Friday, October 09, 2015

Did Not Finish/Not-a-Review: Last First Snow by Max Gladstone

First, let me be clear, I did not finish the book Last First Snow by Max Gladstone, so this isn’t a true review. Some people strongly believe that if you don’t finish a book, you should not comment on it at a blog like mine. Well, I disagree, because I think that sharing reasons why I don’t finish a book are just as valid as sharing the reasons why I finish reading and enjoy (or not) books. And let me be further clear that I believe a lot of why I didn’t finish this book comes down to the old standard excuse – ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. So, you have been warned.

I have heard many good things about the books that Max Gladstone writes in the Craft Sequence, so many that I’ve been waiting for a good place to jump in. It is my understanding that they are all written to be stand-alone books in a related sequence and that Last First Snow is ‘first’ in the sense of timeline. So, I thought it would be good entry point.

This is a book that I should like and I genuinely feel that the concept at its core is brilliant. The book and the world combine social activism of the real world with a fantasy world full of Aztec-inspired deities and monsters. This is the story of a fantasy protest movement. It’s the story of magical lawyers and big city mayors who are undead skeletons. In short it’s full of a lot cool, unusual stuff with real depth and relevance to our own world.

But, I didn’t finish this book, and that is something that is pretty rare for me. Was it too dense? No. Did I not connect with the characters? No. So, then what is the problem? And further, I made it pretty far before I actually stopped – page 228 of 380.

I think that it’s because it’s all too real. Last First Snow expertly describes and identifies with so many social problems of our own world – in short, it works too well.

Part of why I read is for escape, especially at this point in my life when I have so much going on and I simply don’t have the emotional depth and strength to pile on any more. This book, as fantastic as it is, did not prove to be that escape. It pretty well just reinforced a lot of the issues I need to deal with. It realistically shows the conflict of one’s ideas with the family they love and care for and have committed to. There are no good choices. And it touches way too close to home for me. Also, all of my ‘senses’ kept telling me that something really awful was about to happen, again, something reflecting a real world all too close to my own.

All of this proved too much for me. I wasn’t enjoying reading, I was dreading it. It was time to put the book aside. Will I come back to it? Maybe…I hope so, but it’s hard for me to predict when. Most likely I’ll try another book in the Craft Sequence first, but again, it will probably be a while.

The Craft Sequence

Last First Snow (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon)
Three Parts Dead (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon)
Two Serpents Rise (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon)
Full Fathom Five (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon)


M0rg0th said...

Now that just sucks! I hate it when that happens. Because you know it isn't the book's fault. Usually you could just say "I didn't like this or that." or you say "I love this or that." but then you get these moments where it kinda is more about you than the thing you're reviewing. What I find most frustrating about it is that more than anything it's just a distraction. Of course, that's ironic because you read it to distract yourself from some other thing in the first place.

As for me, I loved the attention to detail that shows how important world-building is in this series. I love the idea of a modern society trying to make things work - except magic and gods exist. It deconstructs the supernatural as it just becomes something mundane. I like the idea that the answer to how the last economy-crisis happened isn't that different from this fictional setting's problem except they simply have different variables and terminology.

And so in a way, your response indicates that the series is reaching its goals. A large part of it is to turn supernatural stuff into various sets of somewhat logical technicalities and what you're left with is the realization that without humanity nothing like this would happen and therefore in the end you always come back to the eternal question of "What is the right thing to do?". Of course it depends on the tone of the story how depressing or uplifting the answer to that will be. In this case, I would say, Max Gladstone usually goes for the "no pain, no gain"-approach: Some things get sacrificed on a personal level in order to move forward for the greater good.

Neth said...

Excellent comment. I don't really have anything to add beyond that.


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