Entries in world-building (4)


The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

This book has been pushed as something to fill the void left by the cancellation of Firefly, and in sense that's correct. It has a quirky, lovable cast living on a rundown junkheap of a ship being held together by duct tape and love. And honestly, I think that's where the comparisons end.

This is a great book, it just didn't fit my initial expectations after all the Star Wars and Firefly hype. Those comparisons fit for the characters but not so much the story itself. This book is a slow burn, which is fine, I just wasn't expecting it. Not a lot happens for like half the book, but the characters themselves interacting. But these characters are phenomenal.

Basically, the occupants of the spaceship Wayfarer are construction workers building wormholes in space. And they're a bunch of pacifists (which removes them by another step from Firefly and SW) from a wide array of species and backgrounds.

There's a lot of wonderful worldbuilding to go along with the wonderful characterization. And through the characters and the slow, meandering pace, there's a lot of exploration of moral causes that really shines a light on some of the goofy things that humans do (and should maybe stop doing).

The climax was a great bit of action that I appreciated.

But there were a lot of points where I felt like the conflict was shied away from. Where things could have been explored more deeply, especially deeper into specific character emotions during some key scenes, that were just left hanging or glossed over. And I was really disappointed that the truth about Rosemary's father didn't really amount to much.

And then there's the thing that Corbin does to Ohan that really pisses me off. The thing itself is horrifying, but the way it's just sort of swept under the rug and shrugged off really upset me. Regardless of how Ohan feels about it (and we never really know because this is another place where conflict and deeper exploration of character emotions is dropped), what Corbin did is 100% inexcusable. Just because we're shown Ohan learning to cope with the fallout doesn't mean Ohan is happy about it.

Anyway, there are more books in this world, but they don't look like they follow this specific cast and I'm really disappointed in that. This book felt like it was just getting started, but the next book is about a pair of side characters. Ditto the third one. This is the second time I've seen this kind of "trilogy" and I don't think I like this new trend.

I do still recommend reading this book. It's rich and wonderful.


The Hero of Ages

All right, here we go. Recently finished reading the final book in the original Mistborn trilogy (I understand there is another trilogy that takes place in the same world but centuries later). I liked it. It's WAY better than the 2nd book, The Well of Ascension.

This book is hard to talk about without spoilers, but I'll do my best. If you're worried about accidental spoilers, maybe don't read past this paragraph? I'll just say that it's a book worth reading for the same reason the other two Mistborn books are. It answers a lot of questions and ties up the storyline nicely (but not too nicely because that would be annoying).

Onward to probably spoilers.

So this book is faster paced, even if it does have some chapters that don't seem to go anywhere. I know some people really don't like Sazed's chapters and found them boring. But after hearing Sanderson talk about them and the things he did to keep Sazed compelling through his depression, I really enjoyed those chapters.

Unlike the siege chapters of the second book, I thought the depression chapters in this book were necessary. They don't move the plot, don't influence it at all until the very final pages, but these chapters still have a colossal payoff in the end. They do, however, build up Sazed's character, who has been my favourite since midway through Mistborn.

Narrative voice of the characters was a little better in this one as well, so that I could at least tell when something was in Sazed's POV based on voice if not the events. And I also pegged those little chapter openers as belonging to the correct character, which was confusing as hell until the final pages.

The hints are there all along about who the Hero of Ages really is, but I was still shocked and delighted by the reveal. I thought the ending was perfect. Endings are hard to nail, but Sanderson does it well here. I loved what Sazed did for Vin and Elend in the flowers. I loved Spook's final thoughts. Lots of cheering from me.

And okay fine I cried too shut up.

But the ending also left me with SO many questions (spoilery ones so you definitely want to stop reading now if you hate those). What happened to Marsh? And any other Inquisitors left at the end? What about TenSoon and the other kandra? And the koloss? The world is changed and restored so much at the end, but is there still a place for them? Could they be restored or not? I'm hoping the next book in the series answers some of this, but I'm not sure when I'll get to it. (So many books, so little time)


The Well of Ascension

This is the follow up to Mistborn but it really doesn't live up to its predecessor. It's still a good book over all, but I think it's a confused book. It doesn't know if it wants to be a siege book or a hero's journey book and it tries to do them both with boring results.

This could have easily been 400 pages shorter. I know a lot of people love the siege bits, but I found it (especially the length of story it takes up) to be completely unnecessary. It's likely all that boring crap in the middle is set-up for book 3, but that's still sloppy writing. Set up for later action should be dispersed throughout a story, not all clumped into one long slog.

I wish that I had just read the summary of this book from the back of book 3 and then just skipped straight from Mistborn to The Hero of Ages. But those 400 extra pages aren't the only problem I had with this book. While the world and characters are crafted well, Sanderson's writing is still fairly weak. These books were written about 10 years ago, so I expect he's a much better writer now.

One of the biggest faults with the book is the narration. There are several POV characters, which works well on its own, but I found myself often confused about whose point of view I was reading. The character voice just isn't there. I think part of the reason for this is that subtle emotional cues aren't there either.

But I've already started reading book 3, which is much better in terms of pacing, at least so far. I think anyone who enjoys fantasy siege warfare and/or politics will enjoy all of book 2. I am really really not that person.



I've been meaning to get into Sanderson's work for a while now because I've been listening to him talk about writing for over a year now through the Writing Excuses podcast and his BYU course. His reference to this book in particular when talking about worldbuilding and elements in fiction made it sound really interesting.

And it *is* really interesting. It's really cool to see the elemental genres applied, in this case a heist element added to an epic fantasy. So what's this about? As I described it to my 6-year-old: It's about people who eat metal and turn it into magic. And also overthrowing an evil overlord. All framed as a heist.

So structurally this is really cool and the characters are excellent as well. Not perfect, mind you. Each character POV wasn't as distinct as they could be (Daniel Jose Older is still king at this). But it was still well done. Putting all the pieces in place and still pulling out a few surprises was no small feat.

This book hooked me right off the bat and had a steady pace that made it hard to put down. A must read for fantasy fans!