Sunday, February 3, 2013

Needy Readers - On Corpse-Rats and Zombies

I like to write when I get the time, and when my head’s in the game – but I’ve read many more words in my life than I’ll ever write, so from that perspective I’m more a reader than a writer. And as a reader, I have certain expectations. Usually pretty high expectations, actually. Particularly in the past few years, since I decided life’s too short to read shitty writing, or authors who clearly have only a passing knowledge of the issues they’re attempting to bring to light.

I’ve also noticed that certain books I that found fascinating 20 years ago, I find to be really quite bland and uninteresting now, and that’s not only because I’m (quite literally, as I write this) passing out of my thirties and into…well, whatever comes next. It’s mostly because my expectations as a reader have moved on. If I’m reading a fantasy, I don’t want a generic Sword of Shannara/Dragonlance Chronicles/one-size-fits-all introduction. I want something new. Something fresh. A new slant that draws me in immediately.
I don’t want to denigrate earlier works, because at the time they were published, they were new and original (albeit owing more than a little to JRRT). I tried reading Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara to my children a few years back, and after the first few chapters, even I was like, “Meh.” It’s just been done so many times before (and since). That corner of that genre is owned, and by better authors than we generally see published today.
So what does that mean? Well, it’ll be a long time before anyone tops Harry Potter in the “Orphan-boy-goes-to-school-of-magic-and-beats-terrifying-odds-to-become-powerful-wizard,” stakes, but it’ll happen I guess, sometime down the road, when someone does it fresher, and better. I’m currently reading Lee Battersby’s The Corpse-Rat King (confusing title as initially I thought it might be about the leader of horde of undead rats – which also would have been cool). In the first 50 pages I’ve already seen a new take on the aftermath of war, on the afterlife, and on the age-old favourite – zombies. The zombie scene in the tavern was actually one of the most hilarious things I’ve read for a while.
I like this book – so far. I like it a lot. Will it keep me interested right through to the end? I’ll keep you posted, but Mr Battersby seems to have a better understanding than most of what it takes to keep a reader like me interested. Because I am demanding these days. I recognise that. I’m a high-maintenance reader. I’m needy. Give me what I want, or I’ll read someone else. Someone who does give me what I want. Simple as that.

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