Thursday, January 3, 2013

Stuff I've Been Reading

Brent Weeks's The Way of Shadows is almost the Les Miserables of fantasy storytelling.  Set in the slums of a port city whose politics are somewhere between 17th century Germany (i.e. pre-unification) and Warring States China, the book is the story of street urchin-turned-assassin and the people he knows and loves.  The book is meticulously plotted and very clever in the way it executes what turns out to be a very nice slow-reveal, but the most amazing thing about the book is that at nearly seven hundred pages, it's actually a little rushed.  Way of Shadows has maybe a half-dozen major characters and as many as a twenty more minor ones, and while I liked that the book made the choices of the minor characters important plot points, there were several times when those choices seemingly came out of nowhere.  I'm not saying that Mr. Weeks needed to spend fifty pages on a convent in order to set up a single minor scene the way that Victor Hugo did, but Way of Shadows could have benefited from another, say, two hundred pages that set up the characterization of some of the major characters' love interests.

In any event, Way of Shadows was still a lot of fun, and all of the work around the central plot and protagonist is excellent.  Yeah, the book could maybe have used a slightly stronger editor's hand in bringing out some of the areas that maybe needed a little work--there are also a goodly number of copy-editing errors, so I'm guessing this editing thing was not high on Week's publisher's priorities list--but it still finishes very well, and in any event, the next book in the series, Shadows Edge, has a solid 4.5-star rating on Amazon.  I'm guessing that that means that the publisher spent a little more money prepping the second book after he realized what he had here.

The other book I really liked this week was Avenging Spider-Man #15.1.  This was the first full story with Otto Octavius as Spider-Man, and it really worked for me.  First off, we really see Doc Ock as a self-centered ass-hat.  He spends the first half to three-quarters of the book raving about what a genius he is, only to eventually realize that for all of his genius, he never, ever actually defeated Spider-Man, not once.  So he's a man who's driven, and his Spider-Man is going to be driven, not just by Peter Parker's idea of great power, great responsibility, but also by his own ego to be, well, a superior Spider-Man.

As I said, I liked this one.  Spider-Man has always been a book about a guy trying to make his way in the world while being a superhero, and that looks to remain the same.  What's new here is the take on the character, the drive.  I'm not saying that I want it to be permanent, but I can definitely do a year or so of Evil Spider-Man stories and, I think, really enjoy them.


  1. I will live vicariously through you as far as the Spider-story goes.

    But thanks for the Way Of Shadows recommendation. The MistBorn trilogy was good so I'm going to check this out, especially if there's an audiobook version.

  2. Well, I don't know that this one is quite in the same league as Mistborn. Brandon Sanderson has become one of my favorite writers. In fact, if you liked Mistborn, you really, really ought to read The Way of Kings next.

    If you want a comparison to Sanderson's work, this first book from Brent Weeks is a lot closer to Elantris than it is to any of the Mistborn books. But that's still not a bad place to be, and as I said, it looks like the quality of the writing improves as the series progresses.

  3. It's all well and good for Slott to want to tell this story, but he could just as easily tell it in Amazing Spider-Man with the event title "Superior Spider-Man" rather than pretend that Peter Parker won't return. Because we all know he will. Will the title simply revert when it happens?

  4. Yeah, I've been wondering that, too. I mean, there's no denying the way this thing feels like a publicity stunt, and if that's the way it's gonna be, then I'd just as soon have it be a closed-ended thing.

    On the flip-side, though, Marvel has lately wanted to re-number everything. In fact, both of the Big Two have been putting out as many new #1's as they can possibly create excuses to put out. I mean, they renumbered both Captain America and Iron Man as part of Marvel NOW, and I don't think there was even any reason for it. I'll defend the practice by saying that it probably IS easier to get new readers onto a title when you kick it off with a new #1, which is an obvious jumping-on point, but as a long-time reader, I tend to find it annoying.