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Curethan

Bloat

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Modern fantasy seems fixated on minimum six volumes and 1000+ page doorstoppers.

It's not always extraneous, but I seem to spend so much time reading filler. Tacked on subquests, repetitive soliliqies and travelouges and the like.

I don't mind multivolume series, but it seems like it would work better with smaller 'episodes' in most cases.

I just finished Erikson's final volume and compare it to Glen Cook's Black Company, which inspired its structure and content. I think if Erikson had followed Cook's succint style as well, the Book of the Fallen would have been 10 times more effective and 50 times more enjoyable to read. /hyperbole

But what do you think about this trend? Is it really worth reinforcing the floor beneath my bookshelves?

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I think MBotF is one of the best fantasy series ever written. I like everything I have read by Tad Williams too, especially Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. I guess it just doesn't bother me.

On the other hand, I am hopelessly addicted to anything Glen Cook writes.

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Well, I generally enjoy travelogues, and as long as what I;m reading is interesting, bloat rarely bothers me. Like nickg said, I'm a huge malzaan fan and a big Tad Williamsm fan as well, so, no, bloat doesn't bother me, normally.

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It's reflecting the market. SFF fans on the whole prefer long bloated series (we're either stingy or not as adventuress as we think). In general, overall sales improve with the release of each volume of a series so that implies it would be madness to do otherwise.

In the UK Daniel Abraham's "the long price" was released as two omnibuses, probably because they feared it was "too short" to sell on it's own. I've noticed this with the monarchies of god and possibly the aformentioned chronicles of the black company.

I don't mind long books/series but I do mind bloat. I can't help but find it as lazy editing/writing when I start encountering pages/chapters/volumes where nothing of huge import happens. It's a lot easier/quicker to write a lot than to write something concise, coherent and good.

With the ASOIAF series I truly don't think a single page was wasted in the first three. AFFC is still great but there are parts of that where I felt GRRM was not being as cruelly efficient as he was earlier. From his comments on ADWD I suspect it will be a long book but not a bloated one as he has stated he was quite ruthless with his editing to bring the page number down.

It's just as possible to have short books that are still bloated. They're even worse offenders.

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Personally, I don't consider the Black Company series, particularly after the first three books, to be particularly un-bloated. MBotF is longer, but more happens* - that makes it less bloated, though they're pretty comparable.

*note: I have only read up to The Bonehunters; I am also not counting the side-stories of either series (The Silver Spike and Esselmont), none of which I have read.

There is, in fact, an extremely large amount of shorter, unbloated, single-volume-arc fantasy being released. Probably at least twice as much as the 'bloated' epics you decry. They're just marketed a bit differently. Look for the covers with leather-clad females with shrouded faces, or men with trenchcoats and fedoras and washed-out color schemes, and if you (like me) find vampires to be rather tiresome, you'll just have to deal with some anyway.

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I didn't mean to critique Erikson particularly, the Crippled God put me in mind of it. I really enjoyed the series but long parts of it were a drag to read. Similar experience with Bakker's last one, Rothfuss, Sanderson, Weeks.

It's definitely something that I think authors are encouraged and to some extent feel presured to do. By the market and the publishers.

Perhaps its just reader fatigue, but I think I'm going to start avoiding anything labeled volume 1.

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Perhaps its just reader fatigue, but I think I'm going to start avoiding anything labeled volume 1.

To be honest this is the effect bloated series have on me. The main reason I haven't read "the dark tower" or "Malazan" is due to the sheer size of the story. It's even more intimidating now that they are "finished" as i fear it would take too much time to read them all in one go. Saying that I do have Gardens of the moon and book 2 of dark tower to read still.

The main gamble is predicting the ones that will be out on a timely schedule (eg Malazan or shadows of the apt) vs the ones that aren't as I think it's probably fine reading one a year along with other things. This has worked out fine with shadows of the apt, although that usually has a 2 books per year pace and the size of each book varies with the story being told. I wouldn't consider it bloated other than for the fact that it's a long series and has a ton of locales to visit.

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I prefer to call them goat killers rather than door stoppers.

OT: I like big books but i find if i see a series and it's 5+ books each one near or over the 800 page mark it can be quite off putting as i've got to figure out whether i want to gamble a large amount of my time reading it against how good it will be

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I don't mind big novels, at all, but the insidious creep of bloat can be a real turn-off. (My other turn-offs include pastrami, 70's decor, and anything involving David Hasselhoff).

I won't say it's an indicator of bad writing, because all tools (even extremely wordy descriptions of tablecloths) should be available to an author, but I do tend to skip bloated passages when I read.

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I think its something that is being forced in by expectation or whatever and quality suffers. A case of encouraging bad writing, perhaps?

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Quite.

You could take a book like Lord of Light rearrange the chapters in chronological order and then start filling the gaps between the chapters, hmm some of those gaps are fifty years long, and you'd quickly have a six volume series with each book eight hundred pages long.

It might even be readable but it wouldn't be a better book in my opinion.

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I think the point is that bloat is part of the genre. I don't mean an unfortunate side effect of it, but rather in many cases an essential - even desired - part of it. Most of us love the genre because of its "transportational" qualities. We love the world building, the mythology, and the dense plotting. Without the bloat, would the books still have the same wonder? I'm not so sure.

I occasionally love the standalone (see Tigana or Elantris), but at the end of them I always want more. What is going on elsewhere in the world? What about the mythology we didn't see? What about the history that is hinted at throughout? The worlds are often so vivid that I want to know more. Bloat delivers this.

