I haven’t been reading many books over the last few years. I put this down to events of over four years ago when I ceased to take pleasure in anything. By and by my enjoyment of most things has returned but with the reading, not so much. Too often in the last few years I’ve picked up books and then lost interest in them – the whole idea of continuing to read them seeming a chore. I therefore began to think that maybe this was a pleasure that would never return and that, after years of reading books and years of writing the buggers, I’ve become jaded with them.
To a certain extent, this may be the case. I’ve found that books I used to love quite often annoy me, especially when I hit continuity errors and other mistakes, and slip into a dispassionate editing mode. Or when I read others and find myself baffled by my earlier enjoyment of them, or when I read a writer whose language I loved and now find just irritating.
However, I do still come across books, and writers, who do the job. David Gemmell is one such writer, while Peter Hamilton is another. Recently, while in a bookshop, my girlfriend waved a book at me that for some time I’d been talking about buying and reading. This was Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. I took that and, while there, noted Joe Abercrombie’s short story collection Sharp Ends, and picked that up too.
Incidentally, both of these writers were introduced to me by way of their publishers hawking them around for nice comments to put on the covers. In each case, I had no problem with this. I have ARCs of The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie and of Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, and then went on to buy the ensuing books of, respectively, the First Law and the Broken Empire trilogies.
Anyway, these two books . . . I polished them both off in under a week. I guess this is the point where I should wax lyrical about the hard gritty fantasy of these two writers with its lack of fluffy elves, and its excellent memorable characters. Perhaps I should mention how unputdownable was Red Sister, or how just a small bit of dialogue between characters in one of the Abercrombie short stories had me snorting tea out of my nose? No, I will not. All I will say is that for this jaded old misery these two books are the good stuff.