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Too little content for 800 pages.
am 11. Januar 2006
"City of Golden Shadow" is the first of 4 volumes which make up Tad Williams' Otherland. Each volume clocks in at about 800 pages, which means there's 3200 pages worth of reading, if you bother with all books. Just so you have a sense of comparison: My "Lord of the Rings" edition totals about 2500 pages (that would include "The Hobbit") while the pointsize is slighly larger than "Otherland". The reason I'm pointing out the number of pages is this: Each LotR book was thoroughly fascinating, vivid and written in a way that made me not want to put any of the books away. Sure, there were a few slow parts, but overall, the books all delivered a well paced plot and each of them stood for themselves (that is, there was no need for the lame "It's a trilogy, so you need to read them all to understand them" excuse - in fact, it was 7 books total, but that's a different story). Each book was packed with a plot that made sense in itself and made me want to read the next part, and not with the feeling that it was just an introductory or transitional episode to the grand scheme of things.
What's all of this got to do with Otherland, you ask? Well, my point is this: This first volume is dreadfully slow. The first and last 50-60 pages are rather well paced, the 700 pages in between just seem to go nowhere. What little plot there is on these 700 pages is rather repetetive: Another virtual world one of the main characters travels through, leaves somehow, and it all starts over. Also, after this book finally comes to a close, you still know very little about the actual plot. In fact, what little plot there is is revealed on the back of the book. Seriously, expand the backprint of the book to 800 pages, and you've got it all (with regards to the plot). And I know that its 4 books total - but like I pointed out above, that is a pretty lame excuse for not putting any real plot into each single volume (at least if the thing spans 800 pages).
The lack of content wouldn't be so bad if Williams at least were a good writer. Unfortunately, that's not the case either (at least, his writing in this book doesn't make for great or entertaining reading). The characters are moderately interesting at best, annoying or outright boring at worst. The description of the virtual worlds is rather dull. Dialogues are rather cheesy, and then there are the "side plots", like stories told by some of the characters - in this first book, one of the main characters is a descendant of the bushmen, and we're treated to many, many really long bushmen stories (as in legends). Maybe these stories are actual bushmen legends, maybe they're not. The point is, they're stories that do nothing at all for the plot (and very, very little for the character developement). Have I mentioned that the book is rather repetetive? Yeah? Well, incase you forgot, this book is for you (because every other page, the reader is reminded of something he already read or should have grasped - because it's been pointed out explicitely and implicitely often enough).
In conclusion, I was rather disappointed by this book. I can't help the feeling that Williams sat down with the goal of writing an epic story spanning 4 volumes so as to sell 4 books to every interested reader (instead of sitting down with the goal of writing a great story first, and not bothering with how many volumes this will fill). This book is very, very bloated. For what it's worth, I will give the second part a chance solely because I went ahead and bought the lot of them (after having Otherland recommended to me) - and I have to kill 10 minutes on the bus each morning. Maybe I will be raving after I'm through with the last volume ... but this book really did nothing for me.