Watching Game of Thrones last night I was reminded about how much of what made ASoIF so good was in many ways the characters that Martin doesn't portray. Brandon Stark, Rhaegar, Arys, etc. give so much depth to Martin's world. In this same way Erickson's asides that seem to bear no relevance to the plot give a nuance that we wouldn't have otherwise. Even Rothfuss' most recent work, which I criticized somewhat heavily for being a travelogue, offered looks at parts of the his world that we just weren't going to see otherwise. It was bloated sure, but it was also interesting. I'm glad I read it, even if I found it slow and at times tedious. World building is as important in fantasy as the plot itself. Why would we want an author to get rid of that?

I would argue it isn't bloat that's the problem, it's bad writing. Bad bloat is bad, not because it's "bloat" but because it's bad writing.

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All good as long as it adds to the story: reveals something new about characters, shows something in a different light, etc. ASOIAF books are huge, but I found zero "bad" bloat in 1-3. AFFC has a bit, but not much.

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I think the point is that bloat is part of the genre. I don't mean an unfortunate side effect of it, but rather in many cases an essential - even desired - part of it. Most of us love the genre because of its "transportational" qualities. We love the world building, the mythology, and the dense plotting. Without the bloat, would the books still have the same wonder? I'm not so sure.

I occasionally love the standalone (see Tigana or Elantris), but at the end of them I always want more. What is going on elsewhere in the world? What about the mythology we didn't see? What about the history that is hinted at throughout? The worlds are often so vivid that I want to know more. Bloat delivers this.

Watching Game of Thrones last night I was reminded about how much of what made ASoIF so good was in many ways the characters that Martin doesn't portray. Brandon Stark, Rhaegar, Arys, etc. give so much depth to Martin's world. In this same way Erickson's asides that seem to bear no relevance to the plot give a nuance that we wouldn't have otherwise. Even Rothfuss' most recent work, which I criticized somewhat heavily for being a travelogue, offered looks at parts of the his world that we just weren't going to see otherwise. It was bloated sure, but it was also interesting. I'm glad I read it, even if I found it slow and at times tedious. World building is as important in fantasy as the plot itself. Why would we want an author to get rid of that?

I would argue it isn't bloat that's the problem, it's bad writing. Bad bloat is bad, not because it's "bloat" but because it's bad writing.

I agree. I love long books, and generally once I've gotten immersed into a world, and I reach the end of the published material I still want more. Heck, it even happened with the Wheel of Time. Yep, all 10,000 pages of it, and I got through it and wanted to stay in the setting that I'd gotten caught in. Those books are notorious for getting bloated in the second half of the series, but the fact is that I'd gotten so immersed in the world by the first half, that by the time I hit the major bloat I didn't really mind.

If I like a book, I want it to be longer. I love the epic. I suppose I'm the sort of person who encourages bloat!

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Agree that for me it's only "bloated" if you already find fault with the writing for reasons that go beyond too high a word count. Toll the Hounds is my favorite of the series, for example, and if AFFC is Martin's brand of "nothing happens," then I guess I am very much open to books where nothing happens.

Likewise, WoT started to become a struggle for me as early as books two and three, and those volumes are commonly cited as pre-bloat Jordan.

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Agree that for me it's only "bloated" if you already find fault with the writing for reasons that go beyond too high a word count. Toll the Hounds is my favorite of the series, for example, and if AFFC is Martin's brand of "nothing happens," then I guess I am very much open to books where nothing happens.

Likewise, WoT started to become a struggle for me as early as books two and three, and those volumes are commonly cited as pre-bloat Jordan.

Not to redirect the thread, but...

Is it possible that the negative response to bloat is somewhat a factor of those who review books as a hobby/living are frustrated by ponderous tomes that slow down their output?

I mean a book blogger who is going through Kushiel's Dart is going to be frustrated by how long it takes. A 1000 page paperback is going to take twice as long or even three times as long to read as a standard length novel of say 350 pages. Furthermore, reviewing epic series before the final volume is very difficult and can be frustrating.

Or is it the opposite? Is bloat encouraged by experience readers who read so much that a little bloat doesn't bother them. And now that we have these massive novels as a genre staple, are we discouraging new entrants to the genre who are overwhelmed by the scale?

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I am the fan of the well chosen word and the space the author leaves the reader to fill with their imagination. The writer's skill, I feel, is in chosing what to write and what to allude to, not in giving a blow by blow, step by step account of a story. As a reader I should be left wanting more and not left leaning back from the table with my belt unbuckled, trousers open, stomach swollen to bursting point with prose.

The Iliad is an epic. It is the story of one man's anger, it stretches over a period of a only a few days. It doesn't need to be the retelling of the entire Trojan War to achieve the scene of scope and scale that I guess most people would associate with the word epic.

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I am the fan of the well chosen word and the space the author leaves the reader to fill with their imagination. The writer's skill, I feel, is in chosing what to write and what to allude to, not in giving a blow by blow, step by step account of a story. As a reader I should be left wanting more and not left leaning back from the table with my belt unbuckled, trousers open, stomach swollen to bursting point with prose.

The Iliad is an epic. It is the story of one man's anger, it stretches over a period of a only a few days. It doesn't need to be the retelling of the entire Trojan War to achieve the scene of scope and scale that I guess most people would associate with the word epic.

I think there's a place for both. Isn't it likely that "epic fantasy" as a genre is by definition bloated? And is that a bad thing?

I'm not sure The Iliad is a good example given how much wasted prose there is. The story itself is tight, but there's a lot of historical gibberish in there that's not particularly relevant to the plot. I see your point though. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a good example of it. An epic setting and plot told from a narrow point of view. It makes for a tight novel. I would call it epic fantasy, but the series isn't over. Is a three book series bloaty by nature?

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