that I just could have cared less for.

I'm in a quandary.

After having forced myself to finish Jay Lake's Trial of Flowers I was only irritable.

Let me explain. It is beautifully crafted. The writing style, while a bit baroque, was fluid and easy to read. His use and understanding of arcane language was inspiring. The opening papgraphs about spontaneously combusting Lindon trees drew me right in - with a few deft strokes of his writerly art he made me care about these trees. And therein lay the rub. In the end, the trees were the only thing I cared about in the whole book.

As I said, the characters were well drawn and clear, but they just didn't matter to me. It wasn't that they were grotesque (which they were) or even the fact that they were unlikable. I was intrigued by Micheal Kerney from Light, and that's about as grotesque and unlikeable as you can get.

I guess at the end of the day I was uninvolved in the story. I didn't care about the main characters, or the fate of the City Imperishable (even though it revealed some interesting twists), and when the plot played out, I wasn't even surprised although it had some unexpected turns.

So here I am left asking myself, "Why didn't I like this book?" Maybe, despite the uncompelling but well crafted atmosphere, the clear and fantastical descriptive prose, and the literary style, it was the torture. By the time I got to that (early on in the book) I wondered why I was doing this to myself. *sigh*

All that said, I will look into reading another Jay Lake book - he's an incredibly prolific writer with the ablitily to use different styles. So I will see if some of his near future Texas wizards do something more for me.

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Windwalker
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Postby Windwalker » Sat Feb 03, 2007 1:30 pm

I made a more general reply in the Musings section, but here I wanted to touch upon the matter of torture. Again, please keep in mind I haven't read Trial of Flowers, but I have read a few books where torture is graphically depicted. The one I can never forget is the factual description of an impalement in Ivo Andric's The Bridge over the Drina (an elegiac, unsparing, prophetic book that should be required reading for authors, historians -- and politicians, if they read at all).

I come from a war-torn land where torture was used until the seventies (and not just abstractly either, but on members of my family). I have seen its concrete results on people's bodies and spirits. I recognize that the subject has a place in fiction and that nothing should be barred from inquiry and exploration. At the same time, I feel that authors shouldn't use it for easy shock effect or to offer novelty to jaded readers.

So I cannot consider myself an objective judge of torture depicted in fiction. It literally cuts too close to the bone for me.
For I come from an ardent race
That has subsisted on defiance and visions.

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rocketscientist
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Postby rocketscientist » Sat Feb 03, 2007 1:59 pm

I recognize that the subject has a place in fiction and that nothing should be barred from inquiry and exploration. At the same time, I feel that authors shouldn't use it for easy shock effect or to offer novelty to jaded readers.


I agree with both of these sentiments completely. Many times I've found myself simply lifting my lip to sneer at some author's imature idealogies and thoughtless use of grotesquery (I may have just made up a new word). We pampered westerners (I don't care what one may think of the lost of civil liberties in the US {and yes, it's happening}- we're pampered compared to most of the rest of the world) need to truly appreciate the vaule of words and not use them frivolously.

As the old blues great, Muddy Waters said to (also great) Buddy Guy: "The more notes you play, the less I think of you."

If you are going to ask me to read torture scenes, then they damn well better be a vehicle to change my world view or show me something I NEED to know - just advancing your plot isn't good enough. And if it's just pandering - then you truly lose my respect.


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