Tag Archives: bad fiction

Stone of Tears Review

I finished this book a couple weeks ago, but haven’t had the time to give my thoughts on it. Until now, so I can finally check it off my Day Planner.

The plot was good. I’ll try not to be too critical of this one.

The Story

The book picks up right where it left off from the first one, and honestly, this story feels like the second half of Wizard’s First Rule. Richard parts ways with his mentor Zedd for the purposes of marrying Kahlan. He leaves so quickly that he misses a lot of action that could have prevented a lot of confusion in Richard’s side of the story. A sect called the Sisters of Light (and Dark) are introduced, and once again, because of prophecies, the Sisters of Light decide to take Richard under their wing for their own purposes. They seek him out and he goes off alone with Sister Verna on the day of his wedding — but not after Kahlan purposefully misleads Richard into thinking that he must degrade himself again by wearing the scholastic collar.

So he leaves, thinking she doesn’t love him anymore, and then the story takes us back to Kahlan’s journey of discovering some vindictive Imperial Army who have been wreaking havoc in the Midlands. She fights against them, then eventually she is captured by the Midland’s government and is sentenced to death. Of course, she is only a scapegoat and is wrongfully accused, but tell that to the sheep who want her head.

Meanwhile, Richard takes his trek with Sister Verna to Aydindril. He fights with her the whole time, vowing he’ll kill them all if they anger him (Rich, get over it already!). Along the way, he befriends a gar, Gratch, and when they arrive at Aydindril, Sister Verna is demoted for his bad behavior. He immediately starts causing trouble and sneaking around, then figures out his powers and purposes, that he is really still a puppet at this point in time, and he exposes the Sisters of Darkness by the end of his stay there. He makes two friends there (why is it that I like his friends better than the MC’s Richard and Kahlan?) and despite their using him, he saves Aydindril and finally repairs the veil and closes the boxes of Orden. However, he and Kahlan are not reunited by the last paragraph (at least not in reality as we know it) and that separation is a decent enough cliffhanger for me.

My Thoughts

This second book is a whopping 880 pages, and unnecessarily so. Goodkind gets a bit repetitive and goes as far as the middle of the book to rehash what the first book was about. If one hasn’t bothered to read the first of a series, why in the world are they starting from the second book? I feel that it is the reader’s loss if they’re confused, and that the author is under no obligation to have to reiterate and summarize to the reader. Maybe it’s a publisher’s requirement, I don’t know. But Goodkind didn’t have to write pages upon pages of summary.

This brings me to my main peeve about Stone of Tears: while Goodkind is a good writer, he is lacking a good editor. The setup was good enough, but his middle dragged and there are numerous areas that should have been condensed. The end was great, and connecting the dots and watching everything unravel was enjoyable. But the length at certain points stick out and taints it as a whole. And honestly, I trudged through every page preceding p800, but after p800, I began to lose track of time as I (finally) got caught into the story. But then there were only 80 pages of exciting story to read through.

Pros:

I enjoyed some new characters, especially Warren and Sister Verna. The climax was better than WFR, and overall, the progression of the characters and events was realistic enough, despite the superfluity of prophecies.

Cons:

The foreshadowing becomes painfully obvious at times. It took too long for Richard to accept the collar, too long for him to realize that he possesses Subtractive Magic, Kahlan’s interaction with the army of boys was too long, Denna’s appearance wasn’t exactly easy for me to accept, and her “favor” at the end was just a little too eye-rolling convenient. Richard’s forced dismissal of Gratch to realize was Kahlan did was convenient, and speaking of Richard. He was pretty annoying until he accepted himself and began shaking his sword around — then things picked up very nicely. By the way, did Goodkind ever mention that the sword has the word “truth” on it?

One aspect of the world setting kind of hit me as odd, in that many people east of the Westlands seem very primitive and uncivilized, and there’s only a few sophisticated cities like Aydindril and the People’s Palace popped right in the middle. Also, I’m disappointed that he hadn’t updated the map (and even more disappointed that it’s still the same map for Blood of the Fold), but I suppose Goodkind has a reason for that, though I don’t know it.

Eh, where is Galea, Choora, Kelton, and everything else? I'd like to know where those two towers are, too.

