May 30, 2008

The Expectations of Imagination

I just finished reading King of Foxes, the second book in Raymond E. Feist‘s Conclave of Shadows series. I woke up in the morning thinking of something that I had first thought on reading the first book in the series, Talon of the Silver Hawk. So what was I thinking? I was thinking that it ruins the magic of an imagined world when the author takes shortcuts :)

Of course, I must start off with the disclaimer that Raymond E. Feist is a successful author and I cannot claim to be anywhere even remotely close to his level as a writer, in terms of success. However, I’m not writing as a writer but as a reader and all a reader needs to criticise a book is the fact that they didn’t enjoy it thoroughly :)

Now in the case of Raymond E. Feist, I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed his writing. in fact, quite the reverse. However, the more I read his work, the more I realize that he tends to use shortcuts in building his world and this tends to disappoint me. I expect a completely new world springing forth from the author’s imagination when I read a novel which is set in another world, not a pale imitation of our own clothed in slightly different trappings to hide the fact.

I don’t know if I was aware of the similarity to Japanese culture in Feist’s Tsurani when I first read his Magician and the other two novels in the series. But then again, that was close to 20 years ago. However, when I read Talon of the Silver Hawk, I was immediately aware that his Orosini were lifted wholesale from various North American Indian (or Native Americans or First Nation or whatever they are called today …) tribes. Then I woke up today with the realization that the continent on the other side of Midkemia, the world that Fiest’s stories take place on, is called Novindus. Nov + Indus as in New India, get it? Like Columbus thought America, the continent on the other side of our own world, was India. (Then again, apparently Novindus is supposed to be shaped like India and so it is actually India since the known world in Midkemia might be the Americas …)

There probably are other races and other places modeled after our world in Feist’s novels. And I’m not saying a writer has no right to do that, it’s a writer’s prerogative to write their story (and build their world) in any fashion they choose. But as far as I’m concerned, when somebody copies stuff from the world we know simply because it’s easy, it takes something away from the overall story. Now Terry Pratchett copies countries and people from our world in his Discworld series but that’s for satirical effect, there is a purpose to it. Not to mention that PTerry’s copies are never exact copies :)

But I see no real purpose to Feist’s wholesale copying of nations and peoples except that it’s easier to do that than to create something completely new. Perhaps I am mistaken and am assigning incorrect motives to Feist, Perhaps he did have a reason for creating these parallels. But if so, I can’t see that reason. All that it’s done for me is to slightly dilute the enjoyment of reading his work. And I don’t think any writer wants that ….


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Tags: Books, Entertainment, Writing
Posted by Fahim at 7:39 am   Comments (0)