Posts Tagged ‘writing’

NaFiTFuThiMo Update 2

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Writing
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Hey look at me finding the time to not neglect the blog for once!

I feel bad that my productivity around here has plummeted to nothing since I started the push to finish Amity by my birthday. But that’s the way it’s got to be. I have trouble with self imposed deadlines. Back in college I was always the guy who did everything right at the deadline. I’d write twenty page papers that I wouldn’t start until the morning it was due. Because I could do it and get the good grades, I never felt the need to change. So now it’s years after college and those habits are still around and a lot less useful when I don’t actually have any real deadlines to frantically finish against.

So how’s it going?

Well it’s going good. I’ve been getting a lot of words done and they’ve been good words. I’ve been finding chapters and scenes that weren’t on my outline though so I’m writing like a fiend and not getting as close to the end as I should. But the end is still in sight. I was real sick last weekend so lost three days completely to a head cold which I’m still not really over. But if you follow me on ye olde twitter (or saw it over on the left), my word count officially topped 50k back on Tuesday. And that’s my low estimate. I’m writing the first draft with ink and dead trees so 50k is my low estimate.

How much left to go?

Well I’ve got eleven chapters on my outline. At the rate I’ve been going, I’ll probably find at least one more. I don’t expect too much more than that because the climatic chapters have been sketched out in more detail than the last couple I’ve been working on.

So I’m still on track. Amity will be complete on my own deadline.

I still owe the post on Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues. It’s still awesome though. Go read it.

Work In Progress Challenge

Posted: October 16, 2012 in Writing
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The idea for the Work In Progress Challenge came from Kat Richardson via her blog post of the same vein which I happened to see via ye olde twitter. Since I started this website at the beginning of the year, I think this will be the most I’ve openly talked about the novel I’m writing. Putting it out there a bit will help kick my pants into gear and get some momentum behind me.

What is the title of your work in progress?

Amity

Where did the idea for your WIP come from?

This came about from the adoption of my “Write what you know, not who you know” philosophy to writing. The novel I attempted before Amity had a main character just like me and it got real screwed up by that. When you’re essentially writing yourself, it’s easy to overlook details and thoughts that you shouldn’t. You skim over things because you’re so familiar with them. This is why two of the three protags are women in this book. By being different from me, it makes me stop and think. I wrote a thing about writing women characters a while back.

When I started doing the earliest notes for Amity, I thought “Well just what kinds of things am I an expert at?” 1) I work in a shipyard. 2) I know stupid odd bits of history. 3) I like pirates. 4) I happened to be in Ireland when I committed notes to paper. Bam. Done. The scenario for the world Amity takes place in is like the American Revolution meets the Irish Troubles in space. I have elaborate rationales as to why space is dominated by the UN and China and the small players stuck between them. A key part of the history of this universe is how the American Revolution was funded by privateers/pirates funded mostly by Connecticut and Rhode Island. I’ll spare the further history tangent, but it’s there and it’s pretty cool actually. I lifted the pirates as freedom fighters concept for Amity.

What genre does your WIP fall into?

Space opera with some swashed buckles for good measure.

Which actors/actresses would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

This question is harder than I expected it to be. The only one that comes easy is maybe Lucy Liu as Kimiho Okano. She’s got the bad ass wisdom needed. It took a while for me to come up with the perfect actress for my main characters, but Nicole de Boer would probably be it. If you know who that is without Google, consider it more nerd cred. She played Ezri in the last season of Deep Space Nine. She could be Bernadette. I don’t even have a clue who would play Tomas de la Vega.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your WIP?

Shipyard worker Bernadette Hastings is minding her own business welding on the Navy’s newest starship when she’s shanghai’d by pirates and thrown into battles not of her own choosing but too personal to run from.

Is your WIP due for publication or represented?

Ha! I wish. Finishing has to happen first.

How long did it take you to write?

Ugh. It’s been in progress longer than I want to admit. I’m on Act Three though and my goal is to finish by my birthday. That means I have about seven weeks to go. I’ve already arranged to take the day off of work so I expect I will be frantically writing til my hand falls off so I can get to the end before.

What other works in your genre would you compare it to?

