Tuesday, February 6, 2018

What I'm Reading: Showing V Telling

I should say, what I'm struggling to read.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (AMAZON)

I started watching the SyFy series The Magicians last year, just before the second season premiered. I enjoyed it. It was different. Kept my attention. I didn't know it was on SyFy channel when I watched it uncut and uncensored on Netflix.  It's billed as an adult Harry Potter.

I binge watched the first season then watched season two as it aired one week at a time on SyFy. And struggled to get through the second season. It was blipped and bleeped and so badly cut it was unwatchable as aired. But, uncut and uncensored on Netflix it was wonderful. Much better than the first season. So, again, just in time for season three on SyFy I once again binge watched the entire series but reluctantly set to record the show on SyFy. Color me happy that they are not censoring the language and blipping and bleeping and cutting it badly. It's damned watchable on the network, F-bombs flying, partial nudity. Not full frontal but a little bit of nudity. Innuendo out the wazoo. And third season is even better than the fourth

Okay, so yes I started talking about the book but went to the TV series that is based on the book series because... well, I was curious.

I read all of the Harry Potter books long before I saw the movies. The books are far better than the movies. Chock full of more detail and more story than the movies included.

The TV series and the books called The Magicians a grown up Harry Potter... sooo... Curiosity won out and I paid the thirteen bucks to buy the first ebook.

And... well... it's a lesson in show versus tell.

So, the book.

I'm a romance writer. I am not strictly a romance reader. I do read other genres. But as a romance writer the one hard and fast rule is to show a story instead of tell a story. The Magicians isn't a romance. It's not even really a fantasy novel. There's magic in the book, yes. But it's... not magical. The Magicians is for lack of a better way to explain it, a fiction novel with a bit of magic, written in third person singular POV narrative of Quentin Coldwater. And Quentin is a whining, whinging, over achiever with a me complex who finds himself in this strange place in upstate New York in summer transported from Brooklyn, in November, to take a test for entry into a magical college, called Brakebills. And that is about all that's the same in the book and the TV show.

Amazon lists the book at 478 pages, that's print length, BTW, not ebook length. Kobo lists it at 149,000 words.

And it drags on and on and on in Quentin's monotone narrative. He feels nothing. He loves nothing. He describes everything except what is needed to be described. This isn't anything like Harry Potter. I wouldn't even compare the two books if the promotional people hadn't.

It reads like a seventies era coming of age story with no emotion, just the facts, this happened, then this happened. And I know a lot of big words. And woe is me. I can't find the meaning in this day of romping around as a college student making magic. And well, shit. But I'm hanging in there. Hoping.

The Magician's is the first book in a trilogy. I will not be reading the other two books. This one is enough.

Maybe if I hadn't seen the show first... but no, it's not my style. I like books with angst. I don't like books with heavy angst for no other reason than the main character is a selfish, self centered, self important twat who is jealous of everyone else, including his girlfriend. There's no plot to this book. None. Quentin gets into this magical college when he's seventeen. Skips out on most of his senior year of high school. Loses touch with his 'real life' best friends. And doesn't seem to give a shit that he does. He goes home for break each year.  Hates his parents more and more with each passing year. Graduates with only one friend. Goes to live with Eliot and Janet (Margo in the show)  in New York. Has no job. Nothing to do. Everything is boring. He gets drunk. He and Eliot con people for shits and giggles. Gets drunk and cheats on Alice with Janet(Margo) and sort of half remembers that he fucked Eliot too.

And let's talk about the page after page after page of that time they all turned into geese and flew to the south pole and shit on things and ate bugs, which lasted longer than their time in the south pole learning magic... and when they all learned the could shape shift and he raped Alice while they were foxes. Because you know... she smelled so good he held her down and she didn't complain but looked terrified, but a little like she liked him sliding his fox dick into her. At least he belatedly wondered if she was a virgin. He never asked her.

They spent four years at Brakebills from beginning to end and graduated at the 60% mark. And nothing happened. Nothing. I'm at the 70% mark now. And Penny, who is the best part of the show, has only now come into the story. Oh, he was at Brakebills. He and Quentin interacted for about four pages. Then he was gone. Poof. But now he's back, like he and Quentin were the best of friends and he has the buttons to Fillory. The story within the story. And he's going to take all of his best friends who don't even know he's alive to Fillory with him.

I'm not sure I'm going to finish this book. It's dry. It's as exciting as eating day old burnt toast. It rips off The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and The Magician's Nephew. It isn't anything like Harry Potter. There is no antagonist. There's nothing magical. It's a bunch of bored rich kids being bored and rich and getting drunk. With some magic, sort of, thrown in.

The TV show takes scenes from the first book and expands what is essentially an outline for a mediocre story into something... well... magical. Let's just say the book is the sepia toned portion of The Wizard of Oz, and the TV show is the color portion.

Quentin is still a whining jerk in the show, but, he now has a reason to be a whining jerk. The first time we meet him, he's in a mental hospital. He has severe depression. Which is not magically cured but tamped down a bit when he discovers that magic is real, and he's a magician (Harry).

His friend Julia isn't even in the first book. Her story is told in the second book, I assume. But it's woven into the show.

Penny exists. Completely. And is a completely different character.

Alice's storyline is fulfilled in the series. It's just a mention in the book. She went to Brakebills uninvited, by sneaking into the test, from a magical family, for the sole purpose to find out what happened to her brother who was killed. In the show she did. In the book. Well, not while she was at Brakebills, so far. At all.

Eliot, is and isn't exactly how he is in the book. He's not really in the book. Just some guy that sort of mentors Quentin in the beginning then drops him when his real friends turn up. And then again in the end when they're sort of... hell I don't know.

Eliot is a drunk in the show. He has some serious issues. But, his character is much more interesting and well defined, than even Quentin's in the show.

Janet doesn't exist in the show. For whatever reason she is renamed Margo, but, she's about the same. Sort of a bitch. Just another bitch who fucked up Quentin's relationship with Alice because he got drunk and slept with her. Wait that's the book.

And Katie... doesn't exist in the book. At all. Even as a different character. There is no third female character in the book. Or fourth. Just Quentin, Eliot who is gay, his girlfriend Janet, and Alice. Angry shrewish Alice. Who loves him even though he raped her. And puts up with him. Because no one else likes her. Then fat Josh. With no purpose. Julia doesn't get into Brakebills. Quentin sees her again twice. Regrets ever knowing her. The end of Julia. Penny, is autistic and weird and Quentin hates that he found the way into Fillory. And Fillory... is just a mention of a book as a metaphor for what he's doing at the time and then in the end, they go and become the kings and queens and...

Yeah. It hurts.

So, why am I talking about this? I have no idea. Maybe I'm raging that I spent thirteen bucks on a book that is little more than an outline for what could have been a wonderful series. Maybe I'm raging that this book was published and has a television series. That it doesn't deserve, btw.

What the hell does the title of this blog post have to do with this ranting review?

Well, as a writer, you hear all about how you should SHOW and not TELL. This book is one long TELL. If you ever wondered what that means and needed an example, well, there you go.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman is one very long flat dictation on how not to write a story and still get published with a TV show.

Or just watch the show instead.


1 comment:

  1. Had been meaning to look into the book as I love the show. Thanks for the review, I won't now.