Jury duty is over. Thankfully. I didn’t get called for a jury. In fact, I did nothing for three days but sit around on my butt and read. I love reading but even I was getting a little stir-crazy by the end. I’m free today, though, so time to catch up on a little blogging.
I read quite a few good pieces while sitting around and will review some of them here in time. I’ve reviewed most on Goodreads already. But I read one yesterday that was not so good. I’m going to talk about it a bit here because of the writing lessons it provides, but not give the name because I know who the author is, though it’s not someone I correspond with or anything. I also believe the author genuinely loves the Conan character and is enthusiastic, even if he didn’t get down on the page what he was probably hoping for.
Anyway, so here I am reading a Conan pastiche that I got free from Amazon for the kindle. It picks up where the original Arnold movie left off, which is OK. The first pages aren’t too bad. I’m starting to settle in, when the problems begin. First, Conan and his companion stumble upon the tale’s evildoers. They are cave dwellers mostly, degenerate, etc. That would be fine but they are described as “gnomes.” I know that “gnomes” have undergone a lot of changes over time but I’m afraid I had a problem seeing them as anything more than garden gnomes from then on. Although the description of them was of something pretty nasty, it was a bit of a problem for me. I could have handled that.
Second, the anachronisms began, and this was quite a bit more of a problem. Conan is supposed to live in the Hyborian Age, far in the past before recorded history. Yet, the author used terms like “mania,” “electrified,” “bronco,” and, worst of all, “cop-out.” At one point Conan yells “Happy Holidays” to his foes. Sarcastically, I think. These terms really destroyed any sense of realism for me in the tale. The writer is supposed to strive to become invisible behind the flow of the prose, but when you throw in phrases like “cop-out” in a story like this, you are putting the writer front and center.
Fiction is a very carefully crafted lie. As soon as you see through the veil, anything else that is remotely a problem starts to jump out at you. The whole “house of cards” rapidly comes tumbling down. If it hadn’t been for the anachronisms, I might not have noticed other issues with the prose so clearly, most notably the overuse of alliteration, particularly with “G’s,” and the weird use of terms. The author obviously had a pretty large vocabulary but frequently seemed to slightly misuse terms. One example I remember is the phrase “relentless tunnels.” Endless tunnels maybe. But I couldn’t follow “relentless tunnels.”
Another issue for me was that the character was not anywhere close to the Robert E. Howard character. This Conan was a pure selfless hero, with none of the nuances that Howard brought to the character. In this way, the character didn’t even match the Arnold-portrayed Conan from the movies. This was not a particular problem with the writing. Had the character been called something else it might have worked just fine.
How about you? Do anachronisms bother you? Do you notice phrases like “relentless tunnels?” How do you feel about alliteration?