I haven’t really read any other space opera pirate tales. I think there’s a bit of A Thousand Words for Stranger kind of feel with the adventurous planet hopping.

Which authors inspired you to write this WIP?

I think that an author can’t help by be influenced a little bit by everything he or she reads. Even if it’s bad you can say to yourself “Not gonna do it like that.” More direct inspiration in regards to Amity? The aforementioned Julie Czerneda series. There’s a bit note from David Weber too. Whenever I read an Honor Harrington book, I get this extra kick of momentum. Harrington is a strong protag, albeit a different type of protag than the more “morally diverse” world I’m going for.

What else might pique our interest in this WIP?

For all that this is the most open I’ve been with talking about Amity, (in fact, I think this is the first time I’ve even used the title on this blog) there’s still some aspects of it I’m reluctant to talk about openly. But I will give a more proper back of the book style blurb…

Bernadette Hastings, welder shanghai’d by pirates. Claire Tew, pirate given a quest on the dying breath of her mother. Tomas de la Vega, intellegence agency investigator sent into deep cover on no notice. Hunted and hounded across space on the Amity, the weight of a rebellion balances on their shoulders whether they know it or not.

What is a useless tidbit of information about your WIP?

The pirates and the ship itself were named after actual pirates from Rhode Island. Thomas Tew was a privateer in the employ of the governor of Bermuda turned proper pirate. His ship was called the Amity packing eight cannons and a crew of forty six. He took an Arab cannonball to the stomach in 1695. In my WIP, Claire Tew is his descendant and has a family crest modeled after his flag.

It took a while but I finished Wilds Cards a few days ago. My copy is an oversized paperback which is very much not my preferred format. This is in part because I can’t stuff it in my pocket when I’m at work. But I got through it and was glad that I did. I enjoyed the whole shared world concept. It let the stories move about into different areas that one author alone might not dive into.

My copy was the 2010 release with the additional stories. I think the compilation was bookended with the best stories front and back. I really wasn’t feeling the Fortunato story in the middle with “I get my super powers by nailing hookers” thing. It wasn’t a prudish or gratuitous thing, I just felt that story didn’t age as well as the others. It was a product of its time more than the rest. “Comes a Hunter” was a bit of a let down. Yeoman was an awesome character, being a normal person in this supernatural world, but the story just ended. “To be continued” is ok but I like some sort of conclusion before the cliffhanger. I was really happy to read “The Sleeper.” It’s the first Zelazny story I hadn’t read before in years. Croyd is a fascinating character too.

My favorite of the bunch was actually one of the new stories, “Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan” by Carrie Vaughn. Croyd is appropriately awesome as a supporting character in that story. That one takes place in the 80s music scene which made for a more intriguing backdrop for my tastes. ‘Cause, ya know… punk rock. I think superheroes take a special touch, especially when you’re character has Kitty Pride powers (walking through walls for non-X-Men aficionados) that could be abused easily. Abused by the writer into making overpowered characters. Overpowered characters equal uninteresting characters. Vaughn wrote After the Golden Age which I read earlier this year, so she’s got a deft hand with supers.

So enough blathering about a book almost as old as I am. Most people who read from the same shelves I do aren’t late to this part like I am. One of the reasons I read Wild Cards is that I want to get into more short stories to help with writing the same.

The biggest thing I noticed is that short stories have gotten a lot shorter in the last twenty five years.

I’m sure the internet is why. People as a whole don’t have the same attention span as they used to. Websites like Daily Science Fiction cater to lunch break reads. The market has been tightening up for short stories too. In the last couple years, F&SF went to bimonthly and I think some others did too. From a practical standpoint, they can’t really put a magnum opus of a short into their publications any longer. I’ve got a 9k word short story I was shopping around that was too big for most of the professional markets. 5k seems to be the magic number for a lot of places now.

