Sunday, April 24, 2011

Amazon review of the week

In a surprising twist, this week's highlighted review is not a wholly negative one, nor is it a simple, amusing one-liner. It's a long, even rambling review of Diana Wynne Jones' The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1 (which I am considering reading as a stepping stone to DWJ's writing). One paragraph in particular caught my eye:
i'd rather have harry potter, where there are good people who are kind and loyal, and teh selfish people are clearly what they are, and Harry is smart enough to see who is who. I don't know why Diana Wynne Jones thinks its fun to have a hero who can't tell good from selfish, or even good from evil, and who does quite wicked things himself out of innocence. and her good people are often so cold hearted and self involved, they mistreat our lonely little hero almost as badly as the wicked people. again, it's kind of creepyl 
Ever since I was young, one of my favorite things in literature was the anti-hero. Villains. Who doesn't love a good, complex character? This is my first encounter of someone wanting more black-white, wanting less complexity of characters and good-vs.-evil. It's hard for me to write this without judging the reviewer harshly. For a reader to prefer clear-cut fantasy is legitimate, even if it's not at all what draws me. It surprises me, though, that there's a school of thought that prefers for the approach (in fantasy or otherwise) to be simpler and to forsake the complexities of the real world in favor of obviously drawn black-white situations and characters.

Good people do bad things. Bad people do good things. The world will never fall into two simple, clear categories. Yes, sometimes the dismissal of bad as done by the "good guys" is very problematic (my issues with the Millennium series, among others...) but to simplify humanity's characteristics to such an extreme degree... I find it hard to believe that any reader would truly prefer this.

As I have not read the book, I can't say if it's simplistic in the opposite direction or if the reviewer is attempting to describe a different phenomenon that I simply can't understand yet, but my impression of other less-than-satisfactory reviews indicate that readers didn't like the ambiguity of DWJ's characters (and that not all are immediately likable). Are some readers mistaking their other issues with the book as a problem with the gray areas, or is a black and white world really that much better of them?

1 comment:

  1. I have read most of DWJ's work and I love it! Chronicles was my first taste of her writing and it really led to read all of her stuff. Try it out. I think the reason I like her writing so much is because it ISN'T so clearcut who is good or bad.

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