21 May 2012

The democratic nature of kings in fantasy



Fantasy and SF | Jim Butcher, Megan Whelan Turner and (Isaac Asimov, Martin Greenberg, Joseph Olander)-editors

I am extremely embarrassed to say that I do, after all, read not more than 3 books in 10 days. But, in my defense, they were mainly fat ones. Very fat.

First Lord's Fury by Jim Butcher is the sixth in the series. In the interests of avoiding spoilers, I will give no details. The 6th in a series is not necessarily the best point to dip into it, but this was a fast, fun read.

I do wonder at times about historical accuracy, even in fantasies. If you have hereditary rulers, I imagine that the discussion on the right thing to do would read very differently in a society in which that makes sense than it does in a democracy. Yet, the heroes in these stories have very democratic and enlightened approaches. It only makes internal sense if the 'internal' includes market forces in the real world. :)

That brings me to A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whelan Turner. The fourth in the series beginning with The Theif, and moving on through the equally enthralling The Queen of Attolia, and the breathlessly awaited The King of Attolia, has had less than rave reviews, some readers muttering darkly about it being disappointing. Considering that MW Turner is one of the two authors whose books I chase down and pester the booksellers about (this particular book was hand-carried for me from the USA, since it is not available in India), that sounded ominous but unbelievable. Halfway through the book, I dismissed such reviews as mere cavilling. However, on the last page, I had to admit that the word 'disappointing' was accurate. I expected more from Gen, damp it! It's tough for a writer to continue to maintain fantastic quality on plot, dialogue and characterisation in book after book, and I guess they get tired eventually. Or they get famous and the editors don't push as hard. Whatever. My offspring agrees that the end was surprisingly phuss, too. Still, a good enough book. Especially it's take on the rights and duties of the Barons. It shows you that when there are kings, the only people who have rights are the kings. In a democracy, we are all kings. Wouldn't change a democracy for other alternatives, no, no!

Don't read it unless you've read the first three books. Or maybe the other way round. Only 3 stars.

I also reread Isaac Asimov, Martin Greenberg and Joseph Olander's Science Fiction Treasury published in 1980. Many of the stories included are from as far back as the 1950s. Some of them are fairly dated, some even make you squirm. But some stay classic, like Who Goes There?, one of my all-time favourites despite some three or four cringy paragraphs, and Flowers for Algernon. I'm not doing a story-by-story here. It's good enough to read. Mostly. Though it's really, really fat.

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