Ironically, novels are getting longer. I’m doing my annual reread of my favorite book, Nine Princes of Amber by Zelazny, and it’s only 174 pages long. Any of Neal Stephensen’s books would outweigh the entire ten book cycle of Amber. I saw a tweet from Tobias Buckell from earlier this week saying “I missed the tighter paperbacks of the 70s and 80s not just b/c of a golden age of my youth reading, but b/c 50-70K is clean and tight”.  I’m not sure how I feel about that. All the 80s and 90s fantasy books I cut my teeth on back in the day often fell in the 300 page range, but I went months at a time without reading a single standalone book because everything was trilogies or more back then. I think that’s part of why my writing is better suited to slightly sprawling longform, that’s what I’ve been reading for twenty years.

Back to my main point of short stories, 5k is a tough magic number for me to hit. The longer stuff from a Wild Cards-era ’87 would be much more suited to me. I’ve had shorts mushroom cloud and start creeping up on 20k. And the 1k flash fiction stuff is wicked hard. But one of the reasons to write shorts is because they’re difficult. If you’re not growing as a writer, you’re dying. Feedback is getting more and more positive, in fact, today I’m going to button up the rewrite (and sleight mushroom clouding) of the short I got personal feedback on. So that’s a thing. And it’s a positive thing that is only going to lead to better writing.

(I also apologize for the lack of my usual Goodreads links. The wifi at Starbucks is bollocks today. WordPress and Fark and Wikipedia are working fine, but Twitter and Goodreads are being pwn’d. Don’t advertise free wifi if you’re going to pick and choose which websites work on it. I’ll edit to add my links in when I’m home.)

Edit: Fixed the links and whatnot. Still… Starbucks, don’t be a dink about your wifi.

Reading Discoveries

Posted: September 4, 2012 in Reading, Writing
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Stories aren’t written in a void. Just because I’m working on one novel doesn’t mean I’m not noodling about others. I’ve got some real great ideas for the Next Novel so once I finish the Current Sci Fi Novel, I think I’ll be able to dive in at full speed. But today I came across a frustrating discovery in regards to the Next Novel.

And it’s not the first time this has happened.

The first time was much more dramatic so I’ll relate that story.

It was a few years ago and I was maybe ten to fifteen K into my first attempt at a novel. It was a godpunk kind of thing involving hackers. And then I started reading American Gods. It’s a wonderful book, one of my all time favorites. But about halfway through I swore and threw the book across the room. I was trying to write the same thing and here I was reading a book published a year before.

Eff me! That was very frustrating.

I couldn’t come up with any way to reconcile my ideas without feeling like I was ripping off American Gods, both in terms of what I already had down and what new content I was coming up with under the influence of such a great book. I ended up shelving that idea and honestly I don’t think those first ten K words exist anymore.

I’m not going to dance around what I was reading this time, especially since my next blog post is probably going to be pontifications about it. Because I’m not a short story break with my writing, I’ve been reading more of them and finally stopped putting off Wild Cards. So I’m reading on my lunch break at work today and I’m all like “Balls! That’s the power my next main character is going to have!” Context: I haven’t named the next protag yet and I often use Balls! as a swear.

So here I am finding out things very similar to my own ideas were really written in a book back in 1987. I was four. Four!

This time I’m not going to let it be a roadblock though. I don’t want to expound on the details of the Next Novel so, again, I won’t go into specifics but Next Novel is going to be godpunk, not superheroes. So there’s a different subgenre going on here to start with. I think the things going on in Wild Cards are a unique take on stuff that was done before it anyways. It’s a virus and not genetic, but when my friends at work ask me about it, the easiest way to call it is “Martin and pals doing X-Men.”

So I think this is a broad enough thing to have at it anyways, but damn it’s still frustrating.

Has anyone else come across things like this when they’re writing? I’m curious to know if it’s just something weird that happens to me.

I have a natural predisposition to long form, both in my reading and my writing. There are a lot of pluses to getting some short stories out into the world though, not least of all, motivation and momentum that can be applied to the novel I’m working on.

But that tendency to long form makes writing short stories that are actually short, very difficult for me. It’s one of those things that I do like to take a stab at however. Writing is writing and if I can get good at stuff that’s more difficult for me, well all the better then. It’s all one big skill set. Yeah, I know there are differences between different flavors of writing, but in the end it’s all wordsmithing.

