Thursday, January 03, 2008

Gift

A book was delivered to my door today. That’s not an unusual occurrence. But this one I didn’t pay for. That’s a bit more unusual. Michael Burgess, who generally writes SF and Fantasy under the name Robert Reginald, sent me a copy of his book Invasion!. This is actually a trilogy under one cover, and is basically a riff on H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. It continues and expands the story, and I have to admit this is one of those day dreams that I’ve indulged in quite frequently. What would I have done had such an event really happened in my life time. For some reason, I usually imagine that I’m in Graduate school when the war starts.

Frankly, when it comes to SF and fantasy, I enjoy when authors take beloved tales and play off them. Some are better than others, of course. So much depends on the writer. Rob is a professional and this book sings. Here’s a website that talks about the book.

You’d guess that I’d feel this way, I imagine. The Taleran books are very much influenced by the John Carter of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

How about you? Do you like it when an author takes a well loved theme and puts their own spin on it? Do you like to read that kind of thing? Or would you prefer everything new and shiny?

35 comments:

Miladysa said...

It depends on how well they do it :)

Lisa said...

I like a fresh spin on an old theme. I think there are a lot of people (myself included) who believe there really aren't any new stories -- it's all recycling and reinvention. -- and I don't mean that in a derogatory way.

Shauna Roberts said...

I love retellings of fairy tales and legends. (I've written a couple of them myself, although neither story has gotten published yet.) Shoot, they don't even have to have a fresh spin. I'll gladly revisit a favorite old story with no new clothes.

Travis said...

I'm partial to similar stories. I like the epic quest adventure with a band of flawed heroes.

And I enjoy them even more when a really good writer injects something else into the story, such as the humor David Eddings puts in his characters or the mixing of worlds that Mark Anthony does in his Last Rune series.

Jeff B said...

If the author doesn't try to conceal the fact that it's a rewrite of an existing story I'm all for it. When they take the core elements and embelish them to make it seem like something completely new that's irritating. That's too much like plagiarism for me.

Ello said...

I do love retellings of old fairy tales and legends.

And I LOVE getting books for free!

FYI - I finally got around to ordering my copy of Talera with my Christmas present Amazon gift! Yeah! More books to read!

Erik Donald France said...

I think it's cool, too -- and both War of the Worlds and John Carter's world are great for that . . .

steve said...

One of my favorite science fiction stories is Alfred Bester's "The Stars My Destination," which is a retelling of "The Count of Monte Cristo." I agree with miladysa. Lisa, I hope there are new stories. Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children" was like nothing else I'd ever read. And I remember listening to Douglas Adams's "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in, I think, 1978, and felt I was hearing something totally new.

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wayne said...

I'm npot much into SF, but I certainly do like dusted off themes.

SzélsőFa said...

As you've said it depends on how things are re-written and re-thought. Provided it ir right in all departments, I'd love to read re-told stories.

eric1313 said...

When it's done well, it's great. Automated Alice was a good book. For the life of me, I can't remember the author's name, but it's a sci fi rendition/sequel to Alice in Wonderland. It's sad and disturbing, but pretty good. The ending could have been better, I thought.

Sometimes, even the original author will lose you after enough sequels. Movies, too. Look at George Lucas, the first trilogy of Star Wars is classic, but the second installment was terrible, slow, devoid of chemistry and imaginative dialog by comparison. I wish he just let Kevin Smith direct them all, as KS had reportedly begged to do. He was willing to be ostracized by Hollywood to do it, too.

Ah, would might have been.

Church Lady said...

I prefer book themes new and shiny.

Congratulations on your unexpected present! Happy reading!
:-)

Julie said...

Nothing new under the sun....and a big market out of a new twist on an old theme?

Going back I liked both Tolkein and Lewis, but wasn't JRR non too pleased about similar themes in Lewis' work - which he'd probably derived from Classics anyway? I don't mind crafty retelling in skilled hands.

moonrat said...

it's true--there's very little that's completely original. i'll settle for an original spin on an old classic any day--some of them are even better than the original.

Michelle's Spell said...

No interest in the shiny and new here! I love the retellings and kind of dislike when people strive for "originality." It seems very gimmicky to me for some reason.

cs harris said...

Retellings of old fairy tales and legends can be fun, although I don't generally enjoy continuations by different authors of novels. If its a story a liked, I usually have my own ideas about where the characters' lives went after the last page, and I don't like someone else rewriting MY vision!

Farrah Rochon said...

Cool on the free book! :)

For me, I just need the story to be well told. The right writing voice can make any theme great.

Charles Gramlich said...

Miladysa, that's certainly the major factor for me.

Lisa, I agree. A fresh spin is important but I tend to agree with the idea that there aren't really any new stories.

Shauna, I'm the same way with old stories in new clothes.

Travis, I've actually never read Eddings. I have some of his books but it seems that people either really like him or strongly dislike him.

Jeff B, good point. I don't want to feel tricked.

Ello, thanks for picking up the book. I appreciate it. Yeah, I love getting books in the mail, especially when they're free.

Erik, agreed. There's a lot of room for adventures there.

Charles Gramlich said...

