Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Great Reread Project Mark III - The Letter D

Last time I did this I went for Dave Duncan's The Reaver's Road (the first of his Omar the Storyteller books), unfortunately while I liked it and it's sequel (The Hunter's Haunt) the first time around, this time I just couldn't get into the whole send up of the sword and sorcery genre and it turned into a DNF. I wasn't sure who I'd do for D this time and I settled on John De Chancie.

John De Chancie wrote a number of science fiction and fantasy books back in the 80's and 90's. He is possibly best known for the Castle Perilous series.

These were short, funny fantasies that were quite popular at the time, along with writers like Craig Shaw Gardner, Robert Asprin and even some of Esther Friesner's work.

There were 8 of these originally (I believe a 9th; the Pirates of Castle Perilous was recently published) and because they're all pretty short by today's standards (I don't think any of them would break 300 pages) I thought I'd be able to read all of them.

They haven't exactly been visited by the 'suck fairy', but I did have to call defeat part way through Castle War! (the 4th book in the series). Partially this was my fault. They came out in 6 month intervals, and that's really how they were designed to be read. It is possible to overdose on something and the Castle books are an example of that. Shotgunning them the way I was only really showed up their flaws and took away from my enjoyment of them. They've dated terribly, as well.

The idea is pretty cool. A castle located in a place of it's own in space and time, which has 144,000 doors, each of which leads to a different world or reality. Unfortunately I don't think the author's imagination was up to the task and many of his worlds wound up becoming rather pedestrian. There was a lot of promise in the world that one of the lead character's; Snowclaw, hailed from, but it was never really explored.

I also found the inhabitants of the castle kind of boring given that premise. Most of them, Snowclaw excepted, were humans, who came from either Earth or a world very like it. There was a race of sentient dinosaurs in the first book, but they disappeared partway through that and weren't seen again by the time I bailed. They may have reappeared in some of the later books, but they can't have made much of an impact as I can't remember them.

I liked Gene initially, until he turned into a raving chauvinist in the 3rd book, something that turned me off the character and the books, and was evidence of how badly they'd aged. I did like Linda and Snowclaw, although the latter was really used as comedy relief most of the time. I found Incarnadine, the ruler of the castle, rather hard to take at the best of times and kind of wished he'd get lost in one of his castle's many aspects and not return.

Another thing that dated the books was the introduction of computers in the 3rd book. What computers could do and were in the late 80's, are a far cry from what they are now, and they simply didn't work in the concept. It's kind of weird when they're talking about mainframes and floppy drives, booting up programs and separate scanning machines, and I sit there and look at my phone and my tablet and think of streaming data and the cloud.

The one thing that kept popping into my head while I was reading them was how like Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree books they were. I doubt John De Chancie had ever even heard of Enid Blyton, let alone read her Faraway Tree books, but they were very similar in concept and execution, although I kind of think Blyton did it better and with more spirit.

Possibly I would have been better digging out Tom Deitz's David Sullivan books.

The letter E has me worried as I'm going back to David and Leigh Eddings. The last time I did that it was The Belgariad, and that was an epic that aged very badly.

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