A review by ashleylm
The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford


Really rather stunned this won a World Fantasy Award. There seem to be a subset of authors that err to the literary (Ford, some Wolfe, Blaylock, Crowley) that can leave me absolutely cold. The tale began with three short stories, essentially, that on their own held very little interest for me. There's too much left unsaid--I don't mind the author withholding some information (and in the Wolfe novels which I do like he does that masterfully), but here I wasn't terribly clear about what the situations were, why things mattered, who wanted what, who worked for who, or who actually worked for who, or even what actual sentences meant in context, and it just got worse at it went along (I stopped entirely around page 100, owing to my life-is-short-but-books-are-almost-infinite-rule).

For my, ideal reading is when the author withholds a few things--what will happen, occasionally a character motivation, maybe there's some stunning misdirection and a surprise twist--but when reading is a battle to try to decipher what should be plain, it's distressing.

A short excerpt, from the start of the third chapter (and a whole new set of characters, places, problems, etc.), and the context is that houseguests are cold and have worn warm clothes, making it difficult for servants to pack for an unexplained journey tomorrow. This immediately follows:

"Messer Lorenzo knew the specific for that disorder, however." In today's English that would read as "Mr. Lorenzo knew the remedy for that problem." To me, this isn't playing fair--it's one thing to use a deliberately archaic word so that we recognize we may have to struggle some to work out it's meaning, it's another thing to use words that have migrated far from their original meaning (and it's no good arguing that the story is set in the past--presumably these characters would be thinking in Italian so it must needs be translated). It's especially frustrating that he's conjured an image of luggage overthrown as warm clothes were rooted out, because that's not what he meant by disorder at all--he specifically intends a metaphor for a medical problem, because he follows with the solution (getting everyone full on mutton and drunk on beer).

So, no. No more for me. Not while Connie Willis is still writing and I haven't yet read everything by Neal Stephenson or Jack Vance.

(Note: 5 stars = amazing, wonderful, 4 = very good book, 3 = decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. I'm fairly good at picking for myself so end up with a lot of 4s).