And thankfully, we hardly spent any time from Rachel’s point of view, because his “something fierce” fixation was really getting on my nerves. Shota’s revelations were convenient, but if she could foresee so much, then why couldn’t she tell Richard how to save the world? Also, I just want to make a point here to other SoT reviewers that there were not that many rape scenes. People make it sounds as if there was raping and pillaging going on in every chapter. But here, I will insert that the castle carnage scene was probably quite unnecessary.

I have to give Stone of Tears a 5 out of 10. Many unnecessary descriptions and tedious plot moments didn’t make it an all-too enjoyable read for me. Some repetitiveness also got under my skin, and I strongly believe this book should have been around 500 pages at the most, not almost 900 pages. So I’m thrilled that Blood of the Fold is only around 600 pages. Here’s to a more direct story!

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Wizard’s First Rule Review

Terry Goodkind

I finished Wizard’s First Rule today and took me a total of about 3 1/2 days of actual reading. 800+ pages, I mean come on. The review itself will probably be pretty short because all I can really say about it is that it’s unadulterated fantasy with all its tropes and predictable plot lines, as well as following Campbell’s Hero’s Journey pretty much to the T. If you like plain and simple fantasy, this is highly recommended. Offended by some BDSM? Then I don’t recommend. Now, on to the meat and bones:

Pros:

  • Decent story and plot.
  • I admire whenever an author places his readers from the antagonist’s perspective (hell, I’m doing it right now).
  • Questions were always raised and curiosities piqued, details included sparingly to accomplish just that.
  • Good pacing, not too many dull or preachy moments. Good executions save some minor editing misspells. That’s what future book editions are for. I don’t understand why people get so critical over misspells (unless there are more than 10+ in one book. This one had about 6 that I immediately noticed).
  • Favorite part of the book: crossing the Boundary.

Cons: (why are they always so many more cons than pros?)

  • Things happen way too conveniently … for everyone.
  • Secondary (and tertiary) character perspectives enter way too late in the story. I understand the need for setup but it happened abruptly and, well, you guessed it, too conveniently. Especially when he never really came back to that secondary character (Rachel). Unless she’s going to have a future role in the series? I guess I’ll just have to find out on my own.
  • Prophecies. I don’t mind them but when it starts to feel like the author is writing say, the climax, just for the sake of some said prophecy — well, that gets a little annoying. Sure, I like to see how true the prophecy is, but when all the prophecies presented involve the current characters, it gets a little too epic too fast, too conveniently.
  • The hero is typical, internally distressed and confused, not wanting any power at all (“I just want to be a woods guide!!”) and reluctantly takes his predestined role. And he’s damn good at it. In fact, he is something of a messianic character because there are a hell of a lot of prophecies that say he is the one and only one able to defeat fill-in-the-blank(s).
  • Chase was my favorite character. He looked like he had a lot of potential (and I’ll admit, before Chase passed out, I thought he’d be dead by the end of the book because he’s just that good. Guards always tend to die.) but then Goodkind decided he wasn’t really necessary for the story. Which is true because this is a story about Richard (and Kahlan), not all four MCs. So I won’t hold him against that.
  • A lot of tropes, and therefore a lot of predictability. Figures that the hero would be able to control the dragon, too, I mean what hero doesn’t control a dragon?
  • I almost wanted Darken Rahl to pick the right box, because then I could foresee where the series is going.

    From the front cover illustration. A gar, I suppose?

    But alas, the honest Seeker didn’t quite tell the whole truth and thereby avoided catastrophe. A tasty catastrophe, it would have been.The ending is kind of happily-ever-after, and well, I prefer alternative endings than fairy tale endings. Decent cliffhanger,though. Rahl’s final words kind of spoiled it, though. No, I would not have preferred something more melodramatic, but maybe something more cryptic?

  • Turning people into animals? Eh. The Mord-Sith? Yes, I laughed a little about it but they served their purpose. I couldn’t help but think that well, the author’s putting in some content that he finds interesting, as well as his two cents about what goes on in their minds and the reason why they do thus, but that’s what makes stories unique. Another author would have decided to say something else. This is Goodkind’s story, not yours.
  • I wish he’d described the creatures better. I still, for the life of me, cannot picture a gar in my head. And what about that creature in the cave by Scarlet’s egg? Damn, I’d have loved to know what that looked like. Speaking of Scarlet, I wish she had a more unique name than … Scarlet, the Red Dragon.

