Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Reading A Weird Book – Shadow by K.J. Parker

Shadow by K.J. Parker
I’ve been visiting the library more regularly lately with the intention of broadening my book reading base. The latest in my wanderings is a fantasy trilogy by K.J. Parker, the first of which is called Shadow. I’m about half way through the book and I have to say it is very weird.

I’ve struggled to read from page to page and only continue through commitment. Personally, that would be a sign of a bad book to me but this one, although a struggle to read, IS actually rather intriguing. In a way, it reminds me of J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings. That was hard reading too, wordy, clumsy, full of exposition and very in-depth to the point of tediousness. Shadow is wordy, clumsy, and in-depth but it’s also particularly active and very secretive.

I’ve learnt very little about the protagonist in the 310 pages I’ve read so far. I’ve learnt nothing of an antagonist at all except that he keeps coming up against stumbling blocks that ultimately lead to him killing people without having any clue why they were the enemy (or even IF they were).

In a way it can be frustrating. Readers are left in as much confusion and insecurity as the protagonist and snippets about the world are revealed like removing one scarf from a thousand sheer scarf blindfold. Piece by piece begins to fall into place and like putting a large, complex jigsaw puzzle together things start to make sense, very slowly.

I think part of the reason the book is so confusing is because it is riddled with out of body experiences. Whenever the protagonist falls asleep he dreams of the past. In the past he could be any of a number of people and he never wakes up with any recollection of his dream. It’s like a window into what could have been his life or the lives of other people. It’s like brief glimpses of who he might be and then having it yanked away again saying, “Maybe not.”

Still, the book is compelling. It’s easy to put down each chapter because it’s so challenging to read. I’m thankful for the break because the chapters are fairly long, or at least they feel that way (about 20 pages each). Since it feels like every step is a trudge along the path to figuring out what the story is really about and what the actual plot is leading to. The character and the world are interesting enough to WANT to find out, eventually.

Of course, were I not committed to finishing the series I’d probably have given up a long time ago. It makes me wonder what Orbit Books saw when they held this unknown author’s first few chapters and had to decide if they’d consider publishing it. What is it that takes such an interesting, yet challenging and muddy book from a slush pile to the printers? It’s the kind of book that reminds me the publishing world is mostly about luck, good writing, great story, compelling characters can get you part of the way but in the end, it’s really all down to luck.

Anyway, if you’re interested in checking the book out yourself I do recommend it, if only as a learning experience for writers. Examine what you like and don’t like about the book and use those as guides when it comes to your own writing.

Click for more information or to buy from Amazon.
Shadow by K.J. Parker
Pattern by K.J. Parker
Memory by K.J. Parker

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

ught this page would be worth reading, but guess wat? I was wrong.
I read this book when i was nine, and loved it. The book is not excruciatingly full of description as lord of the rins is, it is simple to understand (for most normal people) and deep with plot and secrets. However if a nine year old can read and appreciate such a beautiful piece of literature, yet this reviewer seems to have a reading age (or maybe an attention span) less than that of a nine year old.
You do a fabulous author, and a brilliant piece of literature, no justice at all.

12:12 PM  

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