Friday, April 14, 2006

The Family Trade -- Charles Stross

Charles Stross is a hot writer in the SF field right now, but I wasn't much taken by Singularity Sky. Someone at AggieCon said that I might like his fantasy better than the hard SF and suggested that I try The Family Trade, which is supposedly "in the tradition of Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber." I really liked the early Amber novels, but they unfortunately came to demonstrate the truth of an old saying about writing (first you do it for love, then you do it for a few friends, and finally you just do it for the money). Anyway, I was ready for something similar, and The Family Trade paperback I bought was covered with rave reviews and enthusiastic blurbs.

The book didn't really work for me, though, and it comes down to the writing.
Zelazny had a sense of humor that I enjoyed. Stross is supposed to be pretty funny, too, but I guess I just don't get the jokes. I might have smiled once, but I didn't do any laughing.

And no matter how many times I people tell me about Stross' great prose, I just don't see it. Not that there's anything wrong with adverbs, but Stross tosses them around like the old pulpsters. Nobody ever just says something. Everybody says something with an adverb. So on pages 92-93 of the paperback we get things like this: "Angbard said firmly," and "she replied, disbelievingly," and "Roland said slowly." Things can get awkward, as with the "disbelievingly," and on page 100 we get "asked exasperatedly." I like adverbs, myself, and I like to use them in my writing, but not to the extent that Stross does.

So while I liked the alternate-earth story, I kept getting distracted. I wasn't
taken with the characters, so even though the ending of this novel is a huge cliffhanger, I'll probably stop with Stross and move on to something else.

6 comments:

Shelly said...

I only read his Singularity Sky (well, read isn't quite right; I read the first half, then skimmed the rest) and it's nice to know I'm not the only one who can't get into his prose.

Bill said...

Lots of those reviewers seem to like it. But it sure didn't work for me.

Juri said...

I've read only one short story by Stross, and was left wondering what was so great about him. I don't really think I'll go for his books, even though lots of my SF-liking friends are enthusiastic about him.

Bill said...

Mine, too, Juri. Obviously I don't get it, but then that's true about a lot of things.

James said...

I know what you mean about the whole adverbial modification of "said." As far as I'm concerned, said is said. There are other words to describe utterances with inflection.

Pat B. said...

Exasperatedly? That's certainly a word to live without.