Now to all the naysayers about how completely unnecessary it was to include the whole BDSM scenes, well, I think they’re forgetting that that experience is actually a step to him becoming a wizard. It was a necessary experience for him to learn and tolerate pain. And yes, I do believe that Richard will become some wizard hybrid in the future. Because the convenient ending kind of foretold that (and yes, I’m frowning about that). If it offends you, well, it offends you. But it provided a decent and (albeit twisted) excursion so the story wouldn’t lag. Most stories tend to drag towards the end of the middle section, and Goodkind kept the pace (and interest) up. It showed the hero’s weakness and that he is still only a human, not a superhuman like some heroes often wind up.

This is what they look like? Hm. I guess I can dig it.

And Demmin Nass liking little boys? Raping and pillaging? They’re bad guys, people. Cliched bad guys, but bad guys nonetheless. Predictable and one-sided, maybe, but bad guys do bad things, and that’s just part of the package. Not all bad guys do, but that’s just the way Goodkind decided to portray his. Forced? Yes. Unoriginal? No. And his paycheck proves it.

Total score: three out of five stars. Oftentimes, the convenience of things falling into place, the small details and objects placed all meant something (which did become annoying.) But technically speaking, he did an okay job with Chekhov’s smoking gun, although perhaps too blatantly at times. The general story, and secondary love story, is one that’s been done many times in many different ways. I look forward to reading Stone of Tears to see how things are different. Hopefully less predictable.


Reality Dysfunction

To be fair, which probably doesn’t mean anything at all, I really wanted to like this book. But perhaps I should stop beating around the bush and dive right into Herbert and Asimov. I’m very glad I borrowed it from the library instead of spending a single penny on this book, “The Reality Dysfunction” by Peter F. Hamilton, because I would have greatly regretted such a gesture. When I read the blurb that it was a spaceopera, I didn’t imagine it to be such a literal interpretation–to put it plainly, it’s a scifi soap opera. In my most humble and worthless opinion, I will list all the faults I found. I don’t doubt Hamilton’s talent and creativity, but some things I am not fond of in books (not to include the use of “padding” across the floor, “nuzzled” his hand, or “lapping” on his feet). May I say if I wanted to pick up something similar to this, I could just get a sleazy romance or an atrocious zombie thriller.