I broke my comments on other folks' comments up into two posts, so if you don't see a response to your post you'll find it in the previous post from me.

Steve, I didn't know that about "The Stars, My Destination," which is a very good book I agree.

Wayne, yes, it's certainly done all the time in popular and literary fiction. "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy was a post apocolyptic novel, which has been done quite a lot.

Szelsofa, yes, as long as the quality is good.

Eric1313, good point that some writers continue with their own tales too long. I really wanted to like the "new" Star Wars trilogy but it just wasn't memorable.

Church lady, thankee. I'm looking forward to it, but hate that I have to back to school on Monday. Work sure cuts into reading time.

Julie, Tolkien's themes have been so heavily mined I'm sure there's no new veins of ore there, but some of the stories are still good.

Moonrat, I agree there's not a lot that is completely original.

Michelle, I've seen authors do that with their "style," try to make it all new, and it almost never works. It does seem gimmicky.

Candice, that's true. I tend not to like stories that continue another author's "character," but I might like them if they bring that author's themes and basic story into an oriignal piece.

Farah, that's definetely the most important point.

Lana Gramlich said...

That was very nice of him to send you the book. I'm with miladysa--it depends on how well it's done.

ivan said...

Well, look at what the late John Champlin Gardner did with his Grendel, the Beowulf story told from the point of view of the monster Grendel. Unexpected and rather off-putting bits of detail like Grendel chewing up an old lady for lunch, tasting bile and urine...Agh.

But even the late and great John Gardner has been accused of plagiarism.
It's a tricky area, but I think I trust my old prof, Eric S. Wright when he suggested to me, "Pick a plot and write to it."

Ivan

Julie said...

Charles - used to re-read Tolkein frequently when commuting in London on the bus; decided it was a good prose style to absorb as a basic template if I ever wanted to write.

(In the same sort of way one guy at Durham learned Russian by reading War and Peace in the original.)

If I need a real mental break I (very occasionally) read it in one go. Last time four days for the trilogy; I'm a fast reader.

Ian McGandalf read it every year of his life up to playing the part.

Julie said...

ps - did you pick up that until recently I used to play Age of Empires (Kings) just about every day as well? Keep meaning to update to Gods...

Steve Malley said...

New and shiny or fresh spin, all I ask is quality storytelling.

For instance, I'm in the middle of this second book in a trilogy. It's about a place called Talera...

:-)

Travis Erwin said...

Done well I enjoy them. I bought my wife Rhett Butler's people for Christmas since she has always loved all things Gone With The Wind.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, it was nice for sure.

Julie, I seldom reread books, mostly because there are so many I haven't read that I want to read. LOTR would be definetely be worth a reread, though.
Yes, I meant to comment on your own "Age of Empire" affair. The version I have came as a disk with a computer I bought years ago and it is quite relaxing to play. And there are so many scenarios.

Steve Malley, I'm so glad you're enjoying it. The first couple of chapters of that were actually written years before the rest, althuogh it's all been so revised since that it's probably hard to tell.

Travis Erwin, "Rhett Butler's People?" I know who Rhett Butler is but have never heard of his people.

eric1313 said...

Ivan has a good point--Grendel was awesome. Highly recommended. The psychology of telling the story from the monster's point of view was chilling and addictive. I read it in one sitting.

Kate S said...

I'm with Steve. Either way--new or old--it just needs to be told well. I've enjoyed some fresh spins on Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre. Not exactly SF, but still fun. :)

Great retellings of fairy tales and legends are always welcome in my house too.

Sidney said...

I think "WOW" is cool because it has that feel to it you're talking about - what if it happened here. I think that's why so often the radio versions have updated it to familiar towns and places like New Jersey.

I kind of, emphasis on kind of, liked the recent "Tin Man" movie because it retooled "The Wizard of Oz" in sort of steampunk ways.

Angie said...

I'll take a bright, fresh spin on just about anything, old or new, over something original but plodding. You can't copyright "ideas" and rightly so. What makes a difference is what you do with the ideas, how you handle them on a line-by-line basis.

Other people have already mentioned retellings of fairy tales, specifically, and I love those myself. :)

Angie

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, sorry, I don't know how I missed your comment the first time through. But yeah, I didn't think of "Grendel" but that was a great retelling. I did enjoy "Eaters of the Dead," which was another Beowulf redux.

Eric1313, indeed. See my comment to Ivan above.

Angie, I've enjoyed quite a few reworked fairy tails myself. Some good horror stuff has been done in that field, and I did one myself called "Goodies," which was a take off on Little Red Riding Hood.

Sidney, I agree, and I know you did some work with WOW yourself. I wanted to watch "Tin Man" but could never catch it just when it started, but the parts I saw were quite visually appealing.

Kate, Jane Eyre and the Bronte's have been revisited a fair amount lately.

the walking man said...

I like it when I don't know I am reading a retelling of an old story but I am with Ivan's old prof...just take a plot line and go with it.


Peace

mark

Julie said...

I've had the time to re-read over the years.

I know a couple of people who use AOE to destress, despite its age. Spouse enjoys the USM - Universal Soccer Manager - another golden oldie.

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