Partly because of the desire to increase the skillset, I’ve been in a short story kind of mood lately despite having some misgivings about it. I’ve been shopping around three different short stories recently. They’re…. hard to classify. I wrote them because they’re the kind of stories I like to read. I’ve gotten some positive feedback from beta readers, put the words through their paces and ended up with a trio of stories I really like. So with all sorts of positive feelings, I sent them out to various places on the SFWA approved list. There’s a vampire meets nerd, a drug dealing elf and a story written half in faux-computer code. Needless to say, they’re the sort of thing that are very particular. They’re all shopped out now though. With such odd and/or niche stories, it’s hard to say if they need work or if they really aren’t a good fit for the publication I sent out to. With rubber stamp form letters sent back to me, it raises more questions than anything. “Grasshopper Wing” in particular, I feel is a great story, I just wish I knew what to do with it.

While on the topic of short stories, I am trying to find more which I enjoy reading. A sentiment that came up in film school a lot was “Garbage in, garbage out.” Reading helps with writing, which is the whole point of the constant posts about the books I’ve been reading. It’s such a daunting task, very needle in a haystacky for me, similar to the whole “Aw, you grew up watching Buffy” kind of urban fantasy I see around. There’s great writing out there, it’s just difficult to find. I’ve been getting very frustrated with the Daily Science Fiction stories. Some are a thousand words for a bad punchline, but I’ve found a few I’ve liked. But I’m trying. I keep picking at Daily SF and I have a Wild Cards book in my to-read pile.

On the plus side, I found the best short story I’ve read all year. “Fade to White” by Cat Valente on the Clarkesworld Mag website. It’s seriously awesome and is the first thing I’ve heard the term atompunk attached to. Yeah, I don’t really think it’s the most creative thing in the world to attach “punk” at the end of everything, but it’s a really cool thing. It’s retro sci fi, similar to steampunk being SF based of Victorian times, but it’s SF from the 50s. It’s a new kind of vibe in a story that unfolds itself into shocking little package.

This is the kind of stuff that I need more of. It really gets me primed to write some good short stuff.

So I was called out on being tired and/or child distracted at the end of the last post about First Lines. It took much longer to type than I thought it would what with needing to hold the book with one hand and do the 3rd grade hunt and peck typing. The people have spoken, here I am to deconstruct the first line.

As a reader, it’s very easy to gloss over the first line. As a writer, I know I tend to agonize over it.

When I start reading a new book, I’m running pellmell face first into it, I can’t stop for just one line. For me, the first dozen pages are where I get my quote unquote, first impression, from. In fact, some of the first lines off the Shelf of Honor books give a different impression than what I remember of the openings. Specifically I’m thinking of A Thousand Words for Stranger and Boneshaker. In regards to Stranger, I remember Sira waking up not knowing who she is. Amnesiatic characters is something I find fascinating (also, see Zelazny for that) so that’s probably why it tends to jump at me. My first memories of Boneshaker are of Briar shleping through the muck of Seattle coming home from work, not of a mood moment.

Opening lines tend to be mood moments or action. Both can set the pace of what’s going on but even as I type this, I’m thinking of all the ones that do the opposite. Look at Un Lun Dun, the word ‘nondescript’ is used twice. You get a juxtaposition out of that one. When I write my own stuff, I tend to be of the ‘start with a bang’ school of thought. I vaguely remember it being taught in school at some point. I’ve tried mood openings or informational openings and they just don’t pop for me. In my in-process novel, I actually lopped off the first four pages and ended up with two people dying on page one. It made for a much better hook. It’s a show don’t tell kind of thing for me.

That’s not to say I can’t enjoy a book with a mood opening, the Shelf of Honor First Lines clearly shows that, but deconstructed as a single opening line, action speaks much louder than words. Actions make you ask Why? That little question propels the reader just as much as the writer. Actions? Questions? What single lines are the flavors I like best? I’m getting there. They’re next in fact.

“At the height of the long wet summer of the seventy-seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately hoping to sell him the Lamora boy.” —The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

There’s a lot of information going on here. The weather and the year, they don’t do anything for me, but fortunately this is a nice long line. Thiefmaker and Eyeless Priest… who are these people? They’re titles so unique, they demand answers in themselves. But that’s informational. What’s the action? Why he’s got Lamora up for sale. The title character is for sale in the first line? Do tell more.

