Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Nerds, I am prepared to receive your envy

[Note: This post is going up on April Fools' Day, so let me just begin by stating that I am not joking. Especially about the J.K. Rowling stuff.]

You may remember, my imaginary readers, that I have been taking a writing class this semester. Our teacher is also a young author (actually, he's within six months of my own age, which is a little weird) who is standing at the threshold of fame and glory. Ten years from now, he might be the most famous Mormon author in the world. (I don't mean he writes Mormon books; I mean he's a Mormon who writes books.)

And he let us help proofread his latest manuscript before it gets printed. So, this morning, I just finished reading the third Mistborn novel: Hero of Ages. My fellow nerds, be warned. It's really, really good.

I'm not trying to be a dumb fanboy. I recognize that there are constructive criticisms that could be made. At the micro level, looking at individual sentences, the dialog isn't always sparkling. The prose isn't always elegant. But as one of the other proofreaders said to me, the book shows an incredible mastery of the larger elements-- plot, setting, character. Taken as a whole, the novel is brilliant.

And I wasn't sure it would be. As I drew nearer to the end, I became more and more reluctant to continue. Disappointing endings in other books-- I'm looking at you, Rowling!-- have taught me to be wary. Too often we get stupid twists that serve no purpose but to surprise the reader. That doesn't impress me. Surprise is easy. It takes real precision, and real care, to put together an ending that's not only surprising, but satisfying. And this novel does both, superbly. No plot holes, no character inconsistencies, no loose ends. Everything worked, and everything worked together.

Brandon, thanks for letting me take a look at your manuscript. Everybody else, buy this book!

(Yeah, I'm talking to you, Rowling...)

--JHON NOONIEN SINGH

10 comments:

Alice Wills Gold said...

How dare you insult my hero like that...you have no right to insult...when you make the money she has on her novels, then you can critique!

And, science fiction novels suck!

And, I am only leaving this comment because I know you can handle it and would not have it any other way...then, just the truth said.

the House of Payne said...

I had a lot of love for the first several Harry Potter books, but that last one... Well, I would have replaced the middle 300 pages or so with the following sentence:

"Harry sulked in the woods for a long time like a big dumb crybaby, and then he decided that he and his friends should go fight the bad guys."

That one change would have made the book about 50% better. And let's not even mention how she KILLED one of the twins right at the start of the book. What's up with that? Why kill a fan favorite? Why not kill someone who everybody hates, like Harry?

Just sayin'...

slwhitman said...

I have had Hero of Ages for over a year and still haven't gotten around to reading it. But I did just record an episode of Writing Excuses with him and Dan. Did you read books 1 & 2 before you read book 3? Because that might have given you more hope that he can really put together a wham-bang finish--in fact, I think that's what he's best at. He starts *really* slowly, but the ends are always very satisfying.

slwhitman said...

Also, Alice, Brandon writes fantasy, not science fiction.

the House of Payne said...

Stacy,

How did you get Hero of Ages a year ago? Since it's not being published until October, I thought I was lucky to get it now. I guess you must be even luckier.

In answer to your question, I did read the first two books in the series. I had never heard of Brandon Sanderson until about November, when a friend of mine recommended I buy Elantris. But I have now purchased, and read, all four of the books he has published.

And I agree that he's good at endings. I guess I wasn't clear about that in my post, but I really thought the end of this book tied the series up really well. That's one of the things I'm trying to learn from him, because I've never managed to finish writing a book, much less finishing it well...

slwhitman said...

Brandon's an old friend from BYU, which I've told you before, I think. I've been an alpha reader of his for years--but ever since I've been editing full time, it's harder and harder to be his alpha reader, or anyone's for that matter. So the version you read at the proofreading stage is the one I have from probably several drafts earlier.

the House of Payne said...

Oh, yeah. You did say that. So what exactly is an alpha reader? I saw that term on his acknowledgments page, but I wasn't sure what it meant. Is it more like an editor who helps revise early drafts or more like a proofreader who helps catch mistakes in the finished manuscript?

slwhitman said...

It's just a friend who reads it and says "I liked this, I didn't like that." It's like the next step up from a writing group--the first people you give it to when you're about ready to send it out to your actual editor but want to make sure you've really perfected it. I happen to be an editor, but most of his alpha readers are other friends from the same group of college friends.

Linda said...

I guess I'm not a true nerd, as I had hoped, since it took me a minute to figure out how to leave a comment on this blog. Ah well, sounds like a great book anyway.

the House of Payne said...

It is! I should loan you the first one in the series. It's a real winner.