Thoughts on the book mountain: Simon R Green

As will be obvious from recent posts on my main blog, I’m busy unpacking the book collection that has been in storage for the last decade. This involves giving serious consideration to whether in fact I want to keep any particular book, or whether I should dispose of it (blasphemy! cries a large chunk of my flist). My views on Simon R Green’s output run the full range from into the “dispose of” box without even thinking about it, to “prise from my cold dead hands”. Unlike some of the other authors whose books are about to get drastically pruned, this *doesn’t* reflect a change in my tastes in the last ten years. The ones that are going are the Deathstalker books, and that’s because around ten years ago I got part way through the latest one, and realised that not only did I not feel like finishing it, I never wanted to read another Deathstalker book again. Not even the first one, which I’d really enjoyed a lot.

This may have been the first series in which I hit the “are you ever going to finish this story?” barrier. I will read very, very long series — I’m still enjoying Discworld. But the long series I will still read essentially consist of new stories in the ongoing history of that universe. Deathstalker turned into the sort of series where the author keeps thinking that one or two more episodes will finish off this story — and then finds that another million words have somehow sneaked in there, and the end of the arc is still a couple of books away.

I know that this is not necessarily a cynical spinning out of the story over unnecessary numbers of books just to keep the money coming in. Often enough it’s simply that the characters *will* not leave the author alone, or a nice simple outline turns out to need three times as many words as expected to deal with all the ramifications that spring up when you start writing the thing. I’ve watched a couple of friends get caught in that loop; and on a shorter scale, I’m the person who turned a 1500 word short story into a series that currently has around 120 kwords out in the wild and at least another 40k waiting to be written. But there comes a point at which I have to be just as interested as the author is in this soap opera in order to keep reading, and a lot of the time I’m not.

And yet one of the books on the “prise from my cold dead hands” list is also set in the Twilight of the Empire universe. Mistworld is one of the short novels in the same setting which came out before Deathstalker. Not everyone likes this, but I adore it. It’s one of the books I actively missed when it was in storage all those years, and the main reason I didn’t go out and get another copy was that by then I had a To Be Read pile that was threatening to turn into a mountain.

There’s a definite correlation with the length of the book, but that’s more a reflection of the length of the story unit. I’ll happily read the two Blue Moon doorstops, because even though they tie into the Blue Moon universe and you’ll get more out of them by reading the whole sequence in order, you don’t *have* to read any more than the one book out of the universe. And the standalone Shadows Fall is going to have to wait until when I have the time and attention to give to a complex doorstop, but it’s going on the shelf, not in the box.

I think this is partly that I’m feeling less inclined to read doorstops at all. But it’s also partly because Green’s work was, in my view, a lot more disciplined in the Blue Moon books.

I’ve never read any of the Nightside books, and that’s largely because I didn’t trust them not to turn into the sort of thing that annoyed me about the Deathstalker books. Maybe once I’ve made some inroads on the TBR mountain, I’ll give them a go.

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