  1. I give him credit for trying to be as technically accurate as possible. He didn’t have to overwrite every descriptive paragraph, nor did he have to start the book off and prattle on about technical talk for the first twenty pages. I know some people read science fiction just to criticize how inaccurate or unbelievable the technological advances are, but there is overdoing it. It is fiction, people. Sure, anyone can go overboard, but I don’t agree with going out of your way to make it as accurate as possible. Less is better. Let the anal nitpickers figure out how it works.
  2. That was another thing that I didn’t really like: his biomechanical aspect, that the Edenists are an “enlightened” advanced humans who are perma-linked to their ships, which are part-organic part-mechanical–yes, their spaceships grow and talk to their linked human partner. A creative concept, but not one that I found intriguing.
  3. Speaking of “enlightened,” Hamilton’s conjectures about religion and the concept of God and “God’s Brother” and all that mumbo jumbo was very pretentious and annoying. So I don’t agree with everything he said, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, but the way he projected his opinions was very preachy and condescending. Perhaps he was just giving the viewpoints of the Edenists, but judging how short his cutscenes are, how abruptly they ended, they didn’t leave much room for assuming what I assumed (that they are Edenist’s opinions). I am of the conviction that one mustn’t place their political or religious views into their storywriting, no matter how liberal or conservative or middle of the road. If the author must, then make it known that it is of a character’s opinion or place it in a conversation. Hamilton didn’t do a very good job at being subtle.
    I am not prejudiced against certain religious and political viewpoints. By all means, believe whatever you think is right or makes you feel good, but don’t use your fiction novel to give lectures or tell people how they should live. It’s a sure way to lose some of your audience.
  4. This should have been the first bullet. Take out all the sex scenes and steamy courting and flirting, and you’ll lose about a third of the book. After the third conquest of Joshua (one of the main characters), that’s when I began to get the impression that I was just reading a soap opera. It’s as if some horny teenager (who coincidentally finds some things very entertaining while most others won’t) decided to write a book and have their male character have sex with every female character he comes across to make up for his losses. And there you have Joshua. Having sex with every female and their mother. I lost count how many women he was with. It was ridiculous. When the final scene of the book is about a character having sex with someone he claims to love (which you know by then is a complete lie), it makes the book seem as if it were all about the sex.
  5. So I’ve introduced you to the gist of one of the “main” characters of the story. Well, Hamilton spends the most time with him because he’s the one getting all the bedroom action. There are about 3 other main characters (who hardly interact with each other), and an endless barrage of secondary characters of which you’re never sure if they’ll stick around or not. Why does he spend so much time describing a character that you never see again? I’ll never know. First, you meet one of the MC’s mother, then you read of the child’s growing up, and then you don’t see her again for at least another 100 pages. I don’t get it.And to top it all off, he spends so little time with each character, there’s hardly any real time spent building sympathy for them, nor do you really understand their motives till much much later on. Horrible character development…and you know how high I hold character development above all other aspects of writing fiction.
  6. So being that I prefer character-driven stories over plot-driven stories, it suffices me to say that his long narratives about the universe and how this came to be and how that came to be, his opinions on this, how this thing works, what that thing does, which would amount to another third of the entire book, became completely irking. I have nothing against world-building. Do it, by all means. Writing should be fun. But it just seems that he uses all the wrong methods to write. When you’re writing a story, you shouldn’t really be spending whole sections on inane descriptions. Especially at such an early time in the novel where the reader is absolutely and utterly confused, or the reader could care less because it is just way too soon in the story to be seriously curious.

I give it a 2 out of 10 stars. 2 because of the time and effort he seemed to put into it, though not very well. Everyone who writes gets at least a 1 out of 10 stars though, of course. 1 for trying.

What would I have done? Picked 2 or 3 MAIN characters, and stayed with them. Get rid of all the sex scenes. Make the threat believable instead of possessing dead bodies and making them transform into serpentine creatures. Monsters and aliens are scary enough, but the most scary nemesis’s are humans. Get rid of the whole galactic descriptions and high-tech explanations. All right, so Hamilton would lose about 300 pages of his 500+ page novel, but then he would have a story that more people could like. Trudging through that book was like being in a horrible mire surrounded by screens showing soft-core pornography and morbid violence.


Final Fantasy XII v. VII

So I’ve finally finished Final Fantasy XII. Took me about 4 weeks and 65 hours. I can now say that I’ve completed 3 of the 5 Final Fantasy games I’ve played. Never finished 8 or 10. 10 I won’t finish because I already know the ending, and I don’t need to make the emo-ending any worse for me than it already is.

So I decided to write an informal comparison of the Final Fantasy series, why some of their stories are just not as epic as VII.

I give Final Fantasy XII a 6 out of 10. The reason I never finished it the first time I played it 4 years ago (I got halfway through it) was because the story was way too complicated, I was completely lost and didn’t know what was going on, and it was extremely hard. All my fault. I do have to mention this: the score would have been lower had I not realised that the world of Ivalice is much more expansive, used in other Final Fantasy games (Tactics, Vagrant Story, and sequal: Revenant Wings), so in essence, XII was just a piece of the Ivalice story. That redeemed the unsatisfying taste I had in my mouth while playing it. But don’t get me wrong, I love XII’s characters, I love the world and the races, everything about it. I just didn’t care for the actual story. I’m going to tell you why.