“Colin saw Walter’s foot a moment before it connected with his stomach.” —Well of Sorrows by Benjamin Tate

This is all action, simple and impactful. Both literally and figuratively. By starting off the whole book right in the middle of the fight, we’re instantly involved with what’s going on. There’s no lead in for us to choose sides nor are we shown the aftermath yet with the winner dusting himself off. We’re not even given a chance to take a breath before stuff’s going down.

“In a cold jail cell in Boston in Massachusetts Bay Colony on November 16, 1699, a weather-beaten man with hard scarred features unbuttoned his trousers.” —The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd by Richard Zacks

This one is a little bit odd in that it’s the only non-fiction book on the Shelf of Honor. But take a look at that. This book doesn’t read like a history text. It’s researched just the same but it reads like a novel. We’ve got action in a place that could easily start out as “Captain Kidd was in jail in Boston on November 16, 1699.” What we got instead is a lot more interesting, even if the image of a pantsless angry Scotsman in jail isn’t exactly an image we want willingly.

I just now spent twenty minutes going through my shelves for more first lines that really pop for me. What’s surprising me is that so many books I enjoy the b’jebus out of, have regular first lines. This goes back to running headlong into a new novel. When there are 400 pages, you’ve got at least fifty to hook me, one hundred if I’m being generous and you’ve got an awesome premise. In the last twenty minutes though, I did find two more that really jab the hooks in before the first punctuation mark.

“On the last true day of spring the nine worlds will ever know, my brother and I fly recon through the land of the gods.” —Norse Code by Greg van Eekhout

Godpunk is one of my favorite subgenres and the Norse are especially awesome. Not only do we have the ominous declaration that might as well be a Ned Stark saying “Winter is coming… everywhere,” we’ve got this awesome action of flying recon in the land of the gods. Something dicey is going on. There are so many questions in that half statement. There’s got to be danger a plenty in doing that, you don’t fly recon in safe zones. Expound on this danger! Tell me more!

“She let Johnny gag her mouth with a belt, that way she wouldn’t scream when he amputated her two mangled fingers.” —Johnny Zed by John Gregory Betancourt

Take a look at this book and read it’s synopsis and it sounds like a very dated 1980s popcorn muncher and then holy hell back alley amputations! I’m not so sure if I need to say much more about that. We’re starting in the middle of the action but it’s simultaneously the aftermath of another. What starts off as something sounding like it needs an R rating, turns out to be a lot more squeamish and intense than that. The question “What next?” drips off the page.

So there’s a thousand words about first lines, none more than 41 words themselves. One of the primary reasons I run this blog, is so that when I talk about these things, I become conscious of what works and doesn’t work in the books I read so I can apply those lessons to my own novel writing endeavors. So what have I learned, or more accurately, what have I become more aware of? Well, novels don’t have to get you in one line. Most of the Shelf of Honor books don’t hook me as fast as the 80s popcorn muncher that is Johnny Zed. When a first line really clicks though, it’s magic. Things are happening, things are moving and you’ve got no time to wonder what’s going on. All those magnificent questions these wonderful first lines raise, well hell, there’s no time to stop and think of them. We’re swept up in what’s going on without coming up for air.

There’s a whole novel for us to come up for air, but you’ve got to shove the reader back under the tide of words anyways. Make them work for it.

Flash Fiction Day

Posted: June 29, 2012 in Writing
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Chuck Wendig, author of the book I’m about to start, has a nifty thing he does over at his website Terrible Minds. It’s Flash Fiction Friday, which I’ve done a few times. Last one I did, I actually liked so much, I’ve polished it up and started shopping it around.

This week’s Flash Fiction Friday is a three sentence story. I like mine pretty well so you get to share it over here too. Also… Henri seems to be the insta-name I use all over the place. This is his fifth appearance. Make sure to check out the others. There’s some cool stuff happening.

Henri ran through the door at breakneck speed, stopping short with the dull jab of a gun barrel to his chest.

Angela smiled sadly as he felt her gun bruising his ribs already.

