It seems there’s some stir today as Tor begins to promote Sanderson’s latest and most ambitious epic. I’m enjoying the atmosphere, honestly. In spite of all the seemingly negative things I’ve written about Sanderson I still said I plan to buy the book on day 1 and read it. I also expect at the very least to enjoy it. But if it doesn’t offer something that stands apart the next volumes will probably sit back on the reading pile.

Anyway, part of the promotion are the first 50 pages or so of the book, right now. Or at least Prologue and Prelude, the rest requires some sort of registration.

I haven’t read that, and I will likely wait for the full book before commenting, but that first word is a bad way to start a novel, especially for something that is going to span 10 books.

This isn’t really criticism to Sanderson, it’s just that I always thought it’s awful to open a book with a first name. “Kakak rounded a rocky stone ridge”. Why should I care? First names are something you acquire. They are meaningful when they define someone you know. But throwing the name before everything else is like an unnatural thrust into a character that expects you to know him already. It’s like forcing familiarity to the reader without earning that familiarity.

Let’s make examples. I have recently written about Pynchon, so take Gravity’s Rainbow:

A screaming comes across the sky.

That’s a hell of way to start a book. It sets the tone and definitely lacerates the curtain to let the reader in. (I appreciate the present tense)

Another of Pynchon I have here:

“Now single up all lines!”

Yeah! Let’s fly!

Philip Roth:

She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seem to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise.

I guess literary guys know how to begin their books.

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake.

A way a lone a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

No comment.

Gene Wolfe’s New Sun:

“It is possible I already had some presentiment of my future.”

It couldn’t have set the tone and eccentricity any better.

David Copperfield:

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

Well yes, I’m unfair. You can’t beat that.

R. Scott Bakker:

One cannot rise walls against what has been forgotten.

That’s Bakker. It’s him telling it’s him. “Hey, it’s me.”

Glen Cook:

There were prodigies and portents enough, One-Eye says.

This gets a first name, but as you see the precedence is given to what is being said, which fits.

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead:

Howard Roark laughed.

OK. First name. BUT IT IS AYN RAND. If she isn’t allowed to open a book with a first name than no one else can.

Which naturally leads to Terry Goodkind:

It was an odd-looking vine.


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  1. By » This River Awakens – Quotes Looping Wor(l)d on 02 Nov 2011 at 10:27 pm

    […] stuff) without losing anything of its power and suggestion (and the first line is worth among the memorable ones). Memory begins with a stirring. Spring had arrived. There was life in the air, in the wind that […]

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