Take the story of Final Fantasy VII: you are immediately thrown into the fray. Granted, the catch is a little cliche (grumpy mercenary who has no recollection of the past), but the cliche is pardoned as the story goes on. You are immediately made aware of a deeper goal, a political conspiracy. Emotions are pulled as ruthless acts are committed early on in the story. You learn of the antagonist within the first quarter of the story, and the short chance meetings you have with the antagonist make him (Sephiroth) even more enticing and interesting. Character development is excellent, every character is emotionally involved with the plot and the stakes, everyone has a reason to be there (except for maybe Yuffie. Never did care for her much, but then again, I never care much for any “third” female character in the FF stories). The MC has a direct link to the antagonist, and even gets involved with the evil scheme. Characters are killed, things never really go their way and though you (of course) end up going to most every spot of the planet, it never really feels like a go-here-now-go-there-now-there etc. Perhaps the fact that you’re “chasing” the antagonist, all the while trying to evade the big bad government and its cronies, help to subdue the linear feeling of traveling. Also, events at every location have enough impact and last long enough to not give you the feeling of rushing through every locale. When the world is at stake, the ending is always good.

Now, let me explain why Final Fantasy XII didn’t quite do it for me (spoilers…even though whoever reads this has probably finished XII years ago, or has absolutely no interest in it whatsoever. I’m analysing story structure here, not Square’s reputation. I will always always always love Square and the FF series). I have to say that my favourite part of the story was the beginning in Rabanstre. A story was developing, and interest is at 100%. But after meeting the next few characters quite early on and then leaving Rabanstre, the story becomes so painfully linear. It felt as if it was all about getting from point A to point B. But aside from the game itself, I feel as if the story’s MC should have been Ashe…or Balthier. Vaan just did not do it for me (almost like Tidus), and as usual, I favored the characters with a stronger goal (Basch and Ashe). I liked the fact that a lot of allies temporarily join you, but here’s what bothers me most about the story.

Developed absolutely no aversion to, knowledge, or fear of the antagonist. In fact, it seemed you were just fighting an invisible antagonist because you knew so little of him. If they had developed Lord Vayne a little better even before he murdered his father, it would have helped. It also would have helped to actually been there as these turning points happened, rather than just having some cut scene. In fact, the MC’s first encounter with the main antagonist was at the very last scene!! Totally not right. I couldn’t care less what happened to Vayne, nor did his mockeries and insults affect me.

Asides from the antagonist’s lack of development or attachment/relationship to the group of MCs, the story tries to gain your sympathy by introducing a new character 3/4ths of the way in, and then making him into a hero who dies to save the cause not too long after he is introduced. Mistake. Why do I care that Reddas died? So Ashe wouldn’t? Final Fantasy VII had it right: have one of the MC’s sacrifice themselves within the first third of the story, and now you have a hell of a lot more sympathy for the cause. Don’t have some stranger do it for you.

Another note: the story did not get interesting until the last third, when they finally introduced more devious and sinister forces at work, controlling the (evil) Archadian Empire and using the human populace as puppets for their own entertainment. After that point in the story, I felt more interested in the final outcome. But until then, I just trudged on and on, wondering if open warfare would ever culminate, or whatever the heck was supposed to happen.

So learn from those mistakes, story writers. I only played XII to say that I finished that hardass game and add it to my roster of finished Final Fantasy games. You know I will analyse VIII once I finally get around to playing it again. While playing XII, I read Gardens of the Moon by Erikson which was lacking in character development (though I enjoyed how many characters he had), but reading that book as well as playing XII inspired me to write a whole new story with a male MC, which will be congruent with the whole future universe I’ve concocted over the past 8 years. Though this new story I’m thinking of won’t involve the Divisions or anything, it’ll be more of a wartime fantasy story.

ps–Judge Gabranth is one of the coolest bad guys of all the Final Fantasy’s. Total crush material hahaha

I’m trying a new method to my writing: write out a rough synopsis rather than “winging it.” Though I’m currently diverting from writing out the entire plot/synopsis of Leigh’s story by writing this blog entry–there goes my whole night. Then I will do a rough plot/synopsis of the second story with a male protagonist. I think I get lucky with male protagonists. So I’m a chauvinist. Big whup. I’m looking forward to it. Then I will read “A Game of Thrones” by the (legendary?) George R. R. Martin. I hear some raving over him, so I will test him out. I give Erikson a 7 out of 10 because he seems to lack on character depth. That’s me–I prefer character-driven stories rather than plot-driven stories. And then, I will commence Final Fantasy VIII.