“Fuck,” one of them sighed.

Getting back to writing on writing and not just the books I’m reading, one of the topics that was floating around the blogs I read was the topic of women characters. A little more specifically, the issue of guys writing female characters.

For some reason people find this weird. It frankly baffles me a bit but I can almost fathom what some people’s thought process is. Strong women characters in SF not a thing that has ever bothered me a bit, I’ve been reading Honorverse books since I was a kid.

My own personal observations of this might be a little skewed. Much of my formative years as a reader were spent with the sci fi and high fantasy books purloined from my mother, authors like Mercedes Lackey and Marion Zimmer Bradley. But the demographics of SF are decidedly skewed towards guys. I don’t think I need to dig up any official documents to support that. Just check out the shelves. Making things worse, a number of women authors I follow have had stories of people being real jack asses to them because they’re women. I’m not intending this post to be a rant about equality and the handling of it (or lack thereof) by various people, but that’s the background of the genre. I have noticed that there are more women authors on the shelves today, but SF is still a skewed genre as a whole.

That was a bit of a rambley background there, so let’s focus more on the point. So if we’re all writers and one of the most important commandments for writers is Thou Shall Make Shit Up, why is it so uncommon for guys to write women? And this question doesn’t even address writing those women characters well.

I think it comes down to one of the first lessons writers are told.

Write what you know.

I was first told this in the first writing specific class I took in high school. My teacher was from Maine and said she went to college with Stephen King. Frankly, the bit about being from Maine was the only bit of evidence she ever shared substantiating this claim, but we were all in the fourteen to seventeen range and didn’t ask questions. My teacher attributed “Write what you know” to him, so I’ve always done the same, just with the added notes that its second hand. Because this is drummed into our heads at such an early age, I seriously think that it messes with people more than it should. “Write what you know” is the cause of all sorts of really bad angsty high school fiction.

The first couple novels I tried my hand at, the characters were just like me in a fantastical setting. Actually, they weren’t even that fantastical. The first one was an aimless twenty something guy working a crappy bartending job at catered parties who met a waitress that was actually the illegitimate princess of Brazil that just happened to be a sorceress. So can you guess what I my job was back then? And seriously, I wasn’t princess of Brazil.

“You’re talking about writing guys just like yourself!” I know, I’m getting through the subpoints to the actual point. See, my writing got a lot better when I abandoned this “Write what you know” theme. I had a class where our first serious fiction assignment was to do something “in the style of” someone else. I happened to be taking a Shakespeare class at the same time, reading Romeo and Juliet. We were on the party scene, which if I remember correctly, is Act I Scene III. I wrote a Shakespearean story about Rosaline, the woman Romeo ditches for Juliet. I wrote it from her point of view and my class did this big critique where stories were read anonymously. The most impactful piece of feedback I got was “You write like a girl.” This confused me a lot at first, but it was then explained as a compliment. Not a single person in the class thought a guy wrote it. It’s been four years and remains my favorite piece of writing I’ve ever crafted.

So I kept at it with the novel I’m working on. Two of the three main characters are sisters. Is there some sort of knack to writing women? Not in the least. But it’s helped my writing a lot. Why did it help my writing? Because they weren’t like me.

See, take “Write what you know” and throw half of it out the window. Write about things you know. There’s a reason my novel includes a lot of pirates, welding and weird tidbits of history. I know these things and can thread them in and around what I’m doing. That makes it fun for me which in turn makes it fun for readers.

Never write about who you know. At least not to start. Taking the characters I’m writing about and making them as unlike me as possible makes me stop and think about what I’m doing. Having a character be the opposite gender is a physical difference that acts as a red flag to make me slow down. Did Rosaline think in a fundamentally different way from any male character I’ve written? Not really. She got ditched by someone she cared about. That’s a pretty universal thing right there. When the characters were too much like me, it was easy to gloss over points because I know them too well.

All I had to do was … slow down. That’s it. Writing women characters well for me is no different than writing males well. Or characters comprised of computer code. Or mice. Or whatever. So there’s no knack to it. No mystical magical force or insight. Just ask my wife, I’m still pretty clueless.

This is outside my normal reading habits. Contrary to what a lot of people think of the genre reader, I do try to venture outside my normal section of the bookstore now and again. It’s very needle-in-a-haystacky for me though. I read the first Stieg Larsson book way back. Normally, when things get all big and full of hype, the hype itself turns me off them, kind of a “so big, it’s just annoying” deal. But I read it anyways, had a tough time getting through the first hundred pages, then devoured the rest of it and the second one. But I put off the third one. I have that thing I’ve mentioned before about mass market sized books. The third book was only in hardcover at the time so I dragged my feet for a real long time. Eventually I said “close enough” and got the taller-than-mass-market size.

And now I’ve finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest.

Back of the Book time!

In the conclusion of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth Salander lies in critical condition in a Swedish hospital, a bullet in her head.

But she’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll stand trial for three murders. With the help of Mikael Blomkvist, she’ll need to identify those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she’ll seek revenge – agaisnt the man who tried to kill her and the corrupt government institution that nearly destroyed her life.

First off, remember how I said I haven’t read the other two in a long time? Like, a year and a halfish? Yeah, totally forgot that book two ended on a cliffhanger. I didn’t actually read the Back of the Book before cracking it open. I was all like “Oh! Book three, I’m all up in that.” SoHornet jumps right into things head first. I’m all for that. I like openings that start with movement and happenings.

But then bam! It gets bogged down real bad. I’m not sure if it’s a Swedish thing or a style specific to the author. I don’t come across too much non-English things translated, the Russian Night Watch books and the Japanese Battle Royale the only ones I can think of. Regardless, it slows down and gets very distracted from itself. The nature of the story requires a large supporting cast what with its conspiracies and murders and investigations, but the whole trilogy is undoubtedly at its best when it’s focused on Salander or Blomkvist. Salander, in particular, is one of the more fascinating characters I’ve read in years. The book focuses mostly on the supporting cast in the first half of the book. Ok, I can accept that. It’s still well written and a good mystery and such.

Too bad that the author clearly has an agenda. Now, a writer’s views on life and whatever seep into text whether consciously or not. And there are high profile authors I love like Orson Scott Card and China Mieville that have controvercial beliefs which turn off chunks of the audience. I like to let text stand for itself so can enjoy a book anyways as long as it doesn’t distract for the story.

As long as it doesn’t distract from the story.

I said it twice, it must be true. Larsson is all over women’s rights and such. Do not misconstrue my words, equality is a damn fine agenda to have, as long as it’s actually equality and not “let’s give someone else preferential treatment to someone else” crap. But that’s a different rant and not applicable to this because Larsson’s agenda really does seem to be about equality. The problem here is that it majorly distracts from the story. There’s the parallel plot, I can’t say subplot because it doesn’t really involve itself with the rest of the novel except in the most minimal way, involves Erika Berger, one of the other Millennium editors with Blomkvist, as she gets a new job and a stalker. It’s wickedly distracting from the story to the point where I was not only groaning aloud at a Berger chapter, but I was seriously thinking of abandoning the book if it didn’t pick up again fast. Again, don’t start thinking that I’m pro-stalker or some other nutty stuff like that.

The story is god. The story trumps all other aspects of the book and the soapboxing here just pulls me right out of the whole thing.

Fortunately, Hornet refocuses on Salander and Blomkvist when I was about ten pages from ditching the whole thing. From that midpoint, Hornet picks up a lot and becomes the fast investigative piece like the first two with minimal Berger-stalker diversions. Around the three-quarters point that bit wraps itself up completely and there’s two hundred pages of focused awesome. All the lose ends get wrapped up just the way that you want them to. Certain people make their mark, the right people get trounced and said trouncing is thoroughly satisfying.

I thought the character growth in Hornet was better than I remember from the other two, espicially for Salander. It gave a very impressive character arc through the whole trilogy and was one of the most satisfying aspects of the whole thing. Unfortunately, as a whole, I think this was the weakest of the trilogy, partly because the bar is set pretty high. It was a worthwhile read, despite the soapboxing, and I’m glad I got a proper ending to the trilogy.